Basketball coach Frank Martin has left Kansas State to take the South Carolina job. Which hurts Big 12 basketball.
Kansas State has made a big difference for Big 12 hoops in recent years. While programs at OSU, OU and Texas Tech have faltered, K-State and Baylor have risen and kept the conference’s standard at a high level. Jump-started by Bob Huggins, then taken over by Martin when Huggins left after one season to go to West Virginia, KSU basketball has resumed its winning ways. In the last five seasons, the Wildcats have six NCAA Tournament victories. K-State reached the 2010 regional final, losing to Butler 63-56 in the game that determined a Final Four berth.
After 15 years of virtual irrelevancy, Kansas State has again become a basketball hotbed. Good crowd support. Expectation of winning.
So why did Martin leave? It brings me back to one of my favorite blog games: Which job is better? Arizona State football or Texas A&M football. Illinois basketball or Arizona basketball. Clemson football or Auburn football? Georgetown basketball or Texas basketball?
Anyway, we can debate those another time. Today, it’s about K-State vs. South Carolina. To me, KSU clearly is the better job. Not by a ton. But by a little, on virtually every criteria.
* NCAA Tournament: The Wildcats have made 25 NCAA trips, including four Final Fours. None of those Final Fours have come since 1964, so that’s a little moot, but even so, since 1964, K-State has made six regional finals. That’s a lot of NCAA Tournament success. The Wildcats’ overall NCAA Tournament record is 33-30; that ranks in the top 30 for NCAA wins. South Carolina has one of the more meager NCAA Tournament histories of any major-conference team. The Gamecocks have been to eight NCAAs; their record is 4-9, and they are without a win since 1973.
* Tradition: South Carolina seems to have some clout because of its ties to Frank McGuire, who coached St. John’s to the 1952 Final Four, then won an NCAA title at North Carolina (beating Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in that epic three-overtime final in 1957). McGuire later coached the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA, then came to South Carolina and coached 16 seasons, going 283-142. The first half of that tenure, South Carolina was in the ACC, which made reaching the NCAA Tournament difficult. But South Carolina went independent in 1971, then the NCAA Tournament opened to more than one team per conference in the mid-’70s. Yet McGuire’s NCAA resume’ remains light — four trips in 16 years.
In the years that McGuire was at South Carolina, Kansas State went to seven NCAA Tournaments. KSU’s legacy goes far beyond one coach — Jack Gardner, Tex Winter, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Jack Hartman, Lon Kruger, Dana Altman, Huggins and Martin all have coached KSU to the NCAA Tournament. Winter and Hartman are major coaching icons.
* Campus status: Kansas State was a basketball school until Bill Snyder arrived and produced a football powerhouse. South Carolina, like every SEC school other than Kentucky and Vanderbilt, is a football school. So basketball means more at KSU. Of course, the reverse means that South Carolina has more money and resources.
Some are reporting that Martin left because of disagreements with KSU athletic John Currie. Could be. But Billy Tubbs says to beware what awaits Martin at South Carolina. On his weekly radio segment on KREF-1400 AM on Tuesday morning, Tubbs said South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman is not a good AD for basketball. Hyman became athletic director near the end of Tubbs’ tenure at TCU, and Tubbs said Hyman is not supportive of basketball. In fact, Tubbs blamed Hyman for the decline of TCU basketball fortunes in the last decade or so.
So we’ll see. Kansas State’s track record is mostly one of hiring good coaches who get the job done in basketball. For the Big 12′s sake, that needs to keep happening.