Today began with uncertainty about Frank Martin's future at K-State, but as the evening sun slips away, it's apparent that Martin will no longer coach K-State's basketball program.
Though nobody, particularly not Martin, has gone on the record today to discuss this move, it's pretty clear that Martin's move is a result of his rocky relationship with John Currie. GoPowercat's Rob Cassidy wrote about that relationship last night and tweeted about it last week. But just listening to Martin's comments after the loss to Syracuse ended K-State's season was enough evidence of a rift between the two.
For me and, judging by the thousands of comments left here today, for most of you, too, the speed at which this transpired was dizzying. A mere three months ago, we were almost universally signing the praises of John Currie for his vision and fundraising to make the West Stadium Center possible. I took the almost unheard-of step of personally thanking -- nowadays, Twitter counts as personal, right? -- Currie and President Kirk Schulz for their work to improve K-State. Less than a year and a half ago, the K-State basketball training facility was unveiled to much fanfare and adulation for our relatively new director of athletics.
For that matter, the feelings around Martin's basketball program were generally positive by the end of the year. We endured "The Sausage Phenomenon," our frustration with Martin's process even when it ends with acceptable results. By going to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in his five years and running his first-round record to 4-0, Martin and the Wildcats ended up exceeding expectations a year after losing Jacob Pullen, the school's all-time leading scorer and the heart and soul of the Wildcats since the 2010 season. Next year represented a chance for bigger and better things with the Wildcats losing only mercurial senior Jamar Samuels.
Alas, that's all in flux now. And it went from positive homeostasis to flux at record-breaking speed. We've had widespread calls for Currie to be fired if Martin leaves town over their personality conflict. As Cassidy said, losing a coach like Martin to a basketball cesspool like South Carolina* is a poor reflection on an otherwise up-and-coming athletic director.
*Sorry, Sakerlina fans, but your basketball program is atrocious and has no history. K-State has been to more Elite 8s than USC has been to NCAA Tournaments. End of discussion.
I'm not happy about the way this situation was handled. I really liked Frank Martin, and was more than happy to defend him to outsiders who didn't understand. At some point, John Currie has to step in front of the media and answer questions about how this went down. The stories of reporters being escorted out of Bramlage, of answered phone calls for fans but not for media, and denied open-records requests have to end. Currie promised transparency, after all. You don't get to promise transparency and then only provide it when things are going well. It's time to explain what happened. Apparently that will happen at a 10:00 a.m. press conference tomorrow, but we'll see how many questions Currie takes and whether he actually answers them.
Some are taking a torches-and-pitchforks approach to this. But I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach with what happens next. As I've discussed with Panjandrum numerous times since Currie took over, my biggest fear wasn't that he'd leave K-State. He's so ambitious we knew that was going to happen eventually. My biggest fear was that he'd know he needed to make a major coaching hire for his résumé, and would get impatient with popular and successful coaches like Bill Snyder and Frank Martin entrenched in their jobs. This impatience would lead him to force one of them out, and the most likely candidate was Martin, given that Snyder only has the football stadium named after him.
Maybe Currie's ambition played a part in this, or maybe he was legitimately tired of Martin's sideline demeanor, his questionable past, and his agent angling for a contract extension and raise every year. We'll never get a straight answer to that. And honestly, I don't really care. I'm a fan of K-State. Not (necessarily) its former basketball coach or an athletic director who probably won't be here in a year. What matters to me is that Currie makes up for running out a popular and successful head basketball coach.
If Currie thinks he can hire a better coach than Martin, then he'd damn well better be able to pull it off.