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Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Give Martin a chance at Kansas State

Even if their new coach fails, Wildcats can return to their recent level of mediocrity

April 19, 2007

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For Kansas State to promote assistant Frank Martin to head coach was a disgrace to the program's firmly established tradition, a tradition the Wildcats have worked diligently over the years to construct.

It has required an extraordinary level of consistency for K-State to average a 15-15 record over the past 13 years. The Wildcats haven't beaten rival Kansas in Manhattan since 1983, a run of 24 consecutive defeats. Compared with the difficulty of achieving that, UCLA's 88-game winning streak was like ordering from the drive-through at Wendy's.

Hiring Martin demonstrated no respect for this, no respect at all.

"I know I wasn't the media's first choice," Martin says.

He is aware of commentators who blasted his promotion following Bob Huggins' departure to West Virginia. They cited Martin's lack of college head coaching experience, scars on his resume from his days as a Miami high school coach - or, more to the point, that his hiring simply was a means of keeping elite talents Bill Walker and Michael Beasley with the 2007-08 Wildcats.

There is no way to know whether Martin will be effective in his new job. It is, however, much easier to be effective with gifted players. Walker, a 6-foot-6 wing, and Beasley, a 6-9 power forward, are more talented than any Wildcat since Mitch Richmond, who finished his career with an Elite Eight loss to Kansas in 1988, which pretty much was the last time before Huggins that anyone had to be concerned with K-State basketball.

This is why hiring Martin and making Dalonte Hill a well-paid associate coach - his connections brought in Beasley and top wing prospect Dominique Sutton - was the only logical direction. If Martin had left, Walker and the '07 recruits likely would have requested releases and understandably so.

"I'm going to stay here and help Frank Martin get his career off to a good start," Walker says. "He's a great guy, a great coach, and I'm excited to be playing for him."

Beasley's mother, Fatima Smith, insists Michael will be headed to Manhattan in mid-July.

Martin faces considerable pressure to succeed immediately because Walker and Beasley have the talent to enter the 2008 NBA draft. This also will be the final season for rugged forward David Hoskins and point guard Clent Stewart.

Fortunately for Martin, he has plenty of coaching experience at other levels. Although he was dismissed from his job at Miami High in 1998 after the program was judged to have recruited players, Martin estimates he has coached about 1,600 games in high school, summer league and AAU competition.

"I wasn't selling cars two years ago. I wasn't in college two years ago," Martin says. "I've called timeouts and prepared people to play."

Kansas State could have hired any number of coaches who followed a more conventional path up the coaching ladder. That was how the Wildcats came upon Tom Asbury and Jim Wooldridge, who preceded Huggins. They lasted a combined 12 years and compiled a record of 168-178. If Martin fails, K-State can get back to that level of mediocrity easily enough.

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