K-State Sports Extra: Harrick on Band Wagon

By Mark Janssen

The Frank Martin band wagon may need some additional seats in 2010-11 as fans from all arenas are climbing aboard.

Jim Harrick was one of those as an invited guest this past winter, but also one that Martin didn't have to ask twice.

"I'm tremendously impressed with the job Frank did this past year," said Harrick, who posted a record of 470-235 in 23 seasons at Pepperdine, UCLA, Rhode Island and Georgia, which included a national title with the Bruins in 1995. "You just have to be impressed with how hard he gets his team to play.

"He gets on them tremendously hard in practice, however, you never see a negative body language," Harrick said. "You can tell that his players really respond to him."

The paths of Martin and Harrick crossed in Mobile, Alabama, last December when the Wildcats pasted the Alabama Crimson Tide, 87-74.

"They just put on a clinic in that game," said Harrick. "I told him then that if they kept improving, they could make a nice run in the tournament."

It was after that game that Martin extended an invitation to Harrick to come to Manhattan and scout his Wildcat team.

"A lot of coaches would not do that. In this business a lot of guys have unbelievable egos, but here was a guy interested in what someone else thought about his team," Harrick said. "I'm a guy who wants to know what everyone thinks. I may not use the information, but I want to know what all 50 golf pros think of my game. One of them is going to say something to help me."

After three days watching K-State's practices in mid-February, the things Harrick saw in the 'Cats were that defenders were getting their hands on far too many passes, and, "They were No. 1 in foul shots taken, but at the time about No. 300 in free throw percentage. We set up a program where every guy had to shoot 100 free throws a day, and make so many out of 25 depending on his position."

Laughing, Harrick said, "Two things will kill you fastest. That's dogs that chase cars and teams that miss foul shots. Twenty-five percent of the game of basketball is shooting free throws, but I've always thought that it goes to 33 percent in the NCAA Tournament."

Harrick, an eight-time conference Coach of the Year and 1995 Naismith National Coach of the Year, liked the power game K-State demonstrated at times: "They beat you up and make you want to run for cover."

And, he liked the 1-2 punch the Wildcats had in Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.

"They're like a mom and pop store," said Harrick. "Clemente carries you for a while, and then Pullen takes over. Together they're just dynamite. I was sitting by Pat Riley (Miami Heat President) and we agreed that there may not be a better combination of guards in the country."

Looking to the future, Harrick, a former NBA scout, said of Clemente, "I think he can be a terrific backup point because he's so quick. But he needs to guard better every game. There are games when he wants no part of a quality offensive player and goes off and hides."

And of Pullen, Harrick said, "By NBA standards, he's a two-guard in a one-guard body. That's what the NBA will say about him. But he guards so hard, and if he continues to work on his ball handling and becomes a better passer, there will be a place for him.

"Both of those guys have the 'it' that some guys don't have," Harrick said.