The question was whether or not Frank Martin could smile. The Kansas State coach assured the gathering at the Manhattan Catbackers event on Thursday night that he has plenty to smile about, adding, "I love life." Coming off a 20-win season in as many campaigns, Martin addressed his team, assessed an incoming class that is ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com, and answered fans' questions inside the ballroom at the K-State Alumni Center.
The following are excerpts from Martin's 20-minute address and his response to inquiries by fans.
"I just got back from Las Vegas. A group of us went out there. Lon Kruger puts on an event for Coaches Versus Cancer. I spent two days out there and I re-learned a four-letter word that I learned back on the Western Kansas Catbackers swing -- 'Golf.' So, hopefully some of you folks that sit close to me during games understand that I'll be using the word "golf'" a lot more.
"I can't tell you how much fun it is to coach basketball at such a great place. There are so many people here that are important to what our team does. Winning games, at the end of the day, makes me smile. But one of the things that have made me feel the best in the three months since our season ended is the amount of people who have come up to me to say 'thank you' -- thank you, because they take pride in our basketball program. That brings a tremendous smile to my face.
"I understand coaches can't control wins and losses, or else I don't think you'd ever not see me smile. But what we can control is the way our young men represent this university, on and off the court. That's something I know our staff has put in a lot of time in identifying the right group of kids to recruit, the kind of guys we want to represent what Kansas State is all about. They're guys that demonstrate that blue-collar, hard-work mentality in the way they approach basketball and their own life. It makes me extremely proud when people say that because it doesn't mean that Frank Martin is doing anything. It means that young men are representing the university the right way. That's what we're in this for as coaches.
"By the way, I was in a really good mood for the last 10-12 days. Jacob Pullen got onto campus today, so I'm completely out of my mind. (laughs) But to see a kid like Jacob, who two years ago got here and was 17 years old -- when we started practice he was still 17 years old -- now, is tremendous. All of the sudden to have that responsibility of leading a basketball program to levels that it hasn't been at in a long time, he had to accept that as a 17-year-old kid. But to be able to sit down and have a conversation with him now and to see how much more prepared he is to accept that responsibility, as a basketball coach, it makes you sit down and makes you enjoy the kids that play for you. The kids, it gives them confidence.
"We've got a group of guys who have paved the way, who have earned their stripes and who fully understand what Kansas State is all about and what we're about as a program. They're all going to get here on Sunday. They're going to make all five of those freshmen understand in a hurry what it's like, what it's like to go into that weight room with Scott Greenawalt -- and that's not the bad part. The bad part is waking up the next morning and going in there to do it again. And then the day after that, they'll do it again.
"These incoming freshmen are going to have people to teach them. Jacob, Denis Clemente, Luis Colon, Dominique Sutton -- you name it, they 'get it.' They come in here and work and compete and they play for one reason and that's to win. I tell them all of the time there are 31 games in a season and there are 365 days in a year. If you cannot commit yourself to be unselfish and to devote yourself to give your team everything you've got 31 times out of 365 days, that doesn't make you a very good employee. If you can't do that 31 times a year, then you're probably going to have a tough time when basketball is over, when you actually have to work 351 days a year. It's the message we send out and we have a group of guys that 'get it.'"
QUESTION: "Coach, can you smile and show us your teeth?" (laugh and applause)
MARTIN: "You know, I was out in Western Kansas and a guy said to me, 'Coach, you've got to smile more, man.' I said, 'I do. I just don't do it during those 40 minutes. That's my business deal. In the middle of your business deal, you probably don't sit there with a box of popcorn and enjoy the whole situation. You're trying to create a deal that benefits your business and the guy at the other end of the table is trying to take your business.' Well, that's our business deal. When that game is over, that's when I smile. I want you to understand, I love life. I love life. (pause) You guys letting me off the hook? I know you all ask questions and stuff on GoPowercat all the time. You guys letting me off the hook? I feel special."
QUESTION: "How is Dominique Sutton doing?"
MARTIN: "Dom? Dom is doing great. Dominique has gotten himself in good shape. Last year, for whatever reason, he couldn't get past that hump. He got tired on us too fast, but he's had a great spring. He probably had the best spring of anybody on our team. He had a great spring and I was just with him earlier today and he's gained weight, he's a lot more prepared this year than he was at the beginning of last year. We're excited. We're expecting big things from him.
"See, Dominique is getting himself to that spot. With him, it's never been about the ability, it's about the confidence. Here's what's important, everybody thinks it's an easy transition. Dominique was a high school center for four years. The first time he ever played away from the basket was when he got here. So it takes time. He's going to grow into it, but he's played really well for us."
QUESTION: "Can you tell us a little bit about the guys coming in this year?"
MARTIN: "Absolutely. Jordan Henriquez is 6-foot-11 and can really, really run. He has great hands, can really shoot the basketball and the thing that excites me the most is that he doesn't back down. He takes on challenges. When he plays really good players, he doesn't kind of go into a cave. He goes after people. He's got a frame. He's a big old boy and when we gets with Scott and starts filling in, he'll be phenomenal.
"Wally Judge is 6-9, 6-10, and might be the best big kid in this incoming freshman class. He's just a phenomenal talent with a tremendous work ethic and obviously, he's a young kid, so it's going to take time for him to understand how to be consistent at some of the things he will do to succeed on the floor. It's a little harder than it used to be because there are guys that are pretty darned good. He's got to beat them out. Usually, if you bring in a kid like Wally Judge, if he's not playing, it's a good thing. That means the guys in place are pretty darned good.
"Rodney McGruder is a 6-5 athlete who has a tremendous feel for how to play the game. Martavious Irving, who we signed in the spring, is 6-foot-3 and Coach Bill Snyder probably will look at him and ask if he can play. He's built like a linebacker. When you say 'power guard,' that's what he is at 6-3 and 205 pounds. He's just a powerful, powerful player.
"Then there's Nick Russell, who's about 6-4, probably 6-5 if he has a bad haircut, and he's a point guard who's highly skilled. The one thing we've done is Denis and Jake are smaller guards. Sometimes smaller guards have a tough time passing the ball over people. Bigger guards have an easier time. Now, Denis can get the job done. We've had to make some adjustments on some of the things that we do on the offensive end because of our abilities to pass the basketball from certain areas. Now we can have both. We can have taller guards that can pass the ball, so when the game is slow, we can say, 'Denis, run!' He'll outrun everyone down the other side and you've seen he's pretty good at doing that. When we're playing against bigger guards, we can put bigger guards in there so we can pass the ball over the top a little bit.
"Curtis Kelly redshirted last year. Curtis has gotten himself into unbelievable shape. He got to us at I believe 264 pounds the first day he stepped on the scale. He's at 246 now and just changed his whole body. He has really, really bought into that whole thing, which if you can't do that, you can't play for us. He'll have two years."
QUESTION: "Are you a better bowler or a golfer?"
MARTIN: "Geez, you've seen me bowl. I'm the only one that follows up a strike with a gutter."
QUESTION: "Do you have a preference for the side of the court your team sits on?"
MARTIN: "It's our choice. I could be wrong, but I believe Coach (Jim) Wooldridge going into his final year asked to switch sides. It had something to do with going off the court, the two teams, but when I got here they said, 'That's the home bench,' and I said, 'OK.'"
QUESTION: "But if you switched ends, the opposing team would have to shoot free throws against all of the fans going crazy instead of shooting in the second half against that curtain and the tunnel."
MARTIN: "Yeah, I guess so. Our guys would probably shoot it into the tunnel. (laughs) In all seriousness, we've talked about it, maybe switching seats. I don't know if it's going to happen or not, but it's something that's been brought up.
"It's been a tremendous pleasure being here with you folks and yes, I do smile, sir, I enjoy life. Thank you."