BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The coach left his mid-major program after a Sweet 16 appearance. He took over a dying men's basketball program in the SEC East, which many thought a hopeless task.
The coach proved them wrong. Through the force of his personality and his up-tempo style of play, he made the team a winner.
That coach was Bruce Pearl at Tennessee, who was hired four years ago.
Someday, Darrin Horn hopes they say the same thing about him at South Carolina.
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At least most of it.
"I mean, short of painting my chest, yeah," said Horn, alluding to Pearl's most-famous antic.
Horn might not be as colorful as Pearl, but the other similarities are stark.
Few had heard of Pearl until he took Wisconsin-Milwaukee on its postseason run. Horn was an unknown outside Western Kentucky before it caught fire in March.
Tennessee missed the NCAA tournament each of the four years preceding Pearl's arrival in 2005. South Carolina is now on the same non-NCAA streak.
Tennessee had talent when Pearl arrived: The young core of the team included guard Chris Lofton, the 2007 future SEC player of the year. Horn inherits a young group that includes junior guard and former Chester standout Devan Downey, a first-team All-SEC pick last year.
Pearl was asked Wednesday, during the SEC basketball media days, whether he was a model for coaches like Horn.
"That would be unfair. I was a victim of a lot of good circumstance," Pearl said. "We were a lot better than people thought we were. I had an NBA point guard in C.J. Watson. Our style of play was different. Our style of play helped us our first year more than any other year."
That might describe Horn at USC, especially having a unique style of play. Tennessee's frenetic style focuses on stopping inbounds passes, while USC has a full-court, trapping defense.
"I like the fact that he's an up-tempo coach," Pearl said.
At one point on Wednesday, a Kentucky reporter asked Horn why he took the job at South Carolina, given its lack of a winning tradition.
Horn cited the SEC, the administration at USC, and the "pieces" that are there.
"The reality of it is, I'm coming from a place where if you weren't in the tournament, you had a bad year, in a league (the Atlantic Sun) that only gets one team in every year," Horn said. "Here, if you're really good, you can be fifth or sixth, and you've still got a chance to compete (in the NCAA tournament.)"
Eventually, Horn could have Pearl's success. He might someday be a media darling, like Pearl.
For the moment, however, the most attention he has is from his players. That's a good start.
"Everybody's buying in," Downey said. "For the players that have been here two years like myself and Dominique (Archie), two years under .500, and the freshmen last year, finished .500, so as a team we're just gonna trust coach Horn and do it his way. Because evidently, our way doesn't work."