Huggins and Martin: The coaches who rejuvenated men’s basketball

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West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, who coached at K-State for one season in the 2000s before returning to be the head coach at his alma mater, watches his team play during the first half of the Wildcats’ 78-56 beatdown of the Mountaineers on Jan. 18, 2014 in Bramlage Coliseum. (Archive Photo by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

In the last decade, the men’s basketball team has made eight NCAA tournament appearances, including two trips to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2018 and two Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2019.

Even though current head coach Bruce Weber has been at Kansas State for eight of the last ten years, we cannot forget about Bob Huggins and Frank Martin, who helped turn around the Wildcats’ program.

Huggins inherited a struggling K-State team in 2006 that had just two winning seasons and zero tournament appearances under previous head coach Jim Wooldridge from 2000-06.

Huggins managed to take that ragtag team and turn it into one of the most successful K-State teams since the 1980s. Finishing the 2006-07 season with a 23-12 overall record, ranking fourth in the Big 12 and making it to the second round of the NIT.

After the conclusion of the 2006-07 season, Huggins got a call from his alma mater — West Virginia — to be their next head coach. Staying true to the blue and gold, Huggins accepted the job. Just like that, the Huggins tenure in the Little Apple was over.

Enter Martin, an assistant from Cincinnati. After Huggins’ exit, then-athletic director Tim Weiser believed Martin would be able to continue the Wildcats’ success, promoting him to head coach in 2007.

Martin was ready to take the college basketball world by storm, as the 2006-2007 season for the Wildcats was just the start of something special.

The Wildcats drew plenty of attention before the start of Martin’s first season, as K-State was ranked No. 25 in the preseason Top 25 polls for the first time since 1972.

The talented team, led by freshman phenom Michael Beasley, immediately found success, defeating two top-ten teams that season, including victories at home over No. 2 Kansas and No. 10 Texas A&M.

The season capped with the team’s first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1996, and the first victory in the tournament since 1988, an 80-67 win over USC before falling in the second round to the third-seeded Wisconsin Badgers team.

The Wildcats would finish 21-12 (10-6) on the season.

After falling short of the NCAA tournament in 2008, junior guard Jacob Pullen and senior guard Denis Clemente were about to put together one of the greatest seasons in K-State history.

Climbing as high as No. 5 in the rankings in the 2009-2010 season, the Wildcats stunned the nation with their play, taking down No. 1 Texas and going wire to wire with No. 2 Kansas, which resulted in an 81-79 overtime loss.

Finishing the regular season at 26-7 after a disappointing loss to No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament Championship Game.

K-State took down North Texas, BYU and then Xavier in the Sweet 16, often referred to as the greatest Sweet 16 game of all-time, to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988.

The magical year came to an end in that Elite Eight game as the Wildcats fell to eventual NCAA Tournament runner-up Butler 63-56, ending the season with a record of 29-8.

The 2009-2010 season for the Wildcats was historic, for sure. K-State earned their first and only two-seed in the NCAA tournament, and also won 29 games — the most in history.

Head coach Martin added to the awards, bringing home Big 12 coach of the year.

Shocking news hit K-State fans when Martin announced his departure from the men’s basketball program in the spring of 2012. Martin accepted the head coaching position at South Carolina, despite great success in his time at K-State.

Now under head coach Weber, the Wildcats have built off of the success of Huggins and Martin, winning two Big 12 regular season titles and appearing in five NCAA tournaments in Weber’s tenure.

While the team may be going through some growing pains this year, it is important to remember coaches who put them in the positions to be successful.

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