SE: Huggins, Martin Reflect on K-State

Dec. 7, 2011

By Mark Janssen
K-State Sports Extra

A miniature family reunion will take place in Wichita on Thursday when Frank Martin sends his Kansas State Wildcats against the Mountaineers of West Virginia coached by Bob Huggins.

“Hugs and I were talking and just decided we should play. I normally don’t like playing against friends, but what better way to get the families together,” said Martin. “I know our players respect the heck out of him, and his guys, I would guess, respect us.”

On returning to Kansas, Huggins said, “We both had young teams that needed to learn how to play on the road, so this was a way to get us a couple neutral-site games. I used to not like playing friends, but now I sort of feel that at least one good guy is going to win. I don’t want to lose, but if I do, at least I’ll be happy for the other guy.”

The first game in the home-and-home series will take place Thursday at 8 p.m. in the INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita. The second game is scheduled for next year in Charleston, W.V., but with the Mountaineers joining the Big 12 Conference next fall, it’s uncertain when, or if, that game will be played.

Mired in a 15-year NCAA postseason tailspin, Huggins was hired by K-State prior to the 2006-07 season with the philosophy of “Why settle for second when first is available,” and bringing an assistant named Frank Martin win him.

“He called me and said he really liked this K-State thing, but that he wasn’t coming without me,” said Martin, who had coached with Huggins from 2004-06 at Cincinnati. “I just told him, ‘Hugs, you’re my guy, if you say it’s the right place, I’m in’.”

Like so many coaches before him at K-State, Huggins said, “It was the people,” that convinced him that this was the right place. “I have a lot of respect for Tim Weiser (former AD) and Dr. Wefald (former President). They were just terrific people and I thought that K-State would provide a great environment for basketball with very supportive fans.”

For the most part, Bramlage Coliseum was immediately sold out due to the Huggins name, plus the promised recruits like Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, which made for a recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Huggins’ first team went 23-12 and ended a seven-year drought from postseason play by being invited into the 2007 NIT.

But after the season, the West Virginia job opened, which was Huggins’ alma mater, not to mention home state.

“I would not have left for another place in the world than here,” said the 58-year-old Huggins, who is one of just six active coaches with at least 600 (604) career wins. “Its home. My parents, plus brothers and sisters can come to the game. It’s just home.”

Martin added, “It was a difficult time for him. Hugs loved it here. This was a community that brought a lot of healing to him. He is a very loyal man, and this community gave him a chance, and he has not forgotten that. Because of him, we’re all here and there’s been plenty to be excited about because of him. We all should be forever indebted to him.”

In the four-plus years since Huggins left Manhattan and Martin slid into the No. 1 coaching chair at K-State, West Virginia has won 105 games under Huggins and K-State 100 under Martin.

Of the most important advice Martin received from Huggins, Martin said, “To never give in; never give in. That was my frame of mind anyway because that’s how my high school coach taught. Never give in to your players, don’t give in to pressure … and to believe in yourself. Be yourself and don’t give in.”

Asked if he was at all surprised at Martin’s success as a first-time Division I head basketball coach, Huggins immediately answered, “Not at all. Not at all.”

The coach who has put 25 of his 28 teams into postseason play and attended 15 NCAA tournaments added, “I told Tim that when (Martin) was at Miami Senior High he had great players. He coached hem well and coached them hard. He always had four or five high-major guys, and that’s not an easy team to coach because they all feel like they should be the guy. Frank coached them hard and never gave in to their wishes.”

THIS YEAR’S TEAMS: Thursday in an 8 p.m. tipoff at Wichita’s INTRUST Bank Arena, Kansas State will put its 5-0 record on the line against West Virginia’s 4-2 team and ESPN2.

“Eight of our top 11 guys are in their first year with us so we have not been very consistent,” said Huggins.

NEXT YEAR: Huggins said he was looking forward to the 2012-13 season when West Virginia would be joining the Big 12 Conference.

“We’re a school like K-State, but in a state of 1.6 million people,” said Huggins in reference to Kansas having a population of over a million people more. “It’ll be tough, but I think it will be a good fit.”

Of the distance between schools, Huggins said, “That’s not a problem. You get on the plane, play the game, and get back on the plane and come home.”

BIG 12 HONORS SAMUELS: In wins over George Washington and Virginia Tech, K-State’s Jamar Samuels averaged 13.5 points on 65 percent shooting from the field, plus collected 12 rebounds in the two games. For his effort, Samuels has been named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

He posted back-to-back double-doubles for the first time in his career, beginning with 10 points and 10 boards versus the Colonials, and 17 points and 14 boards against the Hokies.

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