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April 15, 2010

Darrin Horn, Cypheus Bunton and Orlando Early

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina head men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn has announced staff changes for the upcoming 2010-11 season, it was announced on Thursday.

Orlando Early, who spent the last five seasons as the head basketball coach at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, has been hired as an assistant coach. Cypheus Bunton will remain with the South Carolina program, moving into the position of director of player development, while L.J. Hepp, who spent the 2009-10 season as the director of basketball operations for the Gamecocks, will be leaving the program to pursue other on-floor coaching opportunities.

“As I said when I first took over as head coach at South Carolina, my commitment is to building a program with a strong foundation and expectations, and developing successful individuals both on and off the court,” Horn said. “The staff changes we have in place are another step in that process. Part of that process is putting both players and staff in roles for us to be our best individually and collectively as a program. Our goals at South Carolina are very clear. We want our program to compete for championships, and we want our student-athletes to excel in the classroom, on the court and in the community.

The addition of Coach Early will bring another strong recruiter to our staff and in turn will allow for Coach Bunton to excel in what he does best, working with the student-athletes. L.J. did a great job for us during his time in Columbia, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Early led Louisiana-Monroe to a 60-92 record during his five-year tenure as head coach of the Warhawk program, including a 43-24 mark in home contests. He led a squad that was heavily affected by Hurricane Katrina to a 10-18 mark during his first season (2005-06), and followed with an 18-14 record in 2006-07 – the program’s first winning season since the 2001-02 campaign. His sophomore squad collected a 14-0 mark in home contests and a share of the Sun Belt Conference West Division title in the program’s first season in the league. For his efforts, Early was named Coach of the Year by four different outlets, including the Sun Belt Conference, Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and National Association of Basketball Coaches (District 8 Coach of the Year). He also concluded the season as a finalist for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year award.

Early’s 2007-08 squad posted a 10-21 record and an injury-laden 2008-09 team finished the season with a 10-20 mark. In his final season at ULM, the Warhawks posted a 12-19 record, including a 6-12 mark in league play. The squad advanced to the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Tournament, falling to eventual tournament champion North Texas.

Early began his coaching career at his alma mater, Gardner-Webb, from 1993-95. He followed with a three-year stint at Western Carolina, one as an assistant coach, during which the Catamounts captured the Southern Conference Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and his final two seasons as the associate head coach. Early followed his term at WCU by continuing to climb the coaching ladder, spending three seasons (1998-01) as an assistant at Charlotte under head coach Bobby Lutz. He helped the 49ers to a pair of Conference USA titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT appearance.

Prior to his appointment at ULM, Early spent four seasons (2001-05) as an assistant under Mark Gottfried at Alabama. The Crimson Tide topped the 20-win mark three times, posted a combined 88-41 record, advanced to four-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, held a No. 1 national ranking, won an SEC regular-season championship and made an NCAA Elite Eight appearance with Early on the bench. His work as an assistant coach was recognized on a national level in 2004, as Athlon Sports named him the third-best assistant coach in the nation.

“Coach Early brings a wealth of experience to Carolina, not only as a former head coach, but on the recruiting trail as well,” Horn said. “He is a proven winner and recruiter, holding high-level assistant coaching positions with Bobby Lutz at Charlotte and Mark Gottfried at Alabama. He and I coached against each other in the Sun Belt Conference during my time at Western Kentucky, and I’m certain he will bring the same tenacity and enthusiasm that I saw then to his position at South Carolina.”

“This is a great opportunity for me to be at the highest level in college basketball with a head coach and a program that is without question on the rise,” Early said. “I’m excited about the challenge of contributing in any way that I can to help Coach Horn and South Carolina be successful.”

Bunton will remain with the staff and transition into a new role as the director of player development. He will work with the Gamecock student-athletes on a daily basis with an array of on-campus duties.

“Coach Bunton is the kind of role model and person of high integrity that has his greatest impact through relationships that he builds with players,” Horn said. “Being the director of player development will allow him to do that with great focus on a daily basis.”

“I’m excited about this opportunity to be in a position that I can focus on my true passion within coaching, which is mentoring and working with the student-athletes on a personal level,” Bunton said.