College Sports

Downey now playing for fourth coach with two years left to play

South Carolina's new basketball coach, Darrin Horn, fields questions from reporters.
South Carolina's new basketball coach, Darrin Horn, fields questions from reporters.

COLUMBIA -- Devan Downey sat at the back of the room, waiting for the microphones and cameras to clear out, and finally sighed, stretching his legs for the first time in an hour.

He was happy to see Darrin Horn introduced as South Carolina's new basketball coach, make no mistake. But Horn becomes the fourth coach Downey's had, and he's still got two years of college left.

It wasn't supposed to be this jumbled.

"I thought I was going to go to Cincinnati, play for Bob Huggins and have a great career," he said, slightly smiling at the road he's walked. "But everything happens for a reason, and this might be the reason all them things happened to me."

Coming out of Chester as South Carolina's Mr. Basketball in 2005, Downey reported to Cincinnati in the summer to play for Huggins. He never got in an official practice under Huggins' eye before the coach was fired, leaving assistant Andy Kennedy as interim coach.

Kennedy and Downey had a solid year but bowed out in the NIT to the Gamecocks. Downey wanted to stay at Cincinnati if Kennedy were hired full-time, but the Bearcats chose Mick Cronin, Kennedy signed on at Ole Miss and Downey put in his transfer.

He looked at Kansas State (where Huggins went for a year) and Ole Miss before deciding he wanted to stay close to home. Downey learned for a season on the bench under Dave Odom and finally got to play this year, leading the Gamecocks in points, steals and assists as a consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

That was all fine until January, when Dave Odom announced he was retiring. The past 10 weeks of wondering have been so familiar to Downey that he might as well have been introducing Horn two days ago.

In a way, he was. USC Athletics Director Eric Hyman addressed Downey specifically in his opening statement, saying he'd already spoken to Horn about the despised 6 a.m. practices.

"That's just something between me and Mr. Hyman," Downey grinned. "I'm ready to do it. Ready to do anything I can do to win."

The message was clear. The Gamecocks might have hired a new head man, but their floor leader is already established.

Downey was one of two players who started every game this season, immediately taking over the reins from departed senior Tré Kelley and running the offense. He was counted on to take the big shots and be the team's emotional sparkplug.

It was Downey who was calling out his teammates after a listless loss at Clemson. He also never had a problem criticizing himself, especially when some game-winning shots that left his hand never found the hole.

"We got a leader," said freshman forward Mike Holmes, "and now we got another one. I'm looking forward to Devan and coach Horn working together."

Downey, just as he did in the preseason last year, was confident he would have no problems adjusting to another new coach's system. Odom confidently let Downey handle the chores from Day 1, and Horn, Downey believes, will be no different.

"I feel like if I'm good enough and the coach likes me and respects me, I can just go out and play the game and do whatever," he said. "I'm pretty sure he knows my ability; he said he'd seen a few games. Anything he asks me to do, I'm going to do.

"My attitude and his attitude, hopefully that will run through the whole team."