The face is made for TV.
Frank Martin’s contorted visage while pacing the sideline during games carries with it a rule for all camera operators – don’t leave it. Sooner or later, Martin will be hollering about something.
There’s no escaping that. Martin even playfully mugged for a media guide cover at Kansas State, showing four of his sides – Intensity, Dedication, Excitement, Passion, the captions read. All accompanied by those dark eyes able to burn a laser hole through a nuclear blast door.
It is exciting TV and the meme creators in cyberworld are just waiting for South Carolina’s next game. Yet there’s the other side, the boring side for cameras, but the most representative side of Martin.
That’s the Martin who was wiping away tears as Sunday’s 88-81 win against Duke ended, sending the Gamecocks to the Sweet 16. That’s the Martin who broke into a grin as Chris Silva hugged him from behind. That’s the Martin who gleefully jumped into his water-spraying team in the locker room, new wardrobe be darned, because they all earned that celebration after five years of grind-it-out labor.
“Frank’s a completely different person off the floor than on the floor,” said USC career scoring leader BJ McKie, whose son Justin McKie is a senior guard. “He’s the fiery-type guy, in the guy’s face, but off the floor, he believes in his guys.”
Martin has spoken several times about how he doesn’t believe his job is to just win basketball games. It’s to make his players better men, so when they leave his tutelage, they’re prepared to be good husbands, fathers and citizens when basketball is done.
He constantly talks to former and current players on Twitter, counseling, applauding and thanking them as they reach out with messages of support. His unwavering loyalty to them has never been questioned – once you sign with Martin, you’re one of his sons for life.
Carey Rich, former USC point guard and the biggest link between Columbia basketball and USC, appreciates the coaching side and the off-the-court side. It’s a fact of life – coaching is supposed to make players feel uncomfortable because that’s coaching, not coddling. Martin is no stranger to that but after his players leave, they all thank him for his dedication in making them better people.
“Frank and I have developed a trusted friendship beyond the normal coach-former player kind of relationship,” Rich said. “His practices go beyond basketball skills. His practices are about teaching lessons.
“The one most important thing to Frank, if you talk to players or anybody associated with him, the one common word is ‘loyalty.’ ”
It’s sometimes frustrating to watch the cameras only show one side of the man, but that’s part of the gig. Former player and current graduate student assistant coach Brian Steele has seen both sides.
“I could write a book about what Frank’s done for me,” Steele said. “Never seen or heard anything like it the way he looks out for everyone involved in his life. He’s always fighting for his people.”
Steele has been in practice and the locker room after practice. It’s night and day different, Sideline Frank to Non-Sideline Frank.
“He’s my mentor. He’s always looking out for me, for ways to help me,” said Steele, who wants to be a coach someday. “I’m always picking his brain and he always has an answer for me.”
As the Gamecocks prepare to continue their thrill ride Friday against Baylor in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden, the New York tabloids must be salivating. One knows they’re waiting for one missed rebound to train their lenses on Martin.
As long as they stick around for the smiles, the tears and the family gathering afterward.
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