Frank Martin Making Surprise Move From K-State to South CarolinaPosted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
The rumors had spread rampant over the weekend, and while an official contract has yet to be signed, it appears that Kansas State head coach Frank Martin is bolting from Manhattan, Kansas, to take the job at South Carolina. Several outlets have reported the story, including the Kansas City Star, which reports that an announcement is scheduled for Tuesday at a press conference. Assuming that contract details are all that remain from making this official, we can go ahead and assume that Martin will be the new coach in Columbia beginning next season. Surprised by this move? We don’t blame you; the move is not a natural progression up in the coaching hierarchy.
South Carolina is a struggling basketball program that’s made just one NCAA Tournament since 1998. The Gamecocks have not won a game in the Big Dance in over 35 years and are coming off a 10-21 season that placed them dead last in the SEC. South Carolina is certainly considered a football school, and the appeal of being in the SEC comes primarily into play because of the football ties. So why would Martin leave Kansas State, a school with a rising basketball tradition that’s won at least one NCAA Tournament game in four of the past five seasons, for ‘the other USC?’
Today’s reports point to a strenuous relationship between Martin and Kansas State athletic director John Currie that is driving the move. This would help explain a lot, but this reported rift does not appear to be the sole reason for the coach’s departure. While a move from K-State to South Carolina seems like a downgrade on paper, consider that the Wildcats had not made an NCAA Tournament in 10 years when Martin first arrived, and it was the coach himself that turned the program around. With ties to the southeastern U.S., Miami specifically, why couldn’t he pull off a similar routine in Columbia, SC? The Gamecocks have an arena (Colonial Life Arena) that holds 18,000-plus fans and have shown an ability to draw large crowds for a raucous atmosphere, such as the one that helped the Gamecocks defeat #1 Kentucky two years ago in SEC play.
South Carolina has a solid tradition of basketball success under the guidance of Frank McGuire prior to 1980, and the new coach Frank would like to rebuild this program in a similar fashion. In competing against the likes of Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Tennessee every year, there’s no shortage of competitive appeal in coming to the SEC. Martin rebuilt the Kansas State program in the similar-looking Big 12 in a location that’s less attractive for a southeastern guy and in a conference that’s now losing Missouri to, of course, the SEC. While it’s surprising news to hear about Martin’s move, it’s far from a clear downgrade and could be a career decision that makes Martin an even more respected head coach if he’s able to rebuild the Gamecock basketball program. With potentially more resources available in a more stable conference and part of a school that calls Steve Spurrier its head football coach, Frank Martin seems like a good fit at South Carolina as he attempts to be the first truly successful basketball coach there in the past few decades.