Is Frank Martin's Style a Turn-Off for Miami?
By Curtis Kitchen
No matter the circumstance, you're always supposed to be able to go home. But, what happens when you aren't wanted? That's the situation in which current Kansas State Head Coach Frank Martin finds himself these days.
Whether Martin has campaigned for the job privately or not (based on recent quotes from Martin to the Associated Press there is question) the University of Miami has officially made it clear that it has no interest in bringing home one of its own. What isn't clear, or wasn't for a long time, was why. Why wouldn't Miami - a basketball program in need of a local spark, local recruiting ties, and a take-us-to-the-next-step proven coach - even pick up the phone and call a guy who appears to have all of that wrapped up in one package?
Well, what if that interview had already happened?
Last December, K-State played Florida in the 2010 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Miami. The game turned out to be the worst of the season for the Wildcats, who scored their lowest point total of the season in a 57-44 loss.
During the game, sources say, several important people associated with Miami took in the contest a few rows behind the K-State bench, sitting within earshot of Martin, who has demonstrated, at times, the vocal ability to make an entire naval battalion blush.
Martin did his normal thing that night, and it left a lasting impression with those in attendance - enough that when coupled with Martin's gray high school coaching past in Miami, they feel now he isn't worth pursuing despite the larger fanbase's desire for them to do so.
The school's decision to run from Martin has fans and media in Miami scratching their heads. Columns are written begging Miami to pick up the phone. Fans have called sports talk shows pleading for the Hurricanes to make the move. Some supporters have promised to buy season tickets if it does.
Locals in Miami don't believe it is about money. New Missouri head coach Frank Haith was owed nearly $3M over the next two seasons by the Hurricanes. It isn't the facilities - not when the program can boast the $48M BankUnited Center and a two-year old practice facility. The fans just need a reason, a real reason unlike last year's free pizza for students promotion, to find a seat.
So, could it just be about Martin's bench demeanor? It's hard to come up with another reason when hearing the Hurricanes are pursuing the likes of Tommy Amaker. No offense, to the Harvard head coach, but comparing the pair's coaching successes is a waste of time.
It sounds as if Martin is too mean for the Orange and Green, which would seem to be a gross over-sensitivity borne out of wanting to clean up the old Miami athletics-gone-amuck identity. K-State fans winced at first but have grown to accept and embrace Martin for the most part, and to his credit, he made the process easier by being the same in-game brusque coach and affable individual off the court since day one. That said, Martin's coaching style is a favorite with most of the locals but as an acquired taste...sort of like West Virginia ‘shine.
Ah yes, which reminds me...Bob Huggins...
Martin is also the same guy who watched his friend and mentor in Huggins, leave K-State a couple of years ago, why? To go home to West Virginia, where friends, family and destiny opened the door wide and ushered him back into the Mountaineer family.
K-State fans, of course, witnessed all of this. So, when the Miami talk started, they expected it to happen again. One could make a strong case that Martin at least expected the opportunity to mirror his mentor's path. I would even argue rightfully so, but sometimes, without a good explanation, even the most seemingly obvious good fits don't materialize.
Finally, moving forward, Miami's shrewd abstinence from Martin raises another interesting point to consider: what does that do to a man who I know places huge importance in loyalty.
If you're Martin, do you feel betrayed by the high level of non-interest?
Would that play a factor in the future if the same people who locked the front door to you the first time switched their stance and opened it wide in another three or four seasons? After you made another two or three NCAA tournaments?
It appears that's a stock market risk Miami is willing to take this time around. It could be a decent gamble because "The U" stands to lose little between now and then. It might cost them a couple more lukewarm seasons between now and then, but so what?
The job will still be there...and so will Martin.
You can follow Big 12 and national basketball updates at twitter.com/curtiskitchen.
About the author
Armed with a sharp wit and big-picture perspective, Curtis Kitchen has followed the Big 12, Kansas State and national college basketball beat including K-State's run to the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 in 2010. In the past, he also covered the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) for Major League Soccer's mlsnet.com site as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals for Sports Radio 810 WHB. His freelance portfolio ranges media outlets and publications, from the Miami Herald to the San Jose Mercury News.