Success can often almost be taken for granted when it comes to Kentucky basketball. Have a season that ends 32-6 with an Elite Eight loss and fans often dwell more on the disappointments than the good times.
South Carolina made a furious rally at the Final Four Saturday before losing 77-73 to Gonzaga. These comments after the game from South Carolina coach Frank Martin were powerful — or at least they were to me — and I thought Kentucky fans might enjoy them.
Q. There were a lot of kids back home in South Carolina who were cheering their hearts out for you today. They dream of playing for you one day. What do you want to say to them as fans of you and the team, and also about how to respond to disappointments like this?
COACH MARTIN: There’s something powerful when you impact others. And what these kids have done is pretty special. When you get people to travel across the country by the masses because they believe in what you do, it’s powerful stuff. And they’ve impacted our community in an unbelievable way, which is worth so much more than the score of a game.
It’s what it’s all about. These kids are great role models. There’s a lot of young kids that want to be the next Sindarius Thornwell, Justin McKie, and I don’t get to coach them anymore, but they’re part of my life forever.
Q. How do you want this team to be remembered? What kind of traits, when people look back 15, 20 years, how do you want this group to be remembered?
COACH MARTIN: Exactly the way the game played out. Exactly the way the game played out. We are taking on the No. 1 seed, the team that was No. 1 in the country a couple of weeks ago, and with nothing but fifth-year seniors. And we found ourselves in a difficult place during the course of the game. We didn’t have the resolve, for whatever reasons, I don’t know, to fight the way that we needed to for the first 30 minutes of the game.
And I told our players a story about a JV team that I coached once upon a time that had a bunch of young kids that didn’t understand the necessity to be a good teammate and play together. And I took them to wrestle against the wrestlers on our school team and every one of them got pinned. Every one of our guys got pinned. And I utilized that to make them understand if you want to be on your own and do your own thing, try wrestling, not very good at it.
If you want to be good as a unit and you need help to get off your back when you’re on your back, then you better be a good teammate. And that’s what this team did tonight. That’s what they’ve done their whole careers. That’s what they’ve done the whole year is we’ve gotten put on our backs a couple of times. But we don’t lay there. We figure out a way to get off our backs and get back up and fight to the end.
And that’s why I’m so proud of these guys and what they’ve built and how hard they fought to get a lot of people to smile, a lot of people to care. When you get people to smile and care, you’re obviously doing something right and that’s what these kids have done.