Horn Sets Goal of SEC Championships

A week ago, most Carolina fans had never heard of the man who was introduced Tuesday as their new head basketball coach. It didn't matter at the end of the day, because after Darrin Horn had passionately laid out his vision of contending immediately and consistently for SEC championships, he had won their hearts as he repeated three times just what USC fans wanted to hear: "I want to be here."

Darrin Horn is the new head basketball coach at South Carolina. He made clear in the press conference introducing him to the Gamecock Nation that he understands exactly what is expected of him at a university that competes at the highest level of his sport, has some of the nicest facilities, and a passionate fan base: win games and championships. ""Our goals are simple: we want to compete nationally, and we want to compete for championships, and we want to do it the right way,'' said Horn.

"It is very important to me that you all understand that I want to be here. I think this is a great job, not a good job, a great job. I am unbelievably excited to be your new head coach. I am honored as a coach to be along the likes of Steve Spurrier and coach (Ray) Tanner in baseball."

He will make a lot of money to do it. The USC board of trustees earlier in the day approved a guaranteed compensation package of $800,000 a year, with incentives to make much more if he can fill the arena and win. His five-year contract includes incentives for winning that could be worth up to an additional $335,000 per year. He also will be paid $50,000 for every 1,000 additional season tickets sold over this season's total of 9,322 tickets. He had earned a base salary of $157,000 in his final season with his previous school, Western Kentucky. USC will also pay a $200,000 buyout clause in his contract with the Hilltoppers. His WKU contract also contains a clause requiring his new school to play WKU four times.

Horn will hit the ground running his first full day as a Gamecock on Wednesday, when he is scheduled to see three in-state prospects. Horn said, "The key to being a great coach is first being a great recruiter. Let me tell you about my recruiting philosophy. We are going to start on the inside and work our way out. We've done that everywhere I've ever been, and it's led to great success. There is talent in this state. We are going to put a fence up around the state of South Carolina, and the best players in the state are going to be recruited to play at the University of South Carolina. That's going to be our goal with recruiting and we are going to get started tomorrow and let our presence be known in this state."

Horn made himself a candidate for a major job like South Carolina by averaging over 22 wins a season in his first five years as a head coach at his alma mater Western Kentucky, capping off his tenure there by winning the Sun Belt conference title and taking the Hilltoppers to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, a feat South Carolina last accomplished when Horn was a toddler. His record at WKU was 111-48, a .698 winning percentage.

South Carolina wanted a young, energetic coach who was full of passion. They appear to have got one. Athletic Director Eric Hyman consulted with current and former Gamecock players as well as people of national stature as to what attributes were wanted and needed in a coach to bring back a winning tradition to USC basketball. As he and his small search committee began examining potential candidates who held all the attributes desired, Hyman said it was apparent early on that Darrin Horn had just the attributes he was looking for in his next coach. After, Hyman found the perfect blend of qualities suggested by his constituents in Horn.

"We looked across the country and Darrin's name was there in the beginning," Hyman said. "We did our due diligence, we did our research, we talked to people around the country and his name continued to rise."

One aspect that both Hyman and outgoing USC president Andrew Sorenson mentioned about Horn was his graduation rate. Literally every player that has completed his eligibility under Horn has graduated. Horn indicated he knows what it takes to succeed as a student-athlete – he was an Academic All-American his senior year at WKU, in addition to being the school's athlete of the year.

Horn talked about the style of basketball he will bring to Columbia. "In terms of how we're going to play, you're going to see a team that is fast paced, that plays extremely hard, and that gets out there and plays on both ends of the floor. A lot of people like to say they like to play 94 feet. I'd like to double that because we are going to do it both ways. Some people only like to run if they're going to score. They don't like to play defense that way. We're going to play defense full court as well as offense, and we are going to do that both ways. We are going to play with outstanding togetherness and character."

"My goal is that when you leave the Colonial Center every night, I don't want you to talk about me, or how smart I am and what we did," he said. "I want you to look at those guys right there and say `I've never seen a group of young men play as hard as that team played. I've never seen a group of young men that shows the kind of care and concern on the court for each other as that group right there.' I think if you do that, then special things can happen for you in the win-loss column with recruiting the right kind of players."

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