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Frank Martin heard the offseason rumors and the narratives about a possible coaching change at South Carolina.

On Thursday morning — in his first news conference since USC’s season ended on March 11 — Martin told reporters to check their sources, insisting that the past few weeks have been “no different” than the typical offseason.

He said that he and athletic director Ray Tanner had deeper conversations than they did after the team’s Final Four run in 2017, when he signed a four-year extension. But Martin added that he had no problem with the length of the review and has respect for his bosses, saying he “doesn’t have a sour bone in his body” about anyone at South Carolina.

Last week, Martin and the university came to terms on a two-year extension.

“Why were (the conversations) deeper this year? Because I did a real crappy job this time,” Martin said Thursday. “And we needed … to make sure that I understood what was broken, and that we can get it righted, that’s it.”

Hired in 2012, Martin, 54, just completed his ninth season as USC’s head coach and has compiled a 153-134 career record with the Gamecocks. The pandemic loomed large over this year’s team, forcing USC 6-15 (4-11 SEC) to cancel or postpone seven games between December and January and shutting down activities three separate times.

Though the team never revealed which players tested positive for the coronavirus due to privacy reasons, Martin tested positive twice, including once during the season. He said Thursday that “he didn’t have the fight” to coach the way he wanted to, saying he often fell asleep by 7 p.m. due to lingering COVID-19 symptoms.

“The season was real simple. It was the most challenging year of my professional career,” Martin said. “It was really difficult. It was complicated personally. (I’ve spent) 36 years on the sideline, 29 as a head coach. I had one bad year. Excuse my language, but this is the only way I can say it: I did a (expletive) job of coaching this past year. I didn’t manage things the right way.”

Last week, after nearly a month of rumors, Martin and the university reached agreement on a two-year extension that runs through the 2024-25 season. However, the new agreement isn’t an extension in the traditional sense.

Martin will not make a raise. His salary of $3.3 from the 2022-23 season will carry over into the final two years of the deal. The university also has the flexibility to move on from Martin after this season. As part of the deal, the buyout in Martin’s contract lowers from a maximum of $3.3 million to $3 million after this upcoming season.

Additionally, neither of the two new years on Martin’s deal include a buyout, meaning the university could terminate his contract any time after April 1, 2023 without paying a buyout.

“Is that contract extension exactly what I wanted? No.” Martin said. “ … I live my life day to day. I don’t live my life based on my contract.”

Despite the optics of the deal, Tanner said he didn’t view Martin’s buyout adjustment as a way to protect the university.

“I don’t look at it as protecting ourselves or anything other than this is a statement about our program and our commitment to basketball from this university,” Tanner said. “Coach Martin is our head coach, but you’re talking about a buyout situation that is a very good buyout, even still. You can look at comparatively some of the other buyouts around the country, and he remains with a very strong buyout.”

Since the season ended on March 11, Martin’s roster has been in flux. More than 1,300 Division I players have entered the transfer portal, including five Gamecocks. In recent days, USC has secured reinforcements, bringing in guards Erik Stevenson, Chico Carter Jr. and James Reese and forward A.J. Wilson as transfer commits.

Despite the fluidity of the roster, Martin repeatedly defended his program on Thursday, saying that even though last season was a “trainwreck” the program itself never went off the rails. Thursday’s news conference opened with a series of video messages from former Gamecocks like Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier and Chris Silva, who congratulated Martin on his extension and thanked him for his influence in their lives.

Martin said the growth of those players into successful men is why he coaches. But he also referenced the statistical accomplishments of his tenure, including setting a program record in wins and ranking third in the Southeastern Conference with 51 SEC wins in the five years prior to last season.

“Contrary to popular belief sometimes around here because I know this place loves gloom and doom,” Martin said. “But if anyone has actually paid attention to what I’m about, I work and my staff is working and our players — the guys that you just saw (on video) —really, really hard to build a winning program. You can argue whatever you want, that’s your prerogative. We built a winning program.”

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