UMass men’s basketball coach Frank Martin stresses “helping other young people in our neighborhood” at Hall of Fame appearance

  • UMass men’s basketball coach Frank Martin, left, talks to the crowd during a Hoophall Hangout at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield on Tuesday. PHOTO VIA UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass men’s basketball coach Frank Martin shakes the hand of a young fan while signing autographs following a Hoophall Hangout at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield on Tuesday. PHOTO VIA UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 7/12/2022 8:41:22 PM
Modified: 7/12/2022 8:41:05 PM

SPRINGFIELD – After a whirlwind hiring process earlier this year, Frank Martin still hasn’t slowed down as he prepares for his first season as the UMass men’s basketball head coach.

Martin, who was hired on March 25 just days after he was let go from his 10-year gig as the head coach for the University of South Carolina’s men’s basketball program, visited Springfield on Tuesday to meet with fans for a Hoophall Hangout at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The series, which runs throughout the summer, brings in big names from the basketball world for a moderated conversation and short Q and A session. After Martin’s session was over Tuesday, he also stayed and signed autographs for fans young and old who will be cheering for the new coach as he slots into the Minutemen bench this year.

Getting to know the new community he’d be representing was something that Martin talked about during his Hoophall Hangout – the veteran coach called himself a ‘people person’ and stressed how much his community shaped him into the person he is today.

“Who I am at my core is who my community raised me to be... the reason I got into coaching was not to win games, it was to help other young people in our neighborhood the same way the neighborhood helped me and I tried to stay focused on (that),” Martin told the crowd in attendance. “We've gotten to a place where we want to make young people care more about winning than growing. And when winning as a team is more important than growing as a human being, when the day gets to that, I'm going to struggle.” 

Hoophall Hangout moderator Kyle Belanger asked Martin questions about his life and career that led him to his taking the gig at UMass. Martin has traveled all over for the game he loves so dearly – after serving as a head coach for a variety of high school teams in Miami, Fla. for seven years, he took an assistant job at Northeastern University, his first foray into the college ranks. After four years as an assistant, he joined Bob Huggins’ staff at Cincinnati and then followed Huggins to Kansas State as his assistant for a year before he earned the head coaching gig in 2006-07. Huggins was the one who gave Martin his break, and the new UMass coach had nothing but kind words to say about his mentor and 2022 Hall of Fame inductee.

“He's like a big brother. He’s one of the most genuine – I say one of the most, because it's always hard to say the most – but if he's not the first, he's a very close second,” Martin said on Huggins. “He is the most genuine person in our business. I mean, he's unbelievable.” 

Martin stayed at Kansas State from 2007-2012, when he accepted the top job coaching the Gamecocks and stayed there for a decade until they made a change and let him go following this past season. During his tenure there, he took South Carolina to a Final Four, an accomplishment that he said highlights his long and remarkable career.

“(A former assistant) used to always tell me, “Frank, if you ever make it to a Final Four, you become part of a club.’ I didn't know what he meant,” Martin said. “And now when we go to the Final Four, and it's ridiculous – I understood what the club is after the fact…. When you coach in the Final Four, there's something that, if they ever take a game from me, I'll be at peace with ‘wow, I got to do something pretty special.’

“But the fact that we were so close to playing on (national championship) Monday, I got an itch, man, that I’m telling you, it will be hard to get this itch to go away,” he continued. “When you get that close – that's not an itch that anybody can make go away. There's no medicine… there’s only one thing, and that's that drive to compete and go fight and figure out a way to get on that same stage.”

That’s good news for the UMass faithful is that while leaving the Gamecocks was a difficult departure for Martin, he said he’s thrilled to get to know his new players and start feeling more at home back in Massachusetts. One thing is for sure – Martin is looking forward to getting back on the hardwood and learning alongside his players as he takes the reins of the program. 

“The day I get bored with learning and taking on challenges, I don't need to coach anymore. Because if I'm not learning, I can’t help those that I’m teaching, because that means I’m done growing,” Martin said.


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