Horn's Enthusiasm and Passion Win Day

Two months ago, when he first talked about what he was looking for in a coach, Athletics Director Eric Hyman said he wanted a coach who would win games, not necessarily one who would win the introductory press conference. He wanted the right coach, even if he was not a big name that would win over the fans and media from the outset. In Darrin Horn, Hyman may have gotten both.

In Hyman's view, winning the press conference only buys good will until the fall, when the first basketball is rolled out. Even if he lost the press conference, the right coach would produce wins on the court, and those wins would win over the fans. True to form, Horn's hiring was met with some skepticism. He lacked the name recognition of some of the other candidates who drew the fans' attention. However, Horn comes with a track record of success, and on Tuesday he added to that when he won the press conference.

When the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Herbert Adams, presented him with a Gamecock tie, Horn was already sporting garnet neckwear. When his wife Carla was given a Gamecock necklace, Horn asked if that meant he was cleared from having to buy her a "moving gift." When he began speaking, almost the first word out of Horn's mouth was "recruiting," an area where many felt retired coach Dave Odom struggled.

"The key to being a great coach is first, being a great recruiter," said Horn. "We're going to start on the inside and work our way out. There is talent in this state."

Toward that end, Horn has already scheduled three recruiting appointments, all in the state of South Carolina. He intends to build a "fence" around the state and make sure all the best players in South Carolina come to "the University of South Carolina." Knowing how that statement would sit with a certain upstate school, one writer tried to trap Horn by asking him who the Gamecocks' rival is.

"Should I even say it out loud?" Horn asked. "I think they wear orange. I think to mention their name would be to justify their existence. We don't want to go there. I think I mentioned, we're the University of South Carolina."

Although Horn was already on Hyman's radar before Western Kentucky made its Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA Tournament, he was an unknown to most people outside the bluegrass state. Horn acknowledged that if Ty Rogers had not hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Drake in the opening round, he might not have been in Columbia on Tuesday. By that same token, he said, one more basket against UCLA and Horn might have been in San Antonio coaching the Hilltoppers in the Final Four.

"The game works like that a lot," said Horn. "I know we did [beat Drake] and I'm here and that's all that matters. It's irrelevant to me. I'm not even sure I was Carla's first choice or how she decided on me. I fooled her like I fooled everybody else."

Horn said his goal at Carolina is to win championships. In the past four years, the Gamecocks have won a pair of NIT championships, but that holds no appeal for Horn. He wants to win SEC Championships and eventually NCAA Championships. Horn admitted that may not be a realistic goal for his first season, but he still expects to start winning right away, and build from there. When asked exactly how much he expects to win next year, Horn laughed.

"Oh come on now," he said. "You've got to think I'm smarter than that. You didn't see the bio: Academic All-American? My goal is to have a team that plays up to their ability."

As entertaining as Horn was, the real star of the press conference was his 4-year old son Walker. Early in the press conference, Hyman gave Walker and his 7-year old sister Caroline Gamecock hats. Walker eagerly jumped up on stage and grabbed the hat, thrilled to have a souvenir.

"He's full of energy," Horn smiled as he watched his son.

A few minutes later, University president Andrew Sorenson gave the Horn family another set of Gamecock hats. Walker, still proudly wearing the first hat, looked at the second hat and exclaimed, "You mean I get another one?"

As everyone in the room laughed, Walker straightened his new hat and posed for a picture with his father. The Horns are Gamecocks, and the Coach had won the press conference.


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