Greg Cote

South Carolina’s Frank Martin brings big piece of the 305 to Final Four

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin swings the net around after cutting it down after beating Florida 77-70 in the East Regional championship game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 26, 2017, in New York.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin swings the net around after cutting it down after beating Florida 77-70 in the East Regional championship game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 26, 2017, in New York. AP

There were 18,797,075 entries submitted to ESPN's NCAA Tournament men's bracket challenge this year, and only 657 — or 0.00003495 percent — correctly had every Final Four team: No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and North Carolina, No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are the unlikeliest of the surviving quartet (only eight lower-seeded teams have ever made the Final Four), and the coach who led South Carolina to this point is himself a long shot tale befitting the team cast in the obligatory Cinderella role. Frank Martin brings a big piece of Miami to the crescendo of this March Madness. Short of the Miami Hurricanes getting to this point, Martin brings about as much of the 305 as you could get.

Francisco Jose Martin, 51, was Miami-born to Cuban exile parents, and the first American-born member of his family. He worked at a Dairy Queen at age 12 to help support his mother after his father abandoned the family. He was educated at FIU, and coached at Miami Senior High, North Miami and Booker T. Washington high schools before getting his break in college coaching. He coached Kansas State from 2007 to 2012 before joining South Carolina.

Martin worked as a nightclub bouncer while attending FIU but decided in 1992 on a career change after being shot at by a group of men he ejected for fighting. He chose coaching. It was not without controversy. Martin won three straight state championship with the Miami High Stingarees from 1996 to 1998 (his players included Udonis Haslem) but the last was vacated over a controversy involving school officials and a booster providing players with improper housing. Martin never was personally accused of wrongdoing, but was fired.

Not quite 20 years later he has South Carolina in its first Final Four and his first as a head coach, after coming one game short with Kansas State in 2010.

“I'm the luckiest human being in the world,” Martin said after his team rallied from seven down at halftime beat Florida in the Elite Eight over the weekend. “A lot of people have believed in me and not given up one men when they should have, to best honest with you.”

His isn't the only Miami story in this college basketball postseason.

Allen Edwards, 41, who was born in Miami and played at Miami Senior High, is a first-year head coach who has guided the University of Wyoming to the ongoing best-of-three championship series vs. Coastal Carolina in the third-tier College Basketball Invitational, which invites the top 16 schools that did not make the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

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