K-State President Kirk Schulz and Athletics Director John Currie spoke to the media Tuesday morning in the Legends Room in Bramlage Coliseum. The conference followed the confirmation that head coach Frank Martin would indeed accept the head coach position at the University of South Carolina. This decision leaves Currie with his first major head coaching vacancy to fill since accepting the position as AD in 2009.
At nearly the same time, Martin was being introduced as the Gamecocks’ head basketball coach at a press conference in the Colonial Life Arena, South Carolina’s basketball home.
Schulz said he has full confidence that Currie will be able to bring in a coach capable of success that can also represent what K-State is all about and that the coach, whoever it may be, will be coming into a great situation.
“The $18 million state-of-the-art basketball training facility that will open this summer shows a real commitment to men’s basketball,” Schulz said. “We can pay a very competitive salary. We have a passionate and dedicated fan base that has certainly exercised their will to express themselves a lot over the last several days. That is a great situation to come into. You have people who care about basketball here.”
Currie said many of the same things in regard to the state of the K-State basketball program and its next coach before announcing that he will not be available for media contact until he has finished the task of finding a new coach.
“There will be no predetermined parameters in our search. I will of course be in regular contact with President Schulz throughout the process. This task will have my sole attention until it is completed,” Currie said before warning fans not to fall into the media frenzy that has already begun. “Any reports, other than those originating from Tom Gilbert in our athletics communications office, are simply not correct.”
Martin addressed the speculation that his relationship with Currie was an unhealthy one and that a personal rift between the two was to blame for Martin’s departure.
“That administration has been phenomenal,” Martin said. “I can’t be more thankful for the way that that administration treated us. They gave us what we needed. It’s unfortunate that because of social media stuff that people make comments, and it becomes a firestorm. If the people who reported that ever went in meetings between Currie and I, I think their opinion would be different.”
The speculation peaked when Jamar Samuels was suspended for the Wildcats’ third round game in the NCAA tournament for accepting $200 from his former coach.
Currie said, after an unidentified person turned in Samuels’ receipt of the transaction, found in a local grocery store, to the compliance office at K-State, the school administered a complete investigation before making the decision to suspend the senior.
Martin supported Samuels on national television as a guest analyst on CBS last Saturday, saying the rule “doesn’t understand the culture of these kids,” and that he sent money multiple times to college students who he had a special impact on when he coached basketball and taught math in an inner-city high school in Miami, Fla.
Martin said despite what some may think the Samuels’ suspension played no part in his decision to accept the job at South Carolina and denied any rumors that he felt unwelcome at K-State.
“They wanted me at K-State. That was never in question,” Martin said. “I want this challenge.”
Martin called players on the K-State basketball team individually to inform them of his decision to leave.
“That’s the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Martin said. “When I had to speak to Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez and those guys and tell them that I was making this decision, it was hard because I was making the selfish decision. I like challenges. And getting this program back to where it belongs was something I embraced from the first second.”
Currie said he met with members, of the basketball team Tuesday night and that he was pleased with how they reacted to the news.
Martin said he would visit with the current assistant coaches in place at South Carolina soon and “make those decisions accordingly,” about whom to keep on staff and that he would also speak with his previous coaching staff and start to make his decisions as the week goes forward.
Currie said he received a call last Friday afternoon from Eric Hyman, South Carolina’s AD, who said he had interest in Martin and later that night, Martin requested to speak with South Carolina and indicated that he would accept the job if it was offered to him.
Currie said he asked Martin if there was anything he could do to keep him, including offering a significant pay increase, but that money was not a factor in Martin’s decision.
“I want to thank coach Martin for the job he has done leading our program over the last five years. Certainly, the foundation and platform for basketball success at K-State has been elevated as a result of his efforts and his coaching staff,” Currie said. “I look forward to following his success at South Carolina.”