Gamecocks fire Darrin Horn

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina has fired men's basketball coach Darrin Horn because the team wasn't competitive enough and was losing fans, athletic director Eric Hyman said Tuesday.

The Gamecocks finished last in the Southeastern Conference at 2-14, their worst record in 20 years in the league. South Carolina's overall 10-21 record marked just the fourth 20-loss season in more than a century of basketball.

"Unfortunately in this business, sometimes you have to take your program in a different direction. And this is one of those days," Hyman said.

Hyman spoke to reporters in the same room where about 500 fans gathered the day before to watch the women's basketball team receive its first NCAA bid since 2003. He noted the women's success, along with the football team that won 11 games last season for the first time and a baseball team that has won two straight national championships.

Hyman said he wants the school's fourth high-profile sport to operate on that level, too.

"We really do want to have a basketball program that fulfills the aspirations that our board wants -- a top 25 program," he said.

Hyman said the athletic department was better financially than when it hired Horn, so he hoped to have more flexibility in the search for a new coach. He refused to speculate about any potential candidates.

Horn, who just completed his fourth season as the Gamecocks' coach, has three years remaining on his contract and is owed a total of $2.4 million.

Horn was hired from Western Kentucky after leading the Hilltoppers to the Sweet 16 in 2008. His first team at South Carolina went 21-10 and 10-6 in the SEC, winning the Eastern Division. But it wasn't enough to get the team's first NCAA tournament bid since 2004, and his teams won fewer games each season after that.

Horn wasn't at the news conference, but issued a statement thanking fans for their support.

"My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Columbia and wish nothing but the best for the Gamecocks," Horn said.

The Gamecocks have lost 24 of their past 27 SEC games. Horn finishes his career at South Carolina 23-45 in league games and 60-63 overall, with three losing seasons in a row.

Fans already had expressed their frustration with Horn by not showing up. Average paid attendance this season was 8,900 people in the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena. It was down about 1,500 fans, with most games seeing less than half of the announced number actually in the stands.

Horn improved his team grade-point average, but had trouble keeping players. Expected starter Murphy Holloway returned to Mississippi after agreeing to play for Horn. Several other players transferred.

Horn has been a head coach at Western Kentucky and South Carolina for nine seasons, with an overall record of 171-111.