SCarolina coach has difficult moments dealing with retirement Print
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Tuesday, 22 January 2008 13:43
NCAAB Headline News


 COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -It hasn't been the easiest time off the court for South Carolina's Dave Odom since he announced his retirement last week.
When Odom has a practice to run, film to watch or a game plan to set up, he's fine. When he's alone on a run or has time to reflect, he's thought, ``'Oooh, what have I done?''' the 65-year-old coach said Tuesday.
Last Friday, Odom said he was stepping down in part to galvanize fans to root for his players instead of debating the coach's future. While Odom had said he first had thoughts about leaving last spring, the reality and finality of the public move left him reeling at times during the Gamecocks' weekend off.
``When I've had time by myself,'' Odom said, ``there's been some sinking spells, there have.''
Odom said he would expect nothing else after devoting his life to coaching basketball. He expects those feelings to pass as the weeks continue, particularly when it deals with the game.
``It's easy for me to recharge once I get between the lines out there,'' Odom said. ``I'm human. I'm emotional.''
But Odom expects more melancholy moments as the season continues.
Odom's first emotional test comes Wednesday night when the Gamecocks (9-8, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) face two-time NCAA tournament champion Florida (16-3, 3-1) at the Colonial Center.
At South Carolina's last home game, some fans were chanting for him to leave during an 80-56 loss to then-No. 8 Tennessee.
Odom cited deterioration of pregame excitement during home games as a reason to step down.
Now Odom will find out if fans have listened to his plea to concentrate on energizing the team during the SEC season. ``I'm absolutely sure our fans will respond equally well,'' Odom said.
Odom has led South Carolina to four 20-win seasons, two NIT championships and a trip to the 2004 NCAA tournament. But the Gamecocks' struggles the past two seasons led to disenchantment among some fans, and Odom's choice to leave.
One thing Odom doesn't worry about is his players' spirits.
The team had a lively practice only hours after Friday's announcement - ``I don't know if they were celebrating or not,'' Odom joked - and is fully concentrated on having an impact in the SEC.
``We're trying to stay active,'' sophomore forward Evka Baniulis said. ``We're trying to make coach's last year be impressive.''
A victory over Florida would start them down the right path. The Gators have won three straight and 12 of the past 14 games in the series.
Florida coach Billy Donovan spent the first part of Monday's SEC coaches teleconference praising Odom.
``Maybe the greatest compliment I could give Coach is if my son is ever good enough to play at a place like South Carolina in the SEC, I'd want him to play for a guy like Dave Odom,'' Donovan said. ``I just hope that he's happy.''
Odom hasn't eased up since deciding to retire, according to guard Brandis Raley-Ross. If anything, Odom is ``working us harder,'' Raley-Ross said. ``He's not going to change.''
As time gets further away from his public announcement, Odom expects things will return to normal for a bit. He's certain he'll experience more gut-grabbing moments as the Gamecocks' season - and his career - comes to a close.
Odom's not interested in any ``win one for Coach,'' rallies, only that his players can experience success this year.
``We as a team deserve to do well,'' Odom said. ``I want it for them. I want that.''
 

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