College basketball storylines this week are rightfully being dominated by the Final Four which pits Kentucky and Louisville and two other prestigious programs. That doesn’t mean the rest of the basketball world simply stops and waits for the final weekend of the season to come and go.
Head coach Frank Martin made waves this week when he decided to leave the successful program he helped to build at Kansas State for the challenge of resurrecting South Carolina. Speculation ran rampant over how the last couple weeks at K-State went down, with a senior player suspended for what wound up being the final game of the season, but Martin says that was not a determining factor in his decision. Instead, he simply embraced a new challenge that was laid out before him.
Frank Martin joined WHB with Kevin Kietzman to discuss his decision, why he would leave a program he helped build, talks about a contract extension midseason this past year, why the end-of-season suspension of Jamar Samuels bugged him but was not a factor in his decision and how his new challenge compares to the one he faced early on at K-State.
On deciding to make the move to South Carolina:
“It’s been one of, well, not one of, the most decision I’ve ever made in my professional life because I never put myself in front of others. For once in my life, I had to put myself apart from everybody and make a selfish decision. It’s been an honor to … serve K-State. I tried to do my job to the best of my abilities, honestly. I did everything by the rules; I fought for that school. We united the fans, the administration, the coaches, the players, everyone as one. We gave the school the five most successful years in the history of the school. … Our success gave me options and I saw a challenge here that I just fell in love with and I just felt I had to make this decision.”
Why leave after you built a program up to such success and had plenty of talent coming back?:
“Whenever people make decisions, just like when [Bob Huggins] left after a year, everyone thinks it’s a negative where you’re leaving, that there’s something wrong with where you’re leaving, that the person that made the decision feels that he’s going to a better place, which makes the place he’s leaving inferior. It’s never about that. As coaches, we’re ultra-competitive. Challenges is what drives us, makes us go. … I saw how successful [South Carolina's] other major programs are and I heard the passion in [athletic director Eric Hyman's] voice, just how excited he was about believing in me in leading his charge … I just kind of put my arms around that.”
K-State had said they ready to offer you a new deal and you said you wanted to wait until the end of the season. Were they pursuing a new deal with you after the year was over?:
“However John wants to speak about the university’s part, I respect it and I understand. Those are private matters that are not fair to me and not fair to the university as we both move forward, to elaborate on.”
Your tenure at K-State ended with your only senior suspended for the game where you lost to Syracuse. The situation has been ugly. Did you have discussions about it with the folks at South Carolina during the interview process?:
“They asked me and I asked them and it was a conversation. I’m not going to tell you that what they said is different than the actions that K-State took, because that’s not what happened. I just felt comfortable with the conversation and how it went. At the end of the day, that’s not the reason why I chose to take the job. I was unhappy about that, but that was not the major play on me making a decision. My decision was not one that was based on negative feelings.”
How much of a challenge is it going to be to take over the Gamecocks program?:
“It’s different in the sense that when we took over at K-State, we had a bunch of seniors. Here we’ve got a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Where it’s similar is that the records weren’t good but we saw a group of guys that were real close to winning games, to winning a good number of games. … The responsibility factor has been laid out by the previous staff. Academically, the guys are great. Their willingness to compete, it’s been great. Now it’s going to be our job as a staff, my job leading the charge, to get these guys the confidence to go win those close games.”