Odom Leaving? Why Would That Surprise You?

If Dave Odom is offered, then Dave Odom will go. That's the general consensus surrounding current chit-chat about the opening of a head basketball coach at Virginia. What Gamecock fans are having a hard time understanding is why would he do such a thing? Rarely do coaches leave USC for other jobs. As a matter of fact, usually they are ...

... fired, or retired, or they simply die. Rarely do coaches in any sport leave The University of South Carolina for other jobs of their own accord. Think about it. When was the last time a coach departed USC on his/her own?

So why is Dave Odom thinking of doing just that?

To begin with, the Virginia job is an attractive job in the ACC, (a basketball conference). Also the man at the top is Virginia's athletics director Craig Littlepage. He's the man doing the hiring and a very good friend of Dave Odom. That would afford Odom a certain amount of job security seldom enjoyed by coaches in their waning years in this business. Besides, with Mike McGee leaving, Odom's job is at the mercy of whatever new South Carolina AD is hired in the next month or so.

Then there is the fact that the 62 year old Odom is perhaps one of the most unappreciated coaches in the SEC among his own fans. That became evident during this past campaign. A campaign that ended with the Gamecocks winning the National Invitation Tournament in New York on March 29th.

Why is Dave Odom so under-appreciated by normally loyal SC fans?

Who knows? Perhaps it has something to do with Odom's rant against the fans a few years ago when they were failing to attend the games early in the 2001 season. Or perhaps it has something to do with Odom's inability to keep the in-state talent home? Or perhaps South Carolina truly has become a football and baseball school characteristic of most SEC schools.

But who would have thunk it? USC was a charter member of the basketball crazy ACC. Her regional name and glory was enjoyed under the leadership of Frank McGuire. McGuire, the legendary basketball coach of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. South Carolina is alma mater to the likes of Mike Dunleavy, Brian Winters, John Roche, Alex English and others.

These days Gamecock fans expect more. They live day by day under the Southeastern Conference laws of the land. USC fans have not forgotten McGuire and their roots. They've not forgotten the glory days of #1 under McGuire, the Sports Illustrated Covers and the roof being raised at "The Frank", (The Carolina Coliseum is commonly referred to as "The House That Frank Built".)

Odom knows the history. Odom hears the fans. Perhaps never more than this past season as Gamecock fans railed publicly against Odom's team that faltered badly at the end of the regular season. But for maybe 20 missed free throws during the course of the season, Coach Odom's Gamecocks would have won 20 games during the regular season and would have, without a doubt, once again been in the Big Dance - rather than the little one.

And then there was the exodus. The in-state talent escaping from the flagship university. The fans are keenly aware of recruiting wars, (thanks, in part, to the football recruiting frenzy). The fans have watched as the biggest names in SC prep basketball routinely sign with colleges out-of-state. In particular, Dave Odom managed to lose the likes of Zam Fredericks, Jr., Major Wingate and Raymond Felton among many others.

But Odom shouldn't be blamed for those. Most were lost before Dave even arrived. Recruiting requires building relationships early in a prep player's career; something the staff prior to Odom's failed to do.

Secondly, Gamecock fans fail to realize the attraction to bordering schools for many high school basketball phenoms in the Palmetto State these days. Who can question Raymond Felton's decision to go UNC after tonight's NCAA Championship win for the tarbellies? It's why Felton went out of state in the first place. He wanted to win a championship - and he did. Dave Odom cannot control that. The SEC is a football conference and quite frankly, USC is not the only school to lose legacy players or in-state stars to programs like UNC or Duke in the ACC. Imagine how the vaunted Indiana program and her fans felt when Sean May signed with UNC rather than his daddy's Hoosiers! Something akin to how Gamecock fans felt when Mike Dunleavy, Jr. signed with Duke perhaps? That happened under Eddie Fogler. And truth-be-known, Dave Odom started behind the eight ball by following Fogler. It was Fogler who had a chance to catch UNC while they were down and win some games against them. Fogler refused to play his alma mater. That decision cost the Gamecocks a once in a lifetime opportunity to possibly score a valuable win or two against the Tarheels. Wins that might easily have affected USC's standings in the eyes of local talent.

So if, or when, Dave Odom leaves - no one should be surprised. Gamecock fans have basically asked for it. They have driven away a coach that, in his first four years, has won more games than their beloved Frank McGuire did in the same time period.

Think about that. Think about it hard and decide because one never knows - Odom just might decide to stay and ride it out in Columbia. Then, after all of this, Gamecock fans will really have to decide if they like the little guy or not. If they are smart, they'll kiss his feet and beg him to stay. He gets more out of less and has given the fans more than they have a right to expect following the Fogler destruction.

Dave Odom is an asset to The University of South Carolina's Athletic Program.

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