Relationship with Huggins has shaped K-State coach’s career
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2011 00:12
Kansas State head coach Frank Martin began working with Bob Huggins in 2004 when the current West Virginia head coach was still with Cincinnati.
A year after he resigned from Cincinnati, Huggins decided to return to coaching at Kansas State. But, one thing had to happen before he would agree to take the job.
Martin had to come with him.
"When he was in desperate need of somebody who he could trust at Cincinnati, he decided to hire me," Martin said. "When it was time to make the decision to come to K-State, he would not have come unless I did.
"Those are the kind of things that I'll never forget."
After just one year in Manhattan, Kan., Huggins got the opportunity to take his dream job at West Virginia following John Beilein's departure to Michigan.
In most situations like that, coaches will bring assistant coaches, current players and recruits with them to their next job. That wasn't the case when Huggins left for WVU, though.
"That's what everyone else in the business would have done, but that's not what he's about," Martin said. "He knows (Kansas State) gave him a chance. That is something he will never forget. That's why he was willing to leave his staff behind because he made sure the kids would stay behind."
Martin said that's part of the reason the Wildcats have been able to have some of the success they've had since he took over.
Since Martin became head coach, Kansas State has won 95 games, and it has made it to the NCAA tournament three of the first four years of Martin's tenure, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2010.
"(Huggins) wanted to make sure that we finished the job that we came here to do," Martin said. "He's got his own team and his own program (at West Virginia), but he still lives ours through us. I can tell you that we wouldn't have had the success we have had if it was not for him."
It didn't take long after finding out Beilein was taking the Michigan job before Huggins accepted the head coaching position at WVU. Martin said Huggins would keep him updated on the process every step of the way, and then, on a Thursday morning in April, Martin received a phone call.
"He called me up and said ‘I really need to see you,' and we met at Bob's Diner at about 6:45 in the morning. That's where he told me he could not say ‘no,' he said ‘I have to do it'," Martin said. "He was beat up, which I know he was because he was forced into making a tough decision he had no interest in making because he was so happy here.
"Once they decided to offer me the job, he made sure that we all stayed here as a staff. He went out of his way to call those kids, and he told them to believe in me, and they would be OK."
Those players Martin talked about included a talented recruiting class that consisted of former all-American Michael Beasley and the reigning Big 12 Conference Player of the Week and the Wildcats' leading scorer heading into Thursday's game, Jamar Samuels.
The 6-foot-7 forward from D.C., said he was a little conflicted when he first heard Huggins would be leaving Kansas State, but in the end decided to honor his commitment to the school.
"Frank had already taken over at K-State, but (Huggins) still recruited me," Samuels said. "Knowing that he left, I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go with him, but I had already committed to K-State, so that is where I knew I would be playing basketball."
When West Virginia and Kansas State take the court tonight, it will be the first time Huggins and Martin have coached against each other.
It will be an interesting challenge for Martin to go up against the man who helped him get to where he is at this point in his career. But it's a challenge he thinks he's ready for.
"I know how much he believes in me and how much he expects from me. It's an unbelievable duty for me to make sure I prepare my team the best I can – I know he does," Martin said. "I don't like to lose, and I do not like to see friends lose.
"This game is kind of bittersweet for me because we need the win, and I don't want to see him lose."