Adaptation Assistant

Assistant basketball coach Erik Martin was totally unfamiliar with West Virginia (both the state and the school) when he accepted Bob Huggins' offer to come with him to Morgantown, but that doesn't concern the young coach.

"I've ridden through the state a few times when I was playing, and I remember seeing some "You are now entering West Virginia" signs, but that's about it," said Martin, who spent last season with Huggins at Kansas State. "I don't think I will have any trouble adjusting, though. I have played in so many places that I have learned how to do that. The people here are just the same as the people in Cincinnati, it's just a little different culture."

Martin is most familiar with the Queen City, having played for Huggins at the University of Cincinnati for two seasons from 1991-93. He then played professionally, both in the CBA and overseas, for nine seasons before beginning his coaching career at Cincinnati State in 2004, where he was an assistant for two seasons before joining Huggins at K-State. That experience, especially the overseas stints, gave him the ability to adapt quickly.

Although Martin hasn't spent a great deal of time yet at WVU (he has been on the road recruiting and completing his moving tasks), he isn't concerned about being able to adjust to West Virginia.

"I've been here a few days," he said during a stopover. I have been able to do some of the individual work with the players, but I don't need to hurry [in getting to know them]. I am not planning on going anywhere, so I won't rush that.

"Getting used to a new school won't be a problem either," he continued. "I'm a basketball junkie, and I get to do all this while I work for a coach that I played for in college."

Martin, like Huggins, is an ardent participant in the recruiting process, and like his boss is already scouring tournaments and early summer events for possible future Mountaineers. However, despite his familiarity with the kind of players that Huggins likes, he admits that the process is not an exact science.

"Even though I played for him, and I know what type of players Bob Huggins wants, you never know how players are going to react," he said candidly. "There were players that I thought would be stars for him that left after one year, and there were guys that I though would never have a chance that ended up being starters and great players.

While assessing physical skills and talent is something Martin feels comfortable with, he notes that it's the mental side – the ability to deal with adversity and pressure – that often determines who makes the grade as a Huggins player. It's something he fought as a player at Cincinnati, but once he figured out how to handle it, he became a standout on a star-filled UC team.

"I always say that if you can get through that first year with Coach Huggins, then everything will be all right," Martin said. "Coach Huggins is tough on players – that's his personality. You can't tell a lot about a player until you stick him in the oven and turn up the heat. When I recruit players, I try to be completely honest with them. I tell them what to expect, and that that first year will be hard, but if you can make it through then things can be great."

Martin speaks from experience. After coming to Cincinnati after stints at Texas Christian and Santa Ana Community College, he clashed with the mercurial Huggins for the first half of his junior season.

"Hearing all that yelling was tough, but I let it be personal," said Martin, who admitted that he didn't handle the situation well. "But when I learned that it wasn‘t personal, that it was just intended to help me improve and get better, I took off. I went from being the eighth man to being the sixth man, and a guy who sometimes played more minutes than some of the starters. I learned it wasn't how he was saying it, but what he was saying that matters."

Up next, Part II of our exclusive interview with Coach Martin, in which he discusses his own coaching style, his aspirations, and how he draws on past experience in both on-floor coaching and recruiting.

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