With it now being official that Frank Martin is leaving for South Carolina, a quote by Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman seems to be in order "Boy, that escalated quickly... I mean, that really got out of hand fast". This story went from simple rumors to an announcement in quick order.
With Martin now out the door, K-State athletic director John Currie should be taking stock of where the Wildcat basketball program is not only in the Big 12 but relative to the rest of the country, especially now that he needs to hire a new coach who could ultimately determine his fate at K-State.
To say that the K-State basketball program is in a different place now than five to ten years ago would be a giant understatement. Before the Bob Huggins & Frank Martin era began, the once proud K-State program had been driven into the ground by twelve seasons of mediocrity and/or failure by the combination of Tom Asbury and Jim Woolridge.
The lowest point for the program likely came in the 2003 season, when under Woolridge’s direction the Wildcats traveled to Kansas City to take on the UMKC Kangaroos in Municipal Auditorium. The final score turned out to be an embarrassing 93-52 thrashing at the hands of the now Summit League school. What may have been even more embarrassing than the loss is the fact that Woolridge continued to be the head coach at K-State for two more disappointing seasons. Fast forward to the present and it’s obvious that much higher expectations are in place with the program thanks to the hiring of Huggins first and then Martin afterwards.
So what are the positives and negatives associated with the K-State basketball program that a potential coaching candidate would see?
The first positive thing to mention is the fact that K-State is a member of a BCS conference, the Big 12, a conference that now finally looks to be on solid ground. This is vitally important as it guarantees a financial backing that schools in lesser conferences simply cannot compete with. In addition to the higher amount of money in place, a spot in a major conference guarantees a high level of exposure that allows a coach to show off his brand on a national stage.
Another positive that K-State can sell when finding another coach is their increased newfound commitment to the program. Last year, a groundbreaking ceremony took place on a brand-new, basketball-only training facility for the men’s and women’s teams. The facility is scheduled to be completed in 2012 and will provide new full-length practice courts, new locker rooms, new coaching offices that look down on the practice courts, meeting rooms, new weight rooms and a sports-medicine area with hydrotherapy. This new facility will give K-State coaches, whoever they are, a nice selling point to potential recruits.
Another aspect that shows commitment to the program is K-State’s willingness to pay a strong salary for their head-coaching position. While his salary was not at the top of the Big 12, Martin was rewarded quite well at a reported $1.5 million per year due to a new contract he received in 2010. And the Wildcat administration seems to be willing to reward their head coach if reasonable levels of success are met. Assuming he were still around come April 1st, Martin’s agent would have begun renegotiation of his contract due to a clause in his contract that was met when K-State finished tied for third place in the Big 12 in the 2010-2011 season.
Another strong selling point for the Kansas State program, in addition to the previously mentioned items, is obviously the recent success experienced. In the past five seasons, the Wildcats have won 21 games or more each year and have reached the NCAA Tournament in four of those years, with one Elite Eight appearance. The wins on the court have also brought K-State fans back into Bramlage Coliseum, providing a strong home-court advantage.
As with anything, though, there are some negative aspects that a potential coaching candidate would have to consider. The main so-called negative that always gets brought up first is location. Usually this gets mentioned when describing the difficulties that a coach would face in recruiting players. This argument, while holding some validity, is not completely accurate as Martin proved that the right coach can reel in players no matter the location. The current Wildcat roster is made up of players from places such as Florida, Washington D.C. and New York.
One location detriment that a coach at Kansas State would definitely face is the lack of elite high school talent in the state. This is simply a fact as the state of Kansas does not produce many high-level Division One athletes on a yearly basis. Due to this, any potential coach at K-State needs to be able to go out and recruit nationally and be a good enough salesman to get kids to come to an area they may never have seen before.
The other issue with the state of Kansas and the lack of elite players is the fact that one of college basketball’s blue-blood programs is right down the road in Lawrence. If there is a top high school player in the state such as Perry Ellis, there is a high chance the player will go to KU. That may not be something that Wildcat fans like to hear but it is the truth. Any new coach who would come to K-State would be keenly aware that he has an uphill climb to be not only the top team in the Big 12, but simply in the state.
It now appears that another major red flag for any potential candidate who is considering K-State is the athletic director. All indications make it seem that John Currie is a micro-manager who does not seem to grant his head coaches the freedom they would like in their jobs. A new coach would obviously be a Currie hire so maybe in the future this would not be as much of an issue, but it may make the job less appealing to some coaches.
In the end the K-State basketball head coaching position is a very good job in a power conference but it isn’t necessarily a destination job for a coach. If the K-State administration does their job well and hires a coach who continues to keep the Wildcats winning, you can likely expect these same coaching rumors to come around again in a few years.