COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Darrin Horn vowed to bring Southeastern Conference championships to South Carolina and turn the Gamecocks into a national contender.
Horn, introduced as South Carolina's new coach on Tuesday, said he'll waste no time in trying to improve the Gamecocks, who finished the season 14-18 and have made the NCAA tournament just once this decade. South Carolina won its only regular season SEC title in 1997.
"We're here to compete and to win big and to win championships in the SEC and to be relevant nationally,'' said Horn, who took Western Kentucky to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament this season, the Hilltoppers' best NCAA tournament finish in 15 years.
The 35-year-old Horn replaces Dave Odom, who retired at the end of the season. Odom went 128-104 overall and 41-71 in the SEC in his seven years.
Horn will be paid $800,000 annually. His five-year contract includes incentives for winning that could be worth up to an additional $335,000 per year. He also will be paid $50,000 for every 1,000 additional season tickets sold over this season's total of 9,322 tickets.
"We're here to win championships and to not make any excuses and that's what we're going to do,'' Horn said. "We're going to see a team that's fast-paced, that plays extremely hard, that gets after it on both ends of the floor.''
He met with Gamecocks players before talking to the media, and they were impressed.
"I like his attitude toward things. He's very confident in his abilities and the things he feels he is going to get done,'' junior Zam Fredrick said. "I like that about him - his swagger.''
Sophomore Devan Downey said Horn told his new players he wasn't going to be easy on them.
"He was straightforward. He was honest. He told us it was going to be hard, so get ready,'' said Downey, who led the team with 18.4 points per game.
Horn already has three recruiting appointments inside South Carolina on Wednesday, the day he officially takes over.
"We are going to put a fence around the state of South Carolina, and the best players in South Carolina are going to be recruited to play at the University of South Carolina,'' Horn said.
Horn's Western Kentucky teams improved nearly every year, finishing this season with a school record 29 wins. The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Conference title and advanced to the West Regional semifinals, losing to top-seeded UCLA.
It was their first trip to the round of 16 since Horn was a point guard on a team that beat Memphis and upset Seton Hall to make the regional semifinals in 1993.
Horn was an assistant at Western Kentucky, Morehead State and Marquette before becoming the Hilltoppers' head coach in 2003, replacing Dennis Felton, who left for Georgia. Horn went 111-48 in five seasons.