Thursday, March 14, 2013

Marist Opts to Part Ways With Men's Coach Martin

The MAAC lost its second men's basketball coach in two days.

A day after Siena fired Mitch Buonaguro, Marist made the same decision to part ways with Chuck Martin, according to an announcement made by that school that said he was "relieved of his duties."

Martin was at Marist for five seasons, and had considerable restructuring to do in the program when he arrived. Several players, as is often the case, opted to leave Marist upon the departure of Martin's predecessor, Matt Brady. And, several other players who reportedly clashed with Martin during his first two years at Marist, also moved on. Moves Martin perceived as for the betterment of the program.

Overall, he had a 41-118 record over five seasons (21-69 in conference play), and very few coaches anywhere are going to survive that kind of record.

Still, things seemed to be turning around a year ago went the Red Foxes went 7-2 in its nine games preceding a season-ending loss to Iona in the MAAC's postseason tournament. The 14-18 record overall, despite the team's relative youth, was the best under Martin's tenure.

More was expected this year. Instead, the team lost "glue" player junior forward Jay Bowie for nearly half the season and second-leading scorer, senior guard Devin Price, played through injuries. The team's other three starters were a junior and two sophomores. There was also a preseason knee injury to freshman guard Khalid Hart, the program's top incoming recruit who was expected to get big minutes this past year.

It all left the team banged up and lacking in quality depth.

When Marist got healthy late in the year, it won five of seven games before losing in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament, ironically enough to Siena.

"I want to thank all the people who supported me, my family, my staff and my kids," Martin told the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper. "I understand the business side of it."

Every key player other than Price returns and, based on returning talent, better days are ahead for Marist and whoever takes over the program.

Your Hoopscribe knows Martin as one of the league's "good guys," a positive representative of the program. The one Marist practice your scribe attended last season was marked by enthusiasm and noticeable hard work.

But, college basketball has become a business, even at this level. Athletics has become the face of a school, if not a source for revenue. Losing doesn't look good, either in the public perception or in the school's financial ledger.. Even mid-major level programs aren't willing to hold on to coaches with losing records. Better to jettison one, bring in someone new and create the optimism of the unknown. And, that's more than understandable.

Those who look beyond the wins and losses, though, will recognize that both recently fired coaches, Martin and Buonaguro, were in some part victims of fate beyond each's control.

It's not easy to understand the whims of 18- and 19-year old players who opt to leave programs, or to continue winning games when key players miss significant amounts of games with injuries.

And, now, the two long-time rival programs are both searching for a coach at the same time. It's a little reminiscent of the same situation in 1986 when both schools made coaching changes and were interviewing some of the same candidates.

Back then, in fact, Dave Magarity had offers from both Siena and Marist and opted to take the Marist position (who could blame him? Rik Smits was on the team back then), leaving the Saints' job to Mike Deane.

These days, though, Siena appears is better-funded in terms of coaching salary (thanks to larger crowds at its homecourt Times Union Center) and the pools of candidates might not be so similar.

Siena's last two hires have both have past head-coaching experience. Marist's last two hires have come from the ranks of assistants from higher-level programs (Brady from St. Joseph's, Martin from Memphis.

Tim Murray, Marist's athletic director, said he'd like to see his men's basketball program compete for MAAC titles.

"Our goal is to compete at the top of the conference and contend for a MAAC championship every year," Murray told the Poughkeepsie newspaper.

It's a sentiment shared by every school in the conference, one impossible for every team to accomplish.

So, coaches get fired, and new ones get hired as that quest, and the proverbial coaching carousel. goes on.

No comments: