Five seasons into his college coaching career, Frank Martin has established himself within the front rank of Big 12 coaches. Statistically, he’s also approaching consideration alongside the legends of K-State coaching since World War II.
Martin, whose Wildcats completed their fifth regular season under his guidance Saturday, has a .690 overall winning percentage since taking over for Bob Huggins following the conclusion of the 2006-07 season. That is virtually identical to Tex Winter’s percentage for his tenure between 1952-53 and 1967-68, and better than Jack Hartman’s .636 percentage at K-State. In the post-World War II era, Jack Gardner has the highest winning percentage of any K-State coach, .722, but Gardner’s career numbers are reduced by his 20-34 record during a pre-war stint. Overall, Gardner’s winning percentage at K-State was .645.
Martin’s sustained performance is at a level the K-State program hasn’t seen in a while. He’s poised to take the Wildcats to a third straight NCAA Tournament — something no coach has done since Lon Kruger (1986-88)— and to a fourth in five seasons. That will be a first in school history.
Martin’s .602 winning percentage in conference games trails both Winter (.720) and Gardner (.671) since World War II, but it is higher than any coach since them with more than two years of experience here. Hartman had a .586 conference winning percentage, Kruger .585.
In one category — nailbiters — Martin’s record exceeds even the best at K-State. His teams have a .625 winning percentage in games decided by five points or less; Hartman stands second at .611.
Of the eight current Big 12 coaches with more than two years in the conference — a set that excludes Frank Haith and Fred Hoiberg — Martin’s performance probably stands third behind only Bill Self at Kansas and Rick Barnes at Texas. Self’s winning percentage in Lawrence is .837, and Barnes is .717 in Austin. Closest to Martin would be Billy Gillispie, formerly of Texas A&M and now at Texas tech, with a .624 overall winning percentage at Big 12 schools.
Considering just conference games, only Self’s .636 winning percentage is better than Martin’s .600. And counting just conference games decided by five points or less, Martin’s .564 percentage again ranks second behind only Self (.633).
During his first five years at K-State, Martin’s teams have established readily recognizable trademarks, some involving strengths and others involving weaknesses. A measurable image that goes beyond intangibles such as “hustles” has emerged regarding what a Frank Martin-coached team looks like.
1. Frank Martin’s teams hit the offensive boards. This is one of his clearest coaching traits. Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Martin’s teams have averaged 15 offensive rebounds per game, highest in the conference by nearly two and 36 percent above the league average for that period.
2. Martin’s teams play a bruising brand of basketball that creates contact, both by themselves and by their opponents. The average K-State basketball games since 2007-08 has included 42.4 foul calls (20.6 against KSU and 21.8 against opponents). The average for all conference games in the period is just 36.3 fouls. Martin’s teams commit 15 percent more fouls than average; opponents commit 16 percent more.
3. Martin’s teams have a problem both hitting and defending the three-point field goal. This may come as a surprise considering that Jacob Pullen, the school’s all-time leading scorer and a three-point specialist, played four years for Martin. Overall, however, the Wildcats under Martin have been pedestrian beyond the arc. The team’s .346 three-point percentage since 2007-08 is eighth among current Big 12 coaches for that period, the average being .360. By contrast, Self’s Jayhawks have averaged 38 percent in three-pointers since 2007-08, and have bested K-State in that department all five seasons of Martin’s tenure. Defensively, opponents shoot three-pointers at an average success rate of 34.3 percent against Martin’s teams; the conference average is just 32.8 percent.
4. Martin’s teams both commit and force more turnovers than normal. Since 2007-08, K-State has forced an average of 14 turnovers per game, eight percent above the league average. K-State has committed 15.8, 21.5 percent above the average number.
5. Martin’s Wildcats pass the ball better than their opponents. Under Martin, K-State has averaged 14 assists per game, 7 percent above the league average. Opponents have averaged just 11.6 assists, four percent below the league average.