South Carolina men’s basketball coach Lamont Paris didn’t have to go too far when he made his first hire. Former Gamecocks basketball captain and SEC legend Carey Rich was just down the road at his farthest, and often in the building prior to Paris’s arrival.
Rich was brought in to serve in an off-court role as special assistant to the head coach, a title that seems vague, but presents Rich with the freedom of helping the basketball staff in numerous ways. One of the chief duties for Rich is helping to connect this coaching staff, a group brand new to the Palmetto State, with the community.
And it’s a job that’s easy for Rich, whose voice carries weight in the city of Columbia because his actions for decades warrant such respect.
A graduate of CA Johnson High School, the former Gamecocks point guard has quickly become incredibly important to Paris.
“It’s relationships. He develops real, genuine relationships” Paris told TheBigSpur.com in a one-on-one interview, when asked what makes Rich so well-respected in the state.
“He has forged relationships throughout the state, not just when it comes to grassroots basketball, but just generally throughout the community, from business owners to law enforcement. It’s been fun to be around him and watch him. His phone never stops ringing. He’s a really good, high-character guy and as loyal as they come. He has a unique perspective on this university as a Columbia native, as an alum and as a basketball player in this program. We’re fortunate to have him.”
When Rich graduated from CA Johnson High School, home of the Green Hornets, he began his collegiate career as a Catamount at Western Carolina. He soon transferred to South Carolina, back to the city where he grew up, and eventually became a two-time captain under former head coach Eddie Fogler.
Westwood High School basketball coach John Combs was a manager for the South Carolina program as a freshman when Rich was a senior. The two became connected in college basketball, but have become tremendous allies in promoting high school basketball in this state.
“There’s a reason he was captain, because people trusted him. People still trust him with his dealings with high school kids, the college kids with the Pro-Am event, been on the radio and in the media,” Combs told TheBigSpur.com.
“He’s always been fair, but always wanted to promote basketball in this area. The thing I like about Carey is that Columbia basketball, South Carolina basketball, that’s what he loves. Some guys would love to get a basketball job anywhere. Carey wasn’t looking to go anywhere other than South Carolina. This area is really important to him. It’s not just a job, it’s a big part of his life.”
Rich starred for the Gamecocks from 1993-95. He scored 784 career points while passing out 340 assists in 79 career games.
Rich ranks sixth all-time in Carolina history with 4.30 assists per game, and his 5.16 assists per game during the 1994 season rank seventh in Gamecock history for a single season. As a senior, he averaged 13.4 points, leading the team in scoring. He also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in his final year in the Garnet and Black. He served as team captain in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons.
“He played basketball here in the city with CA Johnson, was in the trenches and understand where a lot of these guys come from. Over time, he’s continued to develop great relationships,” Combs said. “He’s developed relationships with a lot of different people in the city outside of the basketball world. To a man, I don’t think I’ve run across anyone who doesn’t trust Carey. Being trustworthy and honest with people carries a lot of weight these days.”
Rich played a tremendous role in helping South Carolina land five-star forward GG Jacksonwho was the top-ranked player in the 2023 basketball recruiting class before he moved into the 2022 class and enrolled this fall.
And a big part of the reason that the new Gamecocks coaching staff is having success in state is because of the relationships that Rich has built over the course of his career, and the introductions he’s made between the new basketball staff and the basketball community.