South Carolina's Dave Odom's time as a coach is almost up. ¶ Odom, who announced his retirement effective at the end of this season on Jan. 18, and his struggling Gamecocks (13-16, 5-10 SEC) are down to Sunday's regular-season finale at No. 4-ranked Tennessee (27-3, 13-2) and then a trip to Atlanta for the conference tournament. ¶ "Playing or coaching your last regular-season game is a special time," he said. "It is." ¶ Odom has compiled an impressive 405-276 record in 22 seasons at East Carolina, Wake Forest and South Carolina. His teams have reached the NCAA Tournament nine times and the NIT six times; he has won three NIT titles, including in back-to-back years with the Gamecocks in 2005 and 2006. He has recruited and coached one of the best players ever, Tim Duncan. He has been coach of the year in the ACC and the SEC as well as nationally. ¶ That's what outsiders can see and evaluate. ¶ That's not the full measure of the coach.
Throughout his years, Odom, 66, has been a genteel ambassador for the game. A reporter could ask him anything, even about a former player who transferred, and he would graciously, respectfully fill up a notebook with his candid answer. He also has earned the admiration of his brethren for how he has handled situations and not merely X's and O's and W's and L's.
"I love Dave Odom," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He's everything that's good about our profession. He touched all the bases — high school coach, (college) assistant, head coach. He has a great love for the game. He's been an outstanding coach and an even better person."
You can bet Odom isn't going to ask his players to win one more big one for him.
"I do love my team and I feel similar emotion from them," he said Thursday morning. "But I will do the best I can between now and Sunday afternoon to direct their attention to what they need to do to be successful on the court and not have them concentrate on my situation. My situation's not going to change. This is my last game. And while I know they want to do well for me, it is far more important that they do well for themselves."
Balance award snub?
Kansas is No. 5 in the AP poll and, perhaps, the most talented team in the land. But how many Jayhawks will earn All-Big 12 honors let alone land on someone's All-America teams?
The number might be small if voters look solely at the statistics.
Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson and Mario Chalmers have game, but less than gaudy stats. They average between 12 and 13.3 points. A dozen other Big 12 players average more.
"The problem with us," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "is when you have so much balance, it tends to get guys to think that maybe there hasn't been any one or any two who've had exceptional seasons. Which is not true at all. These guys have sacrificed for the good of the team."
Did you know?
Despite losing four starters and 62 percent of the scoring and rebounding from last year's Sweet 16 team, UNLV (22-7 entering today's game against Utah) seems poised for another NCAA berth. UNLV hasn't made it to consecutive NCAAs since its glory days of 1990-91.
No wonder Lon Kruger is a finalist for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association coach of the year award. The guy can flat-out coach.
By the numbers
3 Consecutive Pac-10 regular-season titles UCLA has won thanks to a comeback, 77-67 controversial overtime win against Stanford on Thursday.
19 Game winning streak by Davidson, tops in nation.
94.6 Free-throw percentage by Louis Dale of Ivy League champ and NCAA bound Cornell, tops in the nation. Cornell played at Penn on Friday.
He said it
"I like it better later in the year 'cause it means you have accomplished something. I think what it says about our team is that we have gotten better defensively, we have been able to withstand some adversity and we've had a guy who has really had four years of adversity and tough times step up and do a great job for us in Quentin Thomas."
Roy Williams, North Carolina coach, on his team moving back to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll this week before playing today at Duke.
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.