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Post South Carolina’s Odom to retire

Friday January 18, 2008

Known for ending the careers of successful football coaches, the coaching graveyard that is Columbia, South Carolina has now claimed a victim on the basketball court. Dave Odom plans to retire at the end of this season.

Odom shocked the basketball world in April 2001 when he left a successful ACC program at Wake Forest to take over after Eddie Fogler resigned. Odom was actually South Carolina’s third choice after Tubby Smith and Jim Calhoun turned them down, but Odom’s arrival still caused a pretty big splash.

Fogler had led the Gamecocks to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 1997 and 1998, compiling a 47-16 record in those seasons, and he was named national coach of the year after winning South Carolina’s first SEC regular season title in 1997 with a 15-1 conference record. Those two NCAA Tournament appearances (which included a #2 and #3 seed) became notorious though as the Gamecocks were upset in the first round each year. Fogler never had a winning season after 1998, and he resigned after a 15-15 finish and first-round NIT loss in 2001.

Odom arrived with an impressive resume. Besides coaching All-Americans Tim Duncan, Randolph Childress, and Rodney Rogers, he led Wake Forest to two ACC championships, several top 10 finishes, and seven straight NCAA Tournaments from 1991-1997. South Carolina, in the middle of the Lou Holtz euphoria, expected Odom to right the ship and return the program to consistent results like the program enjoyed in the late 90s.

It never happened. Odom’s Gamecocks have never finished better than 8-8 in the SEC, and they have made a single trip to the NCAA Tournament (2004). South Carolina won consecutive NITs in 2005 and 2006, and they were the Cinderella of the 2006 SEC Tournament reaching the finals and nearly knocking off eventual national champion Florida.

Odom was never quite able to get the South Carolina program to the level that was expected in 2001. Though he’ll likely leave with a better winning percentage than Fogler, his teams never approached Fogler’s best.

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