Silly look for a great cause

L.G. Patterson/AP

COLUMBIA --- Frank Martin is college basketball's American Dad.

And he's as animated as the cartoon character.

Martin has a barrel chest and a square jaw. Perfect. The South Carolina coach --- formerly the coach of our friends at Kansas State --- plays the part of a drill sergeant like no other.

Even though he has no military background.

Go figure.

(By the way, the Tigers beat the Gamecocks 82-74 at Mizzou Arena on Saturday. More on this game to come. What's happening around the country this weekend, however, is much more interesting. And important.)

Martin brought his show to Mizzou Arena on Saturday.

All the coaches on his team, as well as Missouri's coaches, looked like they were attending a board meeting on Wall Street in their $2,000 suits.

This is what the dress-code has become, unless a team is playing in a tournament in Hawaii or the Bahamas when coaches wear Aloha Shirts, which make them look even sillier.

These coaches had the Wall Street look Saturday, and Martin would be considered the Wolf of Wall Street.

Except for what was on their feet. Tennis shoes, sneakers, basketball shoes ... call them what you want.

Dark corporate suits, white sneakers. What a silly look.

But there has never been a sillier look for such a great cause.

This was part of the Coaches vs. Cancer crusade, a cause that's been steadily growing since it started 20 years ago by --- among others --- our very own Norm Stewart.

All across the country this weekend, college coaches are taking part in the Suits and Sneakers campaign to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

It's expected to raise $400,000 and overall, including many other events, the National Association of Basketball Coaches has raised $100 million to battle cancer. And hopefully, some day --- SOME DAY --- we will find a cure.

Most of us have been touched by cancer in our lives, whether it's you, a family member or a friend.

If you haven't, count yourself among the very lucky few.

Stewart battled, and beat, colon cancer in 1989. Stewart lost his mother to cancer. As did former Kansas coach and now North Carolina coach Roy Williams.

The most infamous example in college basketball is Jim Valvano.

"It's a never-ending fight," Martin said in a recent interview. "For years and years, people like Coaches vs. Cancer continue to fight to raise awareness and the dollars you need, and we still haven't overcome it.

"We have to understand the unity and commitment and passion we have to fight this thing."

There's a lot more to Martin than his demeanor as a basketball coach.

"It's such an important thing," Haith said, "and I'm proud of what the NABC and college basketball have done to continue to draw awareness."

Easily, this was the most important thing that happened Saturday at Mizzou Arena and around the country. As for the game, well ...

Missouri (15-4, 3-3 SEC) opened with an 11-0 run and was never headed, building as much as a 20-point lead in the first half.

"They did jump on us pretty quick from the get-go," said South Carolina junior Brenton Williams, who canned seven 3-pointers, was 9-of-9 from the line, and scored a game-high 32 points.

"During one of the timeouts, we just wanted to try and mellow down the possessions and take it one possession at a time."

The lead was 38-22 at the half, but the Gamecocks (7-12, 0-6) --- who would be considered lousy by any standard --- got back within six, at 73-67 with 1:19 left.

This was, in large part, thanks to Missouri's Ryan Rosburg missing four straight free throws in a 51-second span down the stretch.

But the Tigers survived, in large part, to another big game from their Big Three --- Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross.

Brown scored 24 points and had a game-high six assists --- six of Missouri's 18 assists on 26 baskets.

In other words, the guys played really nice together and shared the toy.

"When a guy has 24 points and he still has six assists," MU coach Frank Haith said, "that tells you he's making some plays not just for himself, but for some other people."

Said Brown: "Coach has talked to us about making the extra pass, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that today."

Before a season-high crowd of 12,033, it was the fourth straight game of 20-plus points for the 6-5 junior.

"I'm trying to be a complete player and take what the defense gives me," Brown said.

Clarkson added 22 points and two assists, Ross had 14 points and three assists, and freshman guard Wes Clark chipped in four assists.

"That's been a big emphasis of ours, that we continue to share the ball," Haith said. "They had a lot of trust in each other and we need to continue to grow in that area."

Growth is a good thing, and it had better continue for the Tigers.

After going 3-3 against a six-pack of mediocre SEC teams, Missouri's next three games are at Arkansas on Tuesday, at home against No. 13 Kentucky next Saturday, and at No. 7 Florida on Feb. 4.

Good luck, because anything better than 0-3 in this stretch would be considered a big win for Missouri.

But on this weekend and for what it means, everyone wins.

There's nothing silly about that.