South Carolina thinks it found a dream basketball coach in Murray State's Steve Newton, a bit of a dreamer himself.
"I'm an incurable optimist by nature and we think there's a little magic in thinking big," Newton said Wednesday at the Carolina Coliseum, where he was introduced as the school's 28th coach.Newton, chosen after a two-month search, succeeds George Felton, who was fired on May 14. He immediately envisioned a trip to the Final Four - and beyond.
He promised a bundle for a school that is 4-6 in the NCAA tournament, has not advanced past a regional semifinal and is preparing for its first season in the tough Southeastern Conference.
The goals at Murray State were to win NCAA tournament games, Newton said.
He thinks South Carolina has "the potential and opportunity to advance into . . . the Final Four with an ultimate goal of a national championship. I think that's a legitimate and worthwhile goal."
Athletic director King Dixon smiled in the background.
"We unquestionably believe we have found that person to take Gamecock basketball to the next level," Dixon said.
Newton is negotiating a four-year contract that will pay about $100,000 per year. He will earn an undetermined amount from endorsements, basketball camp and clinics, and broadcast programs.
Newton became the front-runner after Rutgers coach Bob Wenzel decided Monday to remain in New Jersey.
Newton, 50, gladly accepted a job that others had turned down.
"I'm really pleased that they persevered and I was available," Newton said.