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Odom's seventh season as Gamecocks coach will be his last

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Dave Odom will retire
at the end of the season, saying Friday "I'm on the back end of
not only my career, but my life."

The 65-year-old Odom will finish his seventh season at South
Carolina, where he never had the same success he saw in 12 years at
Wake Forest.

"I'm not at the end, but I can see it," Odom said at a news
conference. "Truly, I'm on the back end of not only my career, but
my life."

Odom led the Gamecocks to the NCAA tournament in 2004 and
back-to-back NIT titles the following years. Recently, he has come
under criticism for the team's ragged and inconsistent play -- the
Gamecocks are 9-8 overall and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference.

Odom said athletic director Eric Hyman wanted him to serve the
final years of his contract through 2010. However, the coach
thought ceding the program to someone new would be best for his
players.

Odom said pressure from critics was not the reason for his
departure.

"There will be those, through you [the media], who will stick
their chest out and say, 'We got it done. We were loud and we were
angry and our voice was heard and a change was made,' " Odom said.
"And I will tell you without any fear of contradiction, those
people could not be further from the truth."

Hyman would not talk about his upcoming search. "This is Dave's
day," he said.

Odom has had four 20-win seasons with South Carolina, the last
in 2005-06.

Despite going 14-16 a year ago, Odom expected this team to make
the NCAA tournament.

"Can we play in the postseason?" Odom said in October. "Yes
we can, and I expect to."

South Carolina's early play left that in doubt. The Gamecocks
dropped close games to North Carolina State and George Mason in
November. They blew a 20-point lead at home to Baylor, had to rally
from 15 points behind to defeat College of Charleston and were
outscored 10-0 down the stretch in a demoralizing 61-58 loss to
North Carolina-Asheville at home.

They started 0-2 in the SEC for the third straight year before
beating Arkansas on Wednesday.

The win left Odom 401-268 in 22 years as coach of South
Carolina, Wake Forest (1990-2001) and East Carolina (1980-82).

Odom came to South Carolina before the 2001-02 season after 12
years at Wake Forest. He reached the NCAA tournament eight times,
was chosen Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year three times
and coached standouts Tim Duncan, Rodney Rogers and Randolph
Childress.

He took South Carolina to the finals of the 2002 NIT, where it
lost to Memphis. Two years later, the Gamecocks made their only
NCAA trip, also losing to Memphis in a first-round game. South
Carolina followed with two NIT championships.

Odom's teams have struggled in the SEC, their best record coming
in 2004 at 8-8. The Gamecocks are 37-62 in Odom's seven SEC seasons
so far.