Kansas State University has apparently lost a legend in the making.
Frank Martin has confirmed that he is leaving the Wildcats to become the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
In five seasons at Kansas State, numbers were posted that were all-time records:
• Martin won 21 games in his first season, more than any first-year coach not named Bob Huggins (23).
• Martin took teams to five postseason tournaments – four NCAA and one NIT – in his first five years, which no Wildcat coach had ever done.
• Martin won at least 20 games in each of his five seasons, a first in K-State history.
• Martin’s teams won 117 games, more than any Wildcat coach in a five-year career to begin a career.
• Martin’s 117 wins ranks only behind Jack Hartman (295), Tex Winter (261) and Jack Gardner (127) in the storied history of K-State basketball.
And now he’s gone to South Carolina.
The well-advertised reason for leaving K-State were conflicts with athletics director John Currie with the final straw being the suspension of senior Jamar Samuels only hours before going against Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh, Pa, on March 17.
It was after that game that Martin openly said he didn’t think Samuels had done anything wrong in reportedly accepting $200 from a former AAU coach.
After the game, Martin said, “I had nothing to do with the decision. Ask John Currie. He’s my boss.”
The words were pointed and likely the last ones between the men of clashing personalities.
On a CBS telecast this past weekend, Martin said, “He (Samuels) asked a person who has been a father figure in his life since he was about 12 years of age. What is he supposed to do? I understand there are rules and you've got to protect institutions and you've got to keep amateur athletes amateur, I get all that and I'm all for doing things the right way. That's why after the game I said he didn't do anything wrong. When they put me in my grave that's still going to be my opinion.”
Martin went as far to say, “I coached 16 years in the same inner city in Miami that I grew up in. Do you know how much money I sent to kids that played for me in high school when they were in college because I knew where they came from? I knew they didn't have a father figure? I'm not going to tell you who they were, but I sent them a lot of money over the years to make sure they could take their girlfriend out to the movies, make sure they could wash their clothes and do all the things that scholarship money don't cover. When there is no money at home, who is going to help these guys?”
Martin’s K-State resume ends with earning first-round byes in each Big 12 Championship and winning 20 games against teams ranked in the Top 25.
Started by Huggins when Martin was an assistant, K-State’s roster during the last six years has been littered with a quality of player that the Wildcats had not seen for years, if not decades.
K-State wins followed that had not been seen for years, if not a decade.
This year of 2011-12, however, did not have a first-team All-Big 12 player like a Michael Beasley, or a Bill Walker or a Jacob Pullen. The wins were posted with a variety of role players and emerging stars in Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez and Angel Rodriguez.
“Every year has a different challenge and each team has a new personality. That’s the beauty of coaching,” Martin said. “It’s never boring because you never see the same thing over and over again. The drills may be the same that I used in 1987 in high school, but it’s fresh to me because I’m more worried about the people in the drill.”
Martin was chastised for his vocal bench behavior, but like with the Samuels issue of the last month, he made no apologies for his actions during his five-year K-State stay.
“I don’t do this to have people applaud me or hug me because I’m a good coach, or not. I do this for Chris Merriewether who has a great job with Conoco Phillips; I do this for Denis Clemente who was struggling to find his walk in life, but is now dominating a European pro league; I do this for Jacob Pullen, who was an unheralded player out of high school, but leaves as our all-time leading scorer; I do this for Curtis Kelly, who was flunking out at UConn and under-achieving, but here he got a second chance and played on teams that were the winningest in the school’s history,” Martin said. “Those are the things I care about. I’m here to help people who believe in me.”
Martin leaves K-State saying his personal high was defeating BYU in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
It was after that game, he says, “I was walking back to the tunnel and I saw my mom, my wife and Ernie Barrett shoulder-to-shoulder all crying. These are three people who never would have known one another, but through me. They were all crying tears of joy for the same reason. That will stick with me forever.”
While at K-State, Martin was a man of giving back to the Little Apple Community, and a man of family, with his mother being a frequent visitor to Bramlage Coliseum.
His voice cracks with emotions when talking about his family, and his background: “My old man left the house when I was 10 and she was in her 30s. He never paid her a dime and never did a thing to help mom raise myself and my sister. I’m sure she cried in private, but she just hunkered down and made sacrifices in her personal life for her kids. Every day I wake up thankful for a parent like that. She gave my sister and myself a chance to have a better life.”
Of his father, he adds, “He came to my first game that I coached at the junior varsity level and sat right behind the bench. He never said a word, and when the game was over he got up and left. I haven’t spoken a word to him since 1979 when I was in middle school. That void will always be there, but you can’t dwell on that. Maybe there will be a time when we sit down and visit man-to-man. I don’t know.”