South Carolina basketball has had a strange history. For years, Carolina was an afterthought in major college basketball. The Gamecocks had good players but couldn’t translate that into consistent winning, even in the Southern Conference.
A move to the ACC made winning even tougher, but when the Gamecocks brought in the right coach, everything changed.
Since then, the Gamecocks have had times when they were really good (conference champions, a Final Four, etc.) and times when they were really bad (multiple 21-loss seasons). Many different types of head coaches led the Gamecocks through the good years and the bad years.
But which head coaches were the best to ever draw up plays for the Gamecock basketball program?
Rock Norman: Rock Norman (1928-1932, 1933-1935) did not have a good first run with the Gamecocks. His 1-17 mark in the 1930-1931 season is the worst record in the history of the program. However, after a one-year hiatus in which football coach Billy Laval filled in, Norman triumphantly returned to the sideline and led Carolina to its best-ever record of 18-1 and its second-straight Southern Conference title.
Billy Laval: Just a one-year fill-in for Rock Norman, Billy Laval (1932-1933) put together one of the best seasons in Gamecock history by leading the team to a 17-2 record before turning the reigns back over to Norman. Laval won the Southern Conference, but, perhaps more importantly, also changed the losing culture into a winning culture (he also never had a losing season on the gridiron), and Norman followed him to go 33-10 in his final two years.
Johnnie McMillan: Johnnie McMillan (1944-1945) filled in for one of the seasons missed by Frank Johnson’s military service. McMillan did a tremendous job, guiding the South Carolina basketball program to its highest-ever win total up to that point in the team’s history. The Gamecocks’ 19-3 record included a Southern Conference championship.
Branch Bocock: The appropriately named Branch Bocock (1924-1926) was only the head coach at Carolina for three seasons, but he led the Gamecocks to three-straight winning seasons and a 33-16 overall record.