K-State's Martin Reflects on Close Relationship with Huggins - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

K-State's Martin Reflects on Close Relationship with Huggins

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PITTSBURGH -

Just before the selection process began on Sunday, Bob Huggins received a phone call from his old Kansas State assistant, Frank Martin.

"Frank called before everything happened," Huggins said. "It's amazing how those guys know what's going on."

What was going on is the K-State Wildcats would be playing in the same venue as Huggins' Mountaineers, earlier in the schedule on Thursday.

Martin said Wednesday in Pittsburgh that he was curious to know if Huggins was confident that his team would be comfortably in the field, which he said on the phone he was. The location in which the two would be able to reunite, though, makes it more special to Martin.

"Of all cities that we can possibly do it in – Pittsburgh. Do you know how much time he and I have spent in Pittsburgh together?" Martin said. "Every time we're here, it usually becomes an emotional moment because this is where he had his heart attack. That conversation usually ends up in that moment again. It becomes an emotional moment."

Huggins' heart attack nearly a decade ago evokes memories for Martin of his own ailment the year he was hired at Kansas State to assist the West Virginia native.

Diagnosed with pancreatitis and told that he may have pancreatic cancer, which would give him less than a 10 percent chance at survival, he recalls the comfort Huggins gave him in the hospital.

"He told me when I was on the [hospital] bed, and I thought I was gone five years ago, he walked in, anyone that knows Huggs, he gave me those words of encouragement," says Martin. "I was laying there, not knowing what was wrong with me. He said, ‘Hey, Frank, I was flat-lined twice and I'm still here. So when it's time to go, don't fight it.'"

It turns out he did not have the cancer and eventually was able to recover.

The friendship and loyalty that Huggins has been credited for by so many who have come to know him over the years is something Martin treasures.

"Everyone always talks about all this tough love, thick skin. When is the last time you saw a former Bob Huggins player criticize him?" Martin asks. "All they do is go out in society and become better people. I believe that's our job, to make society better. He does it as good as anybody."

Martin says he still calls Huggins on a daily basis to pick his brain about all things, whether basketball-related or otherwise. The fact that he was – as he calls it – "lucky" enough to coach alongside a future Hall of Famer like Huggins taught him plenty about life in general, not to mention the sport.

"Huggs is one of the biggest persons I've ever come across," says Martin. "Nothing he does is ever for himself. Everything he does is to help everyone around him. Look where I'm at today because of him. Look at his players."

Where Martin is at today is the same place Huggins is. They're in Pittsburgh, preparing for second round NCAA Tournament action on Thursday and a chance to fight on for the opportunity to face each other a second time this season should both teams advance to the regional finals.

Huggins has always said he would rather coach against a person he has respect for, because at least then if he loses, he can feel happy for the coach who ended his run. Clearly Martin is at the top of that list.  

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