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March 2, 2009

BOSTON, Mass. – South Carolina head men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn is one of 10 finalists announced on Monday for the 2009 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award. The award is given annually to the nation’s top coach, as voted by a 20-member panel. The winner will be presented with the award at the 2009 NCAA Final Four in Detroit.

Horn is in his first season at the helm of the South Carolina men’s basketball program after five successful seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky. Horn has led the Gamecocks to a season of historic merit during his first year in Columbia. Carolina currently sits in a tie for first place in the SEC East, has earned its first 20-win season since the 2005-06 campaign and looks to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign.

Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, who received mid-season Phelan Award honors, headlines a group, that includes two coaches in their first seasons at their respective schools in Horn and LSU head coach Trent Johnson. The remaining seven finalists are Jim Calhoun (Connecticut), John Calipari (Memphis), Lorenzo Romar (Washington), Bill Self (Kansas), Brad Stevens (Butler), Bruce Weber (Illinois) and Roy Williams (North Carolina).

“This is an outstanding group of coaches,” said Jim Phelan, who is the chairman of the award committee. “Every one of the coaches on the list is deserving of coach of the year honors.”

Prior to 2003 the award was known simply as the National Coach of the Year. It was renamed to honor longtime Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jim Phelan, who retired following the 2002-03 season. The previous winners of the award are Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) 2008, Tony Bennett (Washington State) 2007, Ben Howland (UCLA) 2006, Tubby Smith (Kentucky) 2005, Phil Martelli (St. Joseph’s) 2004 and Mark Slonaker (Mercer) 2003.

Below are notes of Horn’s accomplishments during his first season in Columbia:
• Horn became the first South Carolina head coach since the World War II era to win his first three games at the helm of the Gamecock program.
• With two games left in the regular season, Horn has led the 2008-09 squad (20-7) to more wins than in both of the previous two seasons (14 in both 2006-07, 2007-08) and has earned nine SEC victories to date – the combined total of SEC wins from the previous two seasons (4 in 2007, 5 in 2008).
• Carolina was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East, but has surpassed all expectations and is currently tied with Tennessee for first place in the division.
• South Carolina currently owns a seven-game SEC home win streak entering Thursday’s game against Tennessee. The streak marks the first of its kind since the 1998 season.
• South Carolina has defeated three ranked opponents this season (then-No. 19 Baylor, then-No. 24 Florida, then-No. 24 Kentucky), the most wins over ranked competition by a Gamecock squad since the 2005-06 campaign.
• The Gamecocks swept the season series and won their first game in Rupp Arena against Kentucky since the 1997 season.