In just his fourth season as a Division I basketball coach, Kansas State’s Frank Martin has already made a name for himself as one of the best, and most animated, coaches in the country. For many fans, Martin’s rise seemingly came out of nowhere, replacing Bob Huggins in Manhattan after just three seasons in college hoops. But Martin’s success as a basketball head coach goes back further than his time with the Wildcats. And it was a scandal during his time at a high school coach in Miami that eventually led to his arrival in Manhattan, KS.
Martin’s basketball coaching career began in 1985 when he was the JV coach at Miami High School when he was still just a college student at Florida International. At this time, he was also working as a bouncer at a Miami nightclub, but decided to go into coaching fulltime when a group of guys he had kicked out returned and fired gunshots at him.
Martin got his first head coaching job eight years later at North Miami High School in 1993. Two years later he became the head coach at his high school alma mater of Miami High School.
Martin coached just three seasons at Miami High School, which was not just a powerhouse basketball program in Florida, but also in the country. While the head coach, Martin got the school a lucrative deal with Nike, traveled all over the country to play other elite high schools in tournaments and won three Florida state championships. Miami High School had no equals in Florida while Martin was the coach.
But just two days before Martin’s third title game in 1998, the independent paper Miami New Times, published an explosive expose on Martin’s program, alleging that the school was guilty of recruiting and breaking Florida High School Athletic Association rules regarding student transfers and living addresses.
The program had become a dynasty in South Florida, about to win its eighth state title in the last 11 seasons, including a 68-0 record over the previous three seasons. They would go on to a 33-point romp in the state finals led by future NBA stars Udonis Halsem and Steve Blake.
But the evidence provided in the article was damning. In the article, the New Times presented evidence that several players were living under the addresses of school boosters or employees to get them listed inside the school zone, including the team’s two best players, Haslem and Blake – both transfers from other schools.
In Haslem’s case, he was listed as living in an efficiency apartment with Bob Corella, an unpaid assistant coach and booster. When the New Times discovered this and after they had tried to interview him at the address, it was changed to that of his mother, who also lived within the Miami High School attendance zone.
But in reality, his mother told the New Times, Haslem lived with his father and step-mother in Miramar, outside the school’s zone. At one point in the article Haslem’s mother is quoted as saying:
“You know, he called me on Monday to ask what my address was here. That must have something to do with you.”
How much Martin new of the living situation is murky. In the New Times article, Martin never denies that living addresses had been changed and that students do sometimes transfer for the wrong reasons. At one point he told the New Times:
“I’m aware of the majority of things that happen with the program. If something is wrong with the system, it is my responsibility. I am the one that makes the final call when I know that there’s a kid transferring to school. About Udonis and Latimer and Blake having addresses in the homes of boosters, I don’t know what to say. I will say that when I was in grade school, my parents used a different address because they didn’t want me going to the school in our district. That happens all the time.”
The crux of the matter was whether these players were enticed to transfer to North Miami High School by proposing to change the players’ addresses to within North Miami’s school zone. In other words, were they recruited?
Martin was somewhat let off the hook based on comments made by Wayne Story, who at the time was in charge of enforcing FHSAA rules in the Miami area. He told the New Times, “We are an enforcement agency. We are not a police force. We don’t have a cadre of detectives up here to perform those duties.” He added that it was school principals who are supposed to be the enforcers of rules.
While a stretch, it did provide Martin with an out: if the FHSAA couldn’t keep track of players’ living addresses or changes in address, how could Martin?
An investigation by the FHSAA was launched after the article was published and on Aug. 11, 1998, the FHSAA ruled that five players had been induced to transfer because they received special housing assistance from school employees and boosters. Miami High School’s entire 1997-98 season, including the state championship, was vacated.
The FHSAA called the violations “more excessive than any school ever investigated.”
Haslem was already off to college when the ruling came down while Blake transferred to basketball powerhouse Oak Hill for his senior season before heading to the University of Maryland.
Martin was never mentioned in the ruling but the scandal was damaging enough and he was fired along with his athletic director. Martin returned to the Miami scene as the head coach at Booker T. Washington High School during the 1999-2000 season.
Then Martin was hired to be an assistant coach at Northeastern University, but more importantly, he was essentially hired to recruit Miami product Jose Juan Barea as well as to recruit the Miami area in general. Martin built his reputation as a good assistant and recruiter from his recruitment of Barea, who did sign with Northeastern and wound up having a successful college career. He is now a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
Martin then became an assistant at Cincinnati under then-head coach Bob Huggins – another lightning rod for controversy – in 2004. In 2006, he followed Huggins to Kansas State. It didn’t take long for Martin to find himself in the middle of more controversy. Kansas State and Huggins became under scrutiny for their recruitment of D.C.-area product Michael Beasley and Cincinnati’s Bill Walker. Along with landing the commit of Beasley, Huggins hired his AAU coach Dalonte Hill as an assistant on the Wildcat staff in what appeared to outsiders as a packaged deal.
When Huggins took off before the took ever played a game in Manhattan, Martin was named head coach and Hill was promoted. Critics said the promotions of the program’s two recruiting aces was a desperate attempt to keep Beasley and Walker headed to K-State.
The two kept their commitments and Kansas State went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament propelled by Beasley, a consensus All-American.
Now Martin stands at the top of arguably the second-best program in the Big 12 behind Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawk machine. A high school scandal that could’ve buried his coaching career only served as a catalyst for him to join the college ranks.
Who knows where Martin would be today if that article had never been published or if an investigation never turned up any wrong doing?