Frank Martin explains college basketball’s biggest problem
Frank Martin drew a firm line in the sand on Monday. He did not sidestep. He did not equivocate.
On one side of Martin’s line are “some dirty people,” as he called them. On the other side are Martin’s program and those still doing it the right way in college basketball, he said.
“We’re claiming college basketball to be dirty. It’s not dirty, man,” South Carolina’s head coach said. “There’s some dirty people in college basketball, it doesn’t mean college basketball’s dirty.”
He spoke on the subject at length, and at times at elevated volume, in response to questions at his regularly scheduled Monday news conference, and if he’s bluffing, he’s all-in.
“You can take my phone. Take it right now,” Martin said. “I’ll give you my Kansas State number. You go through my phone. You’ll never find an exchange, a text message, email, phone call to any agent other than mine. And I conduct business that way.”
Some people do not, that is becoming clearer and clearer as Yahoo and ESPN reveal seemingly damning details about college basketball programs from coast to coast. Gamecocks current and former players have been mentioned in those reports. Former guard P.J. Dozier received more than $6,000 from a sports agency, according to records from that agency reviewed by Yahoo, the site reported.
Yahoo also reported that current assistant coach Chuck Martin was approached by a representative of that same agency while Chuck Martin was an assistant coach at Indiana. The report stated that the agency employee offered Chuck Martin an advantage in landing recruit Brian Bowen if Chuck Martin delivered two of his current Hoosiers players to the sports agency. There is no mention of how or whether Chuck Martin responded to that offer. Bowen, of course, now is a member of the Gamecocks.
Frank Martin defended both Dozier and Chuck Martin on Monday (he was not asked about Bowen or former assistant coach Lamont Evans, who is one of four assistants who were arrested on bribery charges early in this investigation) and expounded on the state of his sport while he was at it.
“We’ve created a system where recruiting’s gotten complicated,” Frank Martin said. “We’ve created a system over the last 20-25 years where recruiting has gone from building relationships to walking on hot coals. It’s no longer about building relationships. It’s about trying to gather as much information you can to try and figure out whether or not to recruit (a particular player).”
Here’s how the system works. College basketball coaches are paid exorbitant salaries and expected to win big in return. If they do not win big, they are fired and lose those exorbitant salaries. The most reliable way to win big is to have better players than the other guys, and there are plenty of people in college basketball who are the wrong side of Martin’s line who will see that those players are paid under the table to procure their services if only for a season.
The system forces the people on the right side of Martin’s line to become pseudo-NCAA investigators from the start of the recruiting process, Martin said.
“Recruiting is not fun right now. Any one that tells you differently is lying to you,” he said. “Recruiting is exhausting because of all the different conversation you’re forced to have. And if you don’t have them, you’re going to get caught by surprise at the eleventh hour. And if you do, you’ve wasted your time. So you have to have these conversations to figure out, do I want to stay in this recruitment or do I not want to stay in this recruitment?”
Clean coaches have to talk to so many people because they are lied to so often in the process, Martin said.
“And when you finally get to the person telling you the truth, they might tell you what you don’t want to hear,” he said. “Now you’ve got a choice to make: Do I stay in this recruitment or now that I know what it is, do I need to get out of this? I want (assistant coaches) that when they get that answer, (they say) ‘Yo Frank, forget it. We’re going in a different direction.’ ”
Martin is selective in his hiring for that very reason, he said, and he stands as firmly behind the hiring of Chuck Martin today as he did when he made the hire.
“I haven’t hired those hot popular names that everyone thinks are the hottest things since sliced bread in the world of recruiting,” Frank Martin said. “I’ve hired people that are family people. I’ve hired people that have values, people of integrity, people of character.”
Because of that, he sleeps well despite the storm swirling throughout the sport, he said.
“I sleep like a baby every night based on how I run my office and the people that I have around me. I sleep like a baby every single night,” he said. “I can’t sleep at night trying to figure out why we lost to Mississippi State, why we couldn’t execute that last play of the game better? That doesn’t let me sleep. But as far as the integrity, the character, the values of people that I’ve hired, that we’ve recruited, my head goes on the pillow and I sleep like a baby.”