The last time Darrin Horn was in Tampa, he spent the weekend of March 21 being a part of one of the wildest days during the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
As coach of his alma mater, Western Kentucky, Horn led the Hilltoppers to an upset of Drake, one of four teams to knock off higher seeds that day at the St. Pete Times Forum.
No. 5 seed Drake had overcome a 16-point deficit against 12th-seeded Western Kentucky to force overtime. With 5.7 seconds remaining in OT, Drake's Jonathan Cox hit two free throws to put the Bulldogs up by one.
Then came the play that would dominate highlight reels throughout the remainder of the tournament. Western Kentucky's Tyrone Brazelton grabbed the inbounds pass, ran the length of the court, but blocked by two defenders, passed to Ty Rogers, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer from about 6 feet beyond the arc.
The 101-99 win earned Western Kentucky its first trip to the second round since 1995.
It picked up two wins in Tampa and Horn grabbed the attention of schools around the country. The Hilltoppers lost to UCLA in the Sweet 16, but Horn parlayed that success into a new job as the coach at South Carolina.
This week, Horn, 36, returns to Tampa for the SEC tournament. It's a place that holds great memories — and potentially great promise — for Horn.
Will you have any kind of homefield advantage?
I don't know if it will be homefield or not. It will be some familiarity for our staff, anyway. It's a great place to play basketball, without question. Hopefully all the teams will travel well because it's a great environment.
Any concern for your health after last year's accident? (Horn severely injured his nose after walking into a door).
I'll feel like ducking if the bay doors are too low because I cracked my nose open last year there.
What do you remember most about that time?
You know, in all honesty really from about March 1 until sometime in August my whole life was a blur. It all happened so fast. We went from conference tournament to the NCAA and we had the success.
Would you be at South Carolina without that great run in Tampa?
Those questions we can't answer, but yeah, you never know what might have happened. But it did happen and it was a crazy run.
What do you think about the St. Pete Times Forum?
I just think it's a great environment. We were there in the NCAA Tournament atmosphere, of course. And we were in two really good games. But I just think it's a beautiful facility and it's run first class. It's the kind of place that a league like the SEC should be playing in. If we can keep the same karma going maybe (it will be a great place to play the SEC).
Is it an unfair advantage for Florida, being so close?
I don't think it's unfair. No matter where it's held, it's going to be closer for somebody than somebody else.
Expectations for the SEC tournament?
I'd love to stay undefeated in that building. That would be great.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
|First round||Quarterfinals||Semifinals||Championship||Semifinals||Quarterfinals||First round|
|W1 LSU||E1 Tennessee|
|W5 Mississippi||1 p.m., Sun||TBD||TBD||7:30 p.m., Sun||E5 Vanderbilt|
|1 p.m., Sun||E4/W5||TBD||W4/E5||7:30 p.m., Sun|
|E4 Kentucky||1 p.m., Ch. 38||1 p.m., Ch. 10||3:15 p.m., Ch. 38||W4 Alabama|
|E2 S. Carolina||TBD||W2 Auburn|
|E6 Georgia||3:15 p.m., Sun||TBD||TBD||9:45 p.m., Sun||W6 Arkansas|
|3:15 p.m., Sun||W3/E6||E3/W6||9:45 p.m., Sun|
|W3 Mississippi State||E3 Florida|