A Happy Homecoming for Bill Foster

Former SC Head Basketball Coach Bill Foster was one of several former coaches who returned to Columbia for Carolina's 100 Years of Basketball Celebration. GamecockAnthem's Eric Guimaraes caught up with Coach Foster, who shared his thoughts about the past, present, and future of the USC program. Read inside for Foster's evaluation of what USC needs to succeed under new Head Coach Darrin Horn.

Bill Foster is the man who had the dubious task of replacing a living legend in Frank Maguire. He came to South Carolina from Duke, where he had made three consecutive NCAA appearances, including a trip to the finals, where his team lost to Kentucky 94-88. While at Duke, Foster compiled a 113-64 record with a Final Four appearance and two ACC titles in six seasons. When asked what attracted him to USC from Duke, he responded, "Coach Carlen had really put together a nice sales pitch about the university that got me a little bit interested, and then I got a little more interested. I was also intrigued by them being an independent. That, at the time, was a big deal."

Coach Foster said that the desire to be an independent school soon evaporated. Foster never made any excuses, but did explain that shortly after his arrival in Columbia, conferences began associating with television, making it more difficult for independent schools to get any exposure. Without a conference affiliation, the Gamecocks were seldom on television in his first three seasons.

He coached at USC for six seasons and enjoyed his time in Columbia. His children went to Spring Valley and his third daughter graduated from the University of South Carolina. "We certainly liked living in Columbia. We just wish we could've won a few more games there."

His return to Columbia in February as part of the 100 year celebration was joyous, and he was pleased to see many of his former players. It was also his first visit to The Colonial Center, and he was approving of Carolina's new arena. "Oh boy, that's really nice. That's a big time atmosphere they have there."

He also did not think it was too big for USC. "I don't think (it's too big). You have to work at that because it's tough to fill that many seats on a nightly basis. You have to play a tough schedule and interesting teams. That's the key."

Foster says he is following the program more since his return. He was reunited with a couple of colleagues while in Columbia, and they are sending him correspondence about the team. He also met with new Head Coach Darrin Horn. Foster liked what Horn accomplished at Western Kentucky and feels the future is bright at USC. Having said that, he doesn't think it will be easy, and cautioned Gamecock fans to be patient. "When you play Tennessee one night, Kentucky another night, and Florida the next night, you don't see any weak teams. You are competing at the highest level."

Foster knows that in order to be successful at Carolina, Horn will need to improve the talent level. He thinks that Horn has a lot to sell to prospective athletes. "I think that the opportunity to be successful and get into the NCAA tournament is a big incentive. Also, the exposure (the SEC) gives them is outstanding. They're on TV an awful lot."

His belief is that South Carolina does have the pieces in place to build a winner. He believes that coaches can recruit good athletes to play for Carolina. However, he is also very impressed with the SEC, especially the East. When asked if USC could become a perennial top 25 team, he was more reserved in his answer. "Well, now that's going to be a challenge because of the league they play in. Who's going to step aside to allow Carolina to move up a notch, two notches, or even four…whatever they need to get into the NCAA? The thing is to get in, and then you take your chances. If you're fortunate, you can win a couple of games and then your program is on its way, because that's the best exposure…getting to the final sixteen."

Finally, Coach Foster was complimentary of Athletic Director Eric Hyman and former Head Coach Dave Odom for their combined efforts in building relationships with former coaches and athletes of the basketball program. He emphasized that "these things do not happen overnight," and that the effort behind it is important. He felt the 100 Years of Gamecock Basketball Celebration was a huge success. "They did a very nice job . . . the idea was terrific. I think Dave (Odom) was behind it, and that was nice too. I enjoyed seeing Eddie Fogler and Steve Newton and guys like that I haven't seen in a while."

Kudos to the USC staff on the 100 Year Celebration for hitting a home run on this one. Or was it a slam dunk!

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