Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Fly Route

April 12, 2007

Nearly a week has passed since the Kansas State basketball fans had the hopes and dreams for their grand banquet pulled from beneath them.

Yet the question lingers -- was the pull an elegant, quick slip of the table cloth, the kind that leaves the plates of lobster firmly in place and the glasses of wine with but the slightest ripple?

Or was the pull a sloppy disaster, the kind that leaves the green beans on someone's chest and the china in shards on the floor?

We simply don't know yet, or at least I simply don't know yet. Apparently everyone else has already made up his or her mind, though I can't imagine how.

"Roller coaster" doesn't begin to describe the trip my emotions took over the last week. I went from optimistic to scared, heart-broken to apathetic -- and back again.

In the end, I can uneasily say I think Kansas State did the right thing by hiring former assistant Frank Martin to take over the program.

It's the best move at this time because there simply weren't many options available. While K-State was one of the first to bob in the coaching barrel last season, it's one of the last this year. The brightest and most prepared minds dangling on the mid-major tree have already been harvested. Many more potential aces used this season's openings to lock up massive new contracts with fat buyout clauses. On top of that, a few "quality jobs" still remain open. K-State probably wasn't going to steal a coach from Arkansas. Texas A&M loomed large over the Wildcats' stomping ground as well, and in fact went on to prove how shallow the remaining pool had become early in April. Sorry, Mark Turgeon did a fine job at Wichita State, but this season's meltdown seemed to erase last year's brilliance in the minds of many.

Because it had a late opening, A&M was stuck hiring last year's flash in the pan.

Even if K-State had shied away from hiring one of the old staff's assistants, it's not like there was anyone left with significantly more promise or better credentials.

And a new coach couldn't have hung on to the recruits. To me, that was one of several asterisks attached to Martin's name. As a supporter, I hate to see the program make a long-term decision based on a decidedly short-term answer, but it's not an aspect than can be ignored either. Getting Michael Beasley and the rest of next year's top-rated recruiting class to come, and getting Bill Walker and others not to seek transfers gives the new staff a tremendous jump start of anything a new coach would have had.

It all weighs out practically even: the slightly better chance the best remaining mid-major coach would have of crafting a long term winner being edged by Martin's chance of crafting a long-term winner combined with the tremendous promise of next season. Again, nearly even in my eye, but tilted enough toward retaining Martin to make that the right choice. That's something much of the area media hasn't grasped. Some of the spite-filled columns and monologues that have related to this whole issue have been irresponsible at best.

But am I sold? No. Not by any means. Don't tell certain Wildcat fans that, however -- it's a great way to get a quickie lesson on the life story of Saint Frank Martin as told by someone who doesn't know him either.

What do I honestly know about Martin? I know I'm a little tired of the Bob Huggins way of life, and I know Martin got a degree in Huggy school.

Fans can be hilarious. Huggins leaves and everything about him reeks. A few of his assistants -- his friends -- stay and suddenly we're to slurp up the same "I'll love it here forever" mantra that Huggins himself displayed for all 379 days of his K-State career?

I'll spare you the "fool me once, fool me twice" song, though I have a hard time imagining a better time or place for it.

Best option or not, Martin's resume is thin. Drummed up or not, the issues he had coaching a Florida high school are concerning. Involved or not, his college career nothing more than an assistant is worrisome.

I hope he works out. I hope it's true, all the stories about him running practices and coaching from the bench. I hope he can continue to reel in big-dog recruits, and I hope he can do it all without getting in any trouble.

I don't know that he can do any of that, but I hope, and given the deflated, burned out sensation I had Friday as word finally emerged that Huggins was leaving, having a little hope is a welcome change.

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