Frank Martin says of coaching in general, “Coaches run the program, but the players run the locker room, and that’s a problem for us right now.”
And to have a quality team, and locker room, he says, “There are two important words … honesty and loyalty. If you don’t have those two words in your vocabulary, you can’t lead and you can’t follow.”
With the Big 12 play, the fifth-year Wildcat coach is looking beyond that W-L record, and not caring whether wins are by two or three points, or 20 or 25 points.
“I’m not concerned about the final score. I’m concerned about how we do our job,” said Martin. “My concerns are in how we play and how disciplined we are at doing our job. To me, the score is irrelevant. We have to become consistent in how we do things.”
Prior to Nov. 6 when K-State opened its exhibition season, Martin was pleased with how his Wildcats went about their business in practice. But once the scoreboard was put into use, he says, “We’ve had a lot of selfishness. There’s been an attitude of, ‘It’s my turn to do my own thing and not what the team needs me to do.’ I don’t know how it became that, but it has to change. If it doesn’t we’re going to be a very average team.”
Two weeks ago Martin went as far to say, “Before the season started we were fun to coach. Right now we’re not fun to coach.”
Asked if the problem of somewhat selfish play was with established players and the newcomers, Martin said, “Yes, and some of the older guys can’t allow that to happen. It’s my job to fix that problem.”
Saying that teams prepare to play well, he termed it “hogwash” that some players have the concept that once the lights go on their play will automatically be better.
A year ago, Martin was saying much the same thing when the Wildcats’ play was sporadic and the leadership of seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly iffy, at best.
Now it’s the same with just one scholarship senior in Jamar Samuels at one end of the roster, and seven first-time contributors – four freshmen, two junior college transfers and one four-year transfer – at the other end.
“This team has good guys in the locker room, but I have to do a better job with the guys willing to commit to leadership roles and help them grow in that job. That’s my job as the leader of this team,” said Martin. “I have to help these young kids going through this for the first time.”
Martin then backtracked to Jacob Pullen’s freshman season when he came onto the Wildcat scene as “pampered and spoiled rotten.” He added, “We had to fight through that and he eventually turned into someone who would do what he was asked to do. He ended up always lining up and trying to win the next game on the schedule. Attention to detail was very important to him.”
But it did take time, even until his final season.
As a senior, Martin said of Pullen, “He wanted to be friends with the guys off the court, so when things didn’t go right on the floor, he didn’t step up and demand that they do differently.”
It was a quality that Martin said Denis Clemente had, and Luis Colon had, and Chris Merriwether had.
“Those guys were proud of the culture that had been established. They were not going to waste any time before saying the words to get you to do things right,” said Martin. “They had worked too hard to build a culture.”
The result over the last five years, with a culture of honesty and loyalty in place, has been three NCAA Tournament, plus two NITs, and plus-20 win seasons in each of those years.