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February 2015 Digital Magazine

Play ball!

BY BRIAN HAND Executive Editor Baseball is a funny game. You can’t look at just one game as a barometer - win or lose. After South Carolina opened its 2015 season with a 6-3 loss to the College of Charleston, the questions about what was wrong with this year’s South Carolina team were already coming on social media and on message boards. At the postgame press conference after South Carolina’s season-opening loss on Opening Day on Friday, Feb. 13, Gamecock head coach Chad Holbrook did four things. First, he made sure that due credit was given to the Cougars for their win, he also praised College of Charleston starting pitcher Taylor Clarke for his efforts on the mound, he questioned the fight of his team and he made sure everyone knew that Saturday, Feb. 14 was another day. “I think the story of the game was Taylor Clarke on the mound,” Holbrook said at the Opening Day postgame press conference. “He just dominated our hitters. I thought we would put up more of a fight than we did … we face guys in these (preseason) scrimmages that throw as hard, if not harder, than the Clarke kid today. It just

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looked like we were overmatched. It looked like we couldn’t see the ball. I don’t know. No excuses in baseball. The guy dominated us with really one pitch and that’s disappointing.” Holbrook continued later in the press conference by saying, “the good thing about baseball is you get to play again - real quick … we’ll try to crank it up tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 14) and see if we can perform better and do better. That performance from an offensive standpoint today was inexcusable in my book.” The Gamecocks took heed of their head coach and came to the park on

14 before acquiring an 8-3 win in the second game to claim a 2-1 series victory. “It was good to see the boys respond the right way today,” Holbrook said after the twinbill sweep. “We challenged them and they responded and played like South Carolina Gamecocks are supposed to play.” South Carolina sophomore Jordan Gore pointed out after the sweep of the doubleheader that the Gamecocks were out to make a statement. “I think we were mad about our performance yesterday, so we kind of came out and hit the ball today,” Gore said. “We played like a team.” After the series win over the Cougars, Holbrook relayed that it could factor big into the Gamecocks’ RPI heading into the NCAA Tournament, but he knows there is a long way to go before that even matters. “It is early and I’m going to remember that,” Holbrook said. “It is February. You can’t get to Omaha in February.”

Saturday, Feb. 14 for a doubleheader against the College of Charleston fired up and ready to take the season-opening series. The top-25 showdown with the College of Charleston had been scheduled in the offseason as an opening challenge by Holbrook and his staff in the first place. He knew it was going to be tough going against a team that won 44 games last year, won the Florida regional and ended their efforts in the top-20 in the country. The Gamecocks picked up a 7-1 victory over the Cougars in the first game All Gamecock baseball of the doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. coverage sponsored by DiPrato’s

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felt like it was the perfect time to come back to college football and rejoin an old friend. “I’m very excited to be here and work with these players and coaches,” Hoke said. “It was just a wonderful opportunity for me personally to get back with coach Spurrier. We’ve known each other for 16 years now and I’m looking forward to it.” To make room for Hoke, Spurrier had to move secondary coach Grady Brown to a “quality control” coach for the defense, meaning he won’t be on the field for the Gamecocks. “That is what is unfortunate about it,” Spurrier said about the move. “But somebody had to move.” Spurrier now said his defensive staff is in excellent shape and is looking forward to meeting with the players in advance of spring practice, which starts on March 17. “We’ve got a bunch of fired up coaches and players and there is a wonderful attitude on this team right now,” Spurrier said.

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n a short and sweet press conference on Monday, Feb. 9, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier announced that he is hiring longtime NFL assistant coach Jon Hoke as a codefensive coordinator for the Gamecocks. Hoke will work alongside Lorenzo Ward, who was defensive coordinator for the last three seasons, to lead the defense. The addition of Hoke didn’t come as much of a surprise, as Spurrier has said throughout the season that the Gamecocks could add another coach once the recruiting season was over. After three straight 11-win seasons, South Carolina went 7-6 this past year with defensive inconsistency being one of the major reasons for the drop-off, prompting Spurrier to mix things up a little bit. “As everyone knows, we had a difficult year on defense and we needed to do a little something different,” Spurrier said. “That’s my job as a head coach and I think we’ve added something that will really help us.” Ward will now focus on the defensive line and linebackers while Hoke will take control of the secondary and will also be the primary play caller. Hoke and Spurrier have a history together, as Hoke was also a defensive coordinator for Spurrier at Florida from 1999-2001. He was the Gators’ assistant head coach for his final two years in Gainesville. In 2001, Hoke led a defense that ranked first in the SEC in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense, and second in the league in rushing defense. After Spurrier left to coach the Washington Redskins after the 2001 season, Hoke went to the Houston Texans to be their defensive backs coach, where he stayed until 2008. He then went to the Chicago Bears, where he has held the same position for the last six years. During that time period, the Bears were third in the NFL in interceptions, second in interception return yards and led the league with 19 interception return touchdowns. With a change in head coaches this offseason in Chicago, Hoke

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he Gamecocks have bolstered their coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball after bringing in defensive coordinator Jon Hoke. Just like a college reunion, Hoke will be reuniting with his head coach Steve Spurrier who he served under as defensive coordinator. “I’m very excited to be here and I’m excited to work with these players and coaches,” Hoke said. “It’s a great opportunity and it’s a wonderful opportunity for me personally to get back with coach. We’ve known each other for 16 years and I’m very excited to be down here and work with this football team.” Hoke said that he will spend time coaching on the sidelines, where he said he’ll start out. Ward spent time coaching from both the press box and sidelines last year. “It was just the opportunity that was presented to me,” Hoke said. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity. You can probably talk to a lot of coaches in the NFL who would want the opportunity to come coach with coach Spurrier at this program.” Hoke will serve as the primary play caller this season on defense and will share the defensive coordinator duties with current defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. He said that he’s not going to try to change Ward’s defensive schemes more than they need to, saying he wants to keep the terminology the same for the players. Ward was calm in accepting the new roles for the players. He was thankful that administration “saw fit” to keep him on staff and that he’s really looking forward to learning some new things from the new hire. “With anything in life, you have to go through changes. How you handle them is what makes you the person you are,” Ward said. “It’s just one of those things that happen.” Hoke and Ward’s relationship seems steady right now, as they’ve both

worked in the NFL and have been around the same programs in college. Ward and Hoke will be a relationship to watch over the season to see how defensive performance changes. Spurrier said that he hopes bringing in Hoke to help out with Ward’s defense will be a good addition. Throughout his introductory press conference, Hoke spoke constantly about the opportunity that he was given coming to work here and that he’s excited to see what this team can do. “It’s been an easy transition,” Hoke said. “I’m thrilled at the opportunity to coach with him. He’s a heck of a football coach and it’s going to be a wonderful situation.”

South Carolina Athletic Media Relations To alleviate traffic and parking challenges at women’s basketball games this season, South Carolina athletics has added a parking shuttle. The first game with the new shuttle was the South Carolina-Vanderbilit game on Sunday, Feb. 15. Parking will be available at the Pendleton Street Garage with the shuttle operating two hours prior to tipoff and one hour after the game’s end. Fans should enter the Pendleton Street Garage from Pickens Street with parking available in all metered spaces. Parking and the shuttle, which will pick up and drop off at the corner of Pickens and Pendleton Streets, are at no charge. The shuttle stop at the Arena will be at the corner of Park and College Streets. The shuttle will run for the remaining home women’s basketball games this season, including any postseason games the Gamecocks may host at Colonial Life Arena.

BY BRIAN HAND Executive Editor South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin is not one to bring up excuses. This year, he probably could bring some up with the amount of injuries before and during the season the Gamecocks have picked up. “It’s like everything else, if I start using injuries as an excuse then our players are going to use excuses and I’m anti-excuse,” Martin said. “I don’t like them. I don’t want to hear about them and it wouldn’t be right for me to kind of put that into our locker room.” He understands that injuries, concussions and more are part of the game. Martin used the example set forth by the Arizona Cardinals this past season with the “next man up” to explain that no matter what the show must go on. “As coaches we don’t sit back and say, ‘oh, my god, this guy’s hurt,’” Martin remarked. “You understand that’s coming. As coaches that’s what you

on our confidence today.’ It’s no holds barred 18 games, so you have to fight and claw and figure out a way to stay in the game and find ways to win.” South Carolina sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell agrees with his head coach and knows it is on them to make it happen. “We had a day off yesterday to clear (our) minds and refocus on coming in and trying to get on a winning streak,” Thornwell said on Monday, Feb. 16 in the Colonial Life Arena media room. “Just try to save the season because we still we feel like we have a chance to make a postseason if we win a couple games here at the end of the season.” do. You don’t dwell on the guys that are not there. You dwell on the guys that you do have. Our hearts go out to the guys that get hurt, the guys that miss time for injury and we welcome them back as soon as we can.” The Gamecocks enter the stretch run of their 2014-15 season looking to

close strongly, but with injuries here and there, Martin and the Gamecocks realize that the wins will come with the players currently in the fold. “There’s no room for forgiveness in conference play,” Martin said. “There’s not a four-minute segment of an SEC game where you can say ‘let’s work

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BY BRIAN HAND Executive Editor It’s no secret that over the past couple of years there has been a Twitter revolution for Gamecock women’s basketball led by the efforts of the University of South Carolina and head coach Dawn Staley. Not too many programs have put as much time and hard work into their social media efforts as the women’s basketball program at South Carolina. These efforts along with their strong showing in the Gamecock community and the local community in Columbia has led to South Carolina averaging a nation’s best 12,176 fans inside the Colonial Life Arena in 12 openings so far in the 2014-15 season. The Gamecocks have averaged 14,449 fans per home game in SEC play. The Gamecocks with their 30-point league win over Vanderbilt on Sunday,



Feb. 15 have now won 30 straight home games. Something once thought impossible. “Sometimes I lose track of what the numbers are, but our fans they do a really good job at tweeting what the numbers are - Michael Sullivan (@MikeSullivan08) in particular - so when the fans are into it like they are and they create an environment like this, they make you embrace them,” Staley said after South Carolina’s win over Vanderbilt on Feb. 15. “I know they’re embracing our team, but our fans are the ones that created this. From last year on, they’ve put us in a position to not lose with how they support us and I hope we can never lose in this building again.” The Gamecock opponents have taken note as well with almost every coach that has visited the Colonial Life Arena media room in the 2014-15 season after losing to South Carolina mentioning how unbelievable the environment is at the CLA. “It’s so good for women’s basketball

what you guys have been able to do here at South Carolina,” Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb said after losing to the Gamecocks. “Obviously, Dawn’s done an awesome job in winning games, but also that fanbase growing a lot through marketing, through on their own, however you want it, I told our players they need to play with a lot of gratitude because they work really hard and they deserve the crowds that they are getting.” Two head coaches that have come into the media room have even thanked the Head Ball Coach for his support of Gamecock women’s basketball. “I think it’s a big deal that Steve Spurrier supports the program here,” Balcomb relayed. “He is on TV supporting the program and coming out (to games). If he comes, people are going to come, right? I like the support that you’re getting inside (the) University as well as in the city of Columbia. It says a lot for Dawn and what

she’s been able to do here.” As for the players themselves, the home winning streak is not much on their mind, but they are cognizant of how much the crowds do for them as they are trying to win games at the Colonial Life Arena. “I don’t think we harp on that or put too much pressure on ourselves to always win at home,” South Carolina junior guard Tiffany Mitchell said after the win over Vanderbilt. “We have a great crowd behind us. It’s kind of hard to lose here with such great fans.”

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BY BRIAN HAND Executive Editor Dawn Staley dreams big. She wants her team to do the same thing. It’s pretty obvious that the South Carolina women’s basketball program has bought into Staley’s ideals, but with her No. 1 team in Storrs, Conn. to face off against No. 2 Connecticut, she wanted her players to be a part of something special aside from the game. That something special was seeing Staley officially named an assistant coach on the 2016 USA basketball Olympic team for Rio 2016 that is helmed by UConn head coach Geno Auriemma. “I wanted them here because I think there are life lessons,” Staley said just a few hours before the Gamecocks took the court against UConn. “Sometimes you can hit them over the head with what you think is success, what success looks like, feels like and sounds like. But when you have other coaches say the same things that you’ve been preaching all their entire career, I think it hits home a little bit. And obviously I to them than anything.” think it hit home for our players a little A three-time Olympic gold medalist bit.” as a player, Staley last year led current Joining Staley as assistants on Au- South Carolina women’s basketball riemma’s staff are DePaul head coach freshman and the USA U18 to the Doug Bruno and Minnesota Lynx FIBA Americas Championship. She head coach Cheryl Reeve. also served as an assistant on the gold During the press medal-winning USA conference in the World ChampionWerth Family UConn ship team. Basketball ChampiStaley makes it no ons Center the fact secret that she is willthat Staley and Auing to do so much riemma were sharfor USA basketball ing the stage hours All Gamecock basketball because it helps her before their show- coverage sponsored by grow as a coach and down was joked a person. Yesterdays about numerous “ It ’s a training times, but Bruno put perfectly why grounds for becoming a better it was no big deal and spoke to the coach,” Staley relayed. “I’m very forcharacter of the coaches by saying “it tunate because every time that I felt just shows that the game means more like I need to learn things as a coach,

I’m given the opportunity. I think I needed to learn something when I decided to leave Temple and come to South Carolina and I’ve learned a lot. I think on the international level there are a lot of things that I must learn and I think the coaching staff that was assembled for the 2016 Olympics, I think I can learn a lot from everyone on that staff.” After years of service as a player and as a coach it would make sense for Staley to move into Auriemma’s role by the time of the 2020 Olympics, but that is not something she is thinking about right now. Nevertheless, she concedes she would welcome the opportunity. “Anytime that I can be of service to USA basketball for all that it has given me and done for me, absolutely,” Staley commented. “It’s a pressurepacked position, but I think it’s one that allows (me) to use my experiences as a player and being around different players that I have coached at this level it’ll help me draw on those experiences.”

Spurs & Feathers February digital magazine