Frank Martin living up to Frank McGuire's legacy with Elite Eight run

Frank Martin living up to Frank McGuire's legacy with Elite Eight run

**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by Artie Walker**

Frank McGuire was a legend at South Carolina.

The New York native and former North Carolina coach took the Gamecocks places they had never been before and put South Carolina basketball on the map. 

More than 40 years later, another Frank is doing the same thing. 

Thornwell leads SC to Elite Eight

McGuire won more basketball games than any South Carolina coach, winning 283 in 16 seasons in Columbia. His 25 wins in 1970 were the most in school history — until the other Frank matched him.

McGuire won 20 games or more in six straight seasons at South Carolina. He took the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament four straight years from 1971-74. He won two NCAA tournament games, something no other South Carolina coach had done. 

Until the other Frank came along. 

Now, more than 40 years later, Frank Martin has surpassed McGuire in some respects and, like the legend of the glory days, has taken South Carolina basketball places it had never been before.

When Martin's Gamecocks beat Marquette — an old McGuire rival — in Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament, it was South Carolina's first tournament win since McGuire's 1973 team. When it beat Duke — another old McGuire rival — two days later, it marked the first time South Carolina had ever gotten past the second round. Though McGuire led South Carolina to the Sweet 16 three times, that was when there were half as many teams in the tournament and all it took to reach the round of 16 was one win. 

Despite making the Big Dance four times, McGuire only won two NCAA Tournament games (plus two consolation games) at South Carolina. When Martin led the Gamecocks over Baylor at Madison Square Garden — in McGuire's hometown — Friday, it was South Carolina's most wins ever in the tournament and its first trip to the Elite Eight. 

Post players impressive against Baylor

Once again, a legend named Frank has coached South Carolina to national prominence and made the Gamecocks relevant again. Thanks to Martin, South Carolina is the darling of this year's NCAA Tournament and in the same conversation as North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and the best programs in the country. 

It is always difficult to compare teams and eras. College basketball today is completely different than it was in McGuire's day. There was no three-point shot back then, no dunks, no one-and-dones, and not nearly as much freakish athleticism.

But there are some parallels you can draw between McGuire's teams of the 1970s and Martin's Gamecocks. 

McGuire's team were tough, gritty, played good defense, rebounded well and played well together as a team. Martin's team has the same traits. 

McGuire coached some of the greatest players in South Carolina history. He recruited and developed John Roche, arguably the best player in Gamecock history. His 1969 ACC champions and first NCAA Tournament teams featured big men Tom Riker, Tom Owens and Danny Traylor, all big, tough rebounders and defenders who could also score in the low post, much like big man Chris Silva has done for Martin this season. 

McGuire also had such stars as Kevin Joyce, Alex English, Brian Winters and Mike Dunleavy, who all played in the NBA. 

English, who played 15 seasons in the NBA and made the All-Star team eight times, was the greatest pure player ever to wear the garnet and black. Sindarius Thornwell, the 2017 SEC Player of the Year, has brought back a lot of memories of English. 

Like English, a Columbia native, Thornwell was an in-state player who chose South Carolina over bigger, more established programs. While Thornwell is not the silky smooth player like the man affectionately known as "Silk," he has put the Gamecocks on his shoulders and carried them to new heights. His 21.4 scoring average rivals the 22.6 that English compiled his senior season. While English wooed fans with a sweet mid-range jumper, Thornwell scores in a variety of ways, from strong drives to the basket to clever floaters in the lane to crowd-pleasing three-pointers.  

And they were both at their best in the biggest games, like Thornwell has been in all three tournament games.  

Joyce and Winters were versatile players who could handle the ball, drive to the basket and knock down long-range jumpers, much like sophomore P.J. Dozier. Dunleavy could also score from the perimeter and excelled at making clutch shots, much like senior Duane Notice. 

It's easy to draw comparisons to the glory days when the current group is on such an amazing run and making their own bit of history, as Martin's group is doing.  

It's easy because both teams and both eras have one big thing in common. The stars of the '70s were led by a legendary coach who put South Carolina on the map. The current group is led by a coach — another Frank — establishing his own impressive legacy.