South Carolina Basketball: The SEC's best coaches are Gamecocks

On Monday, Lamont Paris officially joined Dawn Staley as an SEC Coach of the Year award recipient for the 2023-2024 season.
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris is the 2023-2024 SEC Coach of the Year
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris is the 2023-2024 SEC Coach of the Year / Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley was chosen as the SEC Coach of the Year. On Monday, she was joined by her Gamecock counterpart on the men's side as Lamont Paris was honored as the top leader in the Southeastern Conference.

Coach Paris has pushed all the right buttons this season. After going 11-21 in 2022-2023 (and tying a record for losses in a single season), the Gamecocks are 25-6 and a lock for the NCAA Tournament after finishing tied for 2nd place in one of college basketball's top conferences.

Paris made some needed personnel adjustments through the transfer portal this offseason as he added Ta'Lon Cooper, BJ Mack, Myles Stute, and Stephen Clark. He also finished the job in recruiting by securing signed NLIs from Collin Murray-Boyles, Morris Ugusuk, and Arden Conyers. Along with 2022-2023 offseason addition Meechie Johnson, Cooper and Murray-Boyles were chosen for various All-SEC teams.

Upgrading the roster wasn't the only bit of brilliance from Paris, however, The Gamecocks play a unique style that tailors to their strengths and causes headaches for their opponents. As one of the slowest-paced teams in the country, Paris allows his players to control games, rarely calling timeouts unless absolutely necessary.

The in-game coaching has improved from last season to this season, as well. In the Gamecocks; dominating victory over Kentucky in January, Paris thoroughly outcoached John Calipari, and his out-of-bounds plays (especially his baseline inbound plays) were a big part of his outclassing of the veteran Calipari.

Paris also has worked with his guys through struggles. Where Frank Martin tended just to put struggling players in the "doghouse" and refuse to play them, Paris helped Josh Gray go from afterthought in out-of-conference play to SEC difference-maker, never gave up on Meechie Johnson during his shooting struggles, and got a lot out of players with limited offensive skills (Zach Davis) or athleticism (BJ Mack) by putting them in situations in which they can succeed.

With reports that other teams are interested in hiring Paris away from the South Carolina basketball program, keeping him around Columbia will require a new contract this offseason. He certainly has earned whatever deal he gets.

Like Coach Staley before him, Paris' success at a school not known for basketball in recent years (outside of the Final Four run in 2016-2017) has the college basketball world talking. The two Gamecock head coaches were chosen as the top coaches in the conference, marking just the third time in SEC history that the SEC Coach of the Year in men's and women's basketball came from the same school.

The Gamecocks will be the 5-seed in the SEC Tournament and will take on the winner of Arkansas and Vanderbilt on Thursday afternoon. With a solid showing in the postseason (both SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament), Paris could cement himself as the National Coach of the Year, as well.

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