Frank Martin: 'I wrote to 120 coaches. Only one sent a handwritten note back'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Saturday July 29, 2017




Originally published 3/23/17

South Carolina basketball’s win over Duke on Sunday was not just a big moment for the program, but a personal one for head coach Frank Martin.

After the game, Mike Krzyzewski told Martin he’s building something special at South Carolina, and it was a full-circle moment that began more than a decade ago. Martin was a high school coach in Miami from 1985-2000. He won three straight state titles in the late 90s, but was dismissed due to rules violations, though he denied any wrongdoing.

He looked to move to the college ranks and reached out to more than a hundred college coaches. Only Krzyzewski personally replied back.

“I lost my coaching job and said, this is the first time I’m going to try to get a college job,” Martin said on Mike & Mike. “I wrote 120, 130 letters to coaches across the country. Coaches I’d met through the years in recruiting and coaches I didn’t know. One person wrote me a handwritten note back. I got a bunch of generic 'Thanks for the interest, I have no openings on staff right now.' One person wrote me a handwritten note back. That was Coach K. I will never forget that.

“For him to compliment our team, the way he did with me in private and the way he did publicly was as big of a compliment as I’ve ever been paid.”

A personal response can leave a big impact. Last year, the father of a high school coach told a story of Dabo Swinney personally handwriting a note back to the coach, the only one to do so.

Martin became an assistant at Northeastern in 2000. He moved to Cincinnati and then Kansas State and was promoted to K-State head coach in 2007. He’s been at South Carolina since 2012, taking over a bottomfeeder program.

Over the weekend, Martin and the Gamecocks won their first tournament game since 1973, which was also the last time they reached the Sweet 16. South Carolina trailed at halftime of both games, but pulled away for wins with huge second halves. Martin is a loud and intimidating coach, but he says he’s not someone who will blow up at halftime if effort is there. He learned that as a young high school coach.

“I get it, I’m a passionate guy, I’m loud, I do that to myself. … But when kids play as hard as they play for me, I can’t go in the locker room and beat them up. They’re laying it on the line for me. I’ve got to help them,” he said. “It’s not about throwing chairs. I learned this when I was a young junior varsity basketball coach.

“I walked into a high school locker room, I was so mad at the team for the way we played in the first half, I didn’t know anything about coaching back then. I was 21 years old. I said, you know what, I’m going to motivate them by showing them toughness. I turned around and punched the blackboard. Didn’t realize there was a concrete wall right behind the blackboard. I broke my hand. I learned at an early stage that that doesn’t help anybody.”

The Gamecocks play Baylor tomorrow night. 

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.