How USC’s Lamont Paris stacks up with other first-year SEC coaches
South Carolina wasn’t alone in hiring a new men’s basketball coach before the season.
This offseason represented a changing of the guard for a swath of SEC teams — six of 14 to be exact — and each first-year coach has steered his respective team to varying degrees of success.
The Gamecocks have struggled under new coach Lamont Paris, especially upon entering SEC play. USC (8-14, 1-8 SEC) has won just one game in league play — a surprising road win at Kentucky — but otherwise has slumped through the SEC slate.
Heading into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. home matchup against Arkansas, the Gamecocks have lost six straight SEC games and have started 1-8 in the conference for the first time since 2014. In the first four of those losses, the Gamecocks never held a lead against their opponent.
Given the amount of roster turnover after Frank Martin’s firing, outside expectations weren’t high for the Gamecocks in a transitional season, with USC finishing last in the SEC preseason media poll. Last place is where USC currently sits in the standings, tied with LSU and Ole Miss with a 1-8 SEC mark but sitting below both in terms of overall record.
How does that compare with other first-year coaches in the conferences? Below is a snapshot of each SEC first-year coach — some of whom were rumored candidates for the USC opening — and how his team is faring.
It’s important to note that these aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. Some coaches have had more to work with in terms of resources and talent at their new institutions; others coaches have had less. Some of these programs have a history of success in men’s basketball, while others are still trying to enter the conversation.
Lamont Paris, South Carolina
Last season’s USC record: 18-13 (9-9 SEC)
Current record: 8-14 (1-8)
Context: Paris replaced the 10-year head coach Martin, who was unable to lead the Gamecocks back to the NCAA tournament in the year’s following 2017’s Final Four run. Paris, 48, had served as an assistant under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin before taking his first head coaching job with Chattanooga. He led the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in his fifth and final season before taking the Gamecocks job. Landing in-state recruit GG Jackson was a seismic win for Paris and his staff, but even Jackson’s addition hasn’t been able to lift USC out of the SEC cellar.
Todd Golden, Florida
Last season’s Florida record: 20-14 (9-9)
Current record: 13-9 (6-3)
Context: Golden replaced seven-year coach Mike White (more on him later), who made an intraconference jump from the Gators to Georgia after the Gators missed the NCAA tournament last season. Just 37 years old and a former Auburn assistant, Golden led San Francisco to its first NCAA tournament since 1998 last season before taking the Florida job. Golden currently has the Gators sitting in sixth place in the conference just behind the SEC’s top tier of teams like Alabama and Tennessee. Golden has also defeated the five other SEC teams with new coaches head-to-head, including a 21-point win over Paris and USC in Gainesville.
Mike White, Georgia
Last season’s UGA record: 6-26 (1-17)
Current record: 14-8 (4-5)
Context: As mentioned earlier, White transitioned from Florida to UGA, so he isn’t a true first-year SEC coach like the others. After leading Florida to an NIT appearance last year, White replaced four-year coach Tom Crean, who never finished higher than 10th place in the conference. The early returns have been promising for the Bulldogs, who have already doubled the amount of wins they had all of last season. Crean never won more than 16 games with UGA. White and the Bulldogs also defeated the visiting Gamecocks head-to-head — snapping a 12-game losing streak against USC that spanned multiple seasons.
Matt McMahon, LSU
Last season’s LSU record: 22-12 (9-9)
Current record: 12-10 (1-8)
Context: McMahon, 44, is one of two coaches on this list that the Gamecocks reportedly interviewed to replace Martin. The former Murray State coach — who famously coached South Carolina native Ja Morant with the Racers — instead chose the LSU Tigers, replacing embattled coach Will Wade. LSU fired Wade after the NCAA issued a notice of allegations against his program, and the Tigers are still awaiting sanctions that could include a multi-year postseason ban. Just like USC, McMahon’s Tigers have gotten off to a 1-8 start in the SEC, and they have another link to USC in the form of former Gamecock guard Trae Hannibal. USC won’t face LSU until Feb. 18 on the road.
Chris Jans, Mississippi State
Last season’s MSU record: 18-16 (8-10)
Current record: 14-8 (2-7)
Context: Jans, 53, replaced seven-year coach Ben Howland, who reached the NCAA tournament once and the NIT thrice in his tenure. At New Mexico State, Jans compiled a 122–32 (.792) record during his five years and reached three NCAA tournaments. He’s brought a stifling defensive system to the Bulldogs, who rank in the top 10 nationally in defensive efficiency. The Bulldogs got off to a 1-7 start to SEC play just like USC but are coming off a road win against Paris’ Gamecocks on Tuesday.
Dennis Gates, Missouri
Last season’s Mizzou record: 12-21 (5-13)
Current record: 17-5 (5-4)
Context: Gates, 43, is the other coach on this list who was reportedly a top target for South Carolina, and he’s arguably made the biggest splash of first-year coaches, leading Mizzou back into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2020-21. The Tigers have slowed somewhat in SEC play but were on a torrid pace at the start of the season, winning nine straight games to open the year. The Gamecocks will travel to the other Columbia on Tuesday.
Next four USC MBB games
Saturday: Arkansas, 3:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Feb. 7: at Missouri, 9 p.m. (SEC Network)
Feb. 11: at Ole Miss, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)
Feb. 14: vs. Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)