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Pete Iacobelli | The Associated Press | March 7, 2014

South Carolina coach Frank Martin apologizes to fans for tirade

Frank Martin

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Suspended South Carolina coach Frank Martin apologized to fans for his harsh words aimed at Gamecocks point guard Duane Notice in the loss to No. 1 Florida this week.

"I can't do anything other than apologize," Martin said Friday in a press conference to address the suspension. "I'm sorry is a powerful two words and if you use it over and over again for the same reason it loses its meaning. I can't force people to like me, but I've got to respect this university."

Martin was suspended one game by athletic director Ray Tanner on Thursday. He already apologized to Notice and is not travelling with the team to its regular-season finale at Mississippi State on Saturday. Associate head coach Matt Figger will take over the team in Starkville.

Martin will resume his duties before the Gamecocks play in the Southeastern Conference tournament next week.

"I talk to my players a lot about maturity," he said. "I think it's time I work on my maturity as well."

Martin was caught on tape cursing at Notice late in the 72-46 loss to the Gators on Tuesday night, and the tape went viral. He said he felt uneasy after the game and understood he had crossed a line. Martin called Tanner while on a recruiting trip to apologize for the tirade. He talked with his players, although stopped short of saying he had apologized to them.

The Gamecocks (11-19, 4-13 SEC) are wrapping up their second straight losing season, the first two of Martin's career.

The 47-year-old Martin has had a fiery reputation since becoming a head basketball coach at Kansas State seven years ago. He signed a six-year contract with South Carolina to leave Kansas State.

He's known for his pointed words in timeout huddles and a steely stare at players who don't follow orders or officials who Martin believes made bad calls.

But this time, Martin said he was wrong and pledged to work on improving his language and demeanor during games. Things really hit home when 6-year-old son Christian asked why they weren't heading to Mississippi State to watch basketball.

"I'm extremely disappointed in my ignorant reactions that have impacted my team in a negative way," he said.

Martin said he's leaving for Tennessee later Friday to attend a cheerleading competition for his daughter. He's unsure if he'll stay in a hotel room to watch his team play or keeping reflecting on the suspension before leading the team in practice Monday.

"It's got to change. I don't know what else I can tell you," he said.

Martin said he's successfully confronted this problem before. He gave up swearing in the last of his five seasons at Kansas State. Martin said he'd continue that policy at South Carolina, but backslid as he was confronted with the vast rebuilding job with the Gamecocks.

Martin had reached the NCAA tournament four of five years with Kansas State.

This year, Martin's roster has seven freshmen. He lost two experienced point guards during the season, the first when senior two-sport standout Bruce Ellington gave up his final seasons in basketball and football to enter the NFL draft and the second when Villanova transfer Tyrone Johnson broke his foot at Texas A&M when an official stepped on it.

Martin wouldn't say what penalties could occur if he does it again, but believes he can overcome the problems that he alone created.

When Tanner announced the suspension, he issued a statement that it was the "result of inappropriate verbal communication as it relates to the well-being of our student-athletes."

Martin acknowledged he'd embarrassed himself, the university and his family.

"My mother hasn't stopped crying since she heard," he said.

Martin had to apologize to Brenton Williams for an outburst this January during a home game against Mississippi. Martin said Williams' father shook his hand at senior night ceremonies before the Florida game and told him, "Thank you for helping my son become a man."

"I live for those moments," Martin said.

Martin is friendly and engaging away from the court. No matter how animated and loud he gets on the bench, he gives thoughtful and rational responses to media in his postgame sessions.

He believes the curse-filled tirades don't define him. Martin called the cursing about "12 seconds out of my 24 hour day. I've got to work on those 12 seconds."

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