By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
Birmingham, Ala. -- To some, Frank Martin's hiring as the next head men's basketball coach at South Carolina came as a surprise. But, the more you look at Martin and how he got to this point in his career, nothing he does should truly surprise you.
The 46-year old Miami native, known for his intense style and intimidating glare, will now walk the sidelines for the Garnet and Black. Martin agreed to become the Gamecocks next head coach on Tuesday, starting a new chapter on the court for South Carolina. Martin's resume is filled with success, as he'll look to bring national recognition to South Carolina.
I shouldn't say "look" to bring national recognition, because Martin has already done it. Once word began to circulate about his potential hiring, major media outlets across the country began to weigh in on the impending signing. This hiring has significantly raised the profile of the program, giving it instant visibility and the opportunity to capture national headlines. USC faithful hope that is just the start of a new ascension, as Martin's past is filled with restoring programs where winning traditions weren't always the case.
The new South Carolina head man began his coaching career in his native Miami in 1985, taking over the junior varsity squad at Miami Senior High. During his eight-year run in that position, Martin captured 140 wins and guided his squad to six city championships. His varsity career started shortly after, as he assumed the head coaching position at North Miami Senior High School in 1993.
From there he continued his winning ways, coaching at North Miami, Booker T. Washington High and back at Miami Senior. He developed 14 players that went on to play Division I basketball, including current NBA players Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem.
Martin's next step was to conquer the college game. The first stop was Northeastern, as he served as assistant coach and recruiter. Martin's fire and passion on the recruiting trail were quickly noticed, as his teams transformed into a winning group during his time there. His most famous recruit then is current NBA champion JJ Barea, who played the point for Northeastern and was an honorable mention All-America, the school's first player to receive such honors.
The next move for Martin would prove to be the most important of his career, as he took a job as an assistant for the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats then under the direction of Bob Huggins, would serve as the springboard to Martin's head coaching beginnings. After Huggins snagged a position at Kansas State, Martin followed him. It was that move to the "Little Apple" in Manhattan that got the ball rolling. When Huggins departed a year later in 2007, Martin assumed the head coaches' seat, starting a five-year run in Kansas State that had never been seen before.
Martin's Wildcats won 117 games in five seasons, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament and three straight. Kansas State basketball was consistently ranked in the top 25 during his tenure, and had wins over a number one ranked team in back-to-back years (2010-11) . A magical run in 2009-10 saw the Wildcats advance to the NCAA Elite Eight, an accomplishment not seen at KSU in 23 years. Martin recruited NBA talent (Bill Walker, Michael Beasley) and provided stability in Manhattan, elevating Kansas State to one of the Big 12's elite teams.
That resume now arrives in Columbia, where the task Martin faces feels eerily similar to the one he inherited five years ago. Although the talent level at South Carolina doesn't match what Martin had waiting for him in Manhattan, the programs themselves are nearly in the same spot. South Carolina is looking for success a conference that placed multiple teams to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year.
Kansas State's hurdles were nearly identical, as they looked up at in-state rival and national powerhouse Kansas, along with other conference squads (Texas, Missouri, Texas A&M) that were perennial NCAA Tournament teams.
During today's press conference, you could tell that South Carolina's administration was truly excited about bringing Martin into the Gamecock family. Athletics Director Eric Hyman spent the bulk of his introduction lauding his new coach's accomplishments, including sharing the sleepless nights that occurred as he conducted his search. Martin echoed those statements, talking at length about the Gamecocks' current stable of coaches (Steve Spurrier, Ray Tanner and Dawn Staley), and commented that despite that group having the choice of any job in the country, they chose South Carolina. Martin said "they win every day", and that ideal was the key challenge that made him feel that South Carolina was the right fit.
A noted history buff, Martin knows that where he came from and the approach he will take going forward will likely be the same. From high school to his current job, the persona he is known for will continue to be he leads his team. Although he did joke that despite whatever fear people had of him, that paled in comparison to the power his wife held in the house. "When she looks, I run," Martin commented.
Years will go by before we know if Frank Martin's tenure in South Carolina will be considered a success. But, if history is any indicator, we shouldn't be surprised at all if Martin's fire breathes life into Gamecock basketball.