Adaptation Assistant - Part II

New West Virginia assistant coach Erik Martin knows how Bobby Huggins works at the recruiting game, and thinks he will fit in well with his boss' style of attracting players – although his individual approach is likely to be somewhat different.

"Coach Huggins is really the closer – it's up to us to identify the players and get them to him." Martin said. "When I was being recruited by Cincinnati, he was the guy who came in to seal the deal. He has his assistants doing a lot of first stages of it.

"At Cincinnati, Steve Moeller was my recruiter. He got me to come from California to Cincinnati, and I didn't know anything about it. Then Coach Huggins came in and closed the deal."

Martin has seen a similar process taking shape at West Virginia. That doesn't mean that Huggins isn't out on the road himself or evaluating prospects – just that his assistants are also heavily involved in the process. Martin also believes that the difference in personality between himself and Huggins will end up creating a synergy.

"Coach Huggins is intense, and might yell some, but that's not my personality," he explained. "And being an assistant, that's not really not my role, either. Everyone handles that differently, but you might not see it really come out in me until I am a head coach."

Although he has been an assistant for just a short time, Martin has set a goal of being the man in charge someday. He realizes, however, that he is just getting started on the process.

"I hope to be a head coach, but to be honest, I haven't been a Division I coach for 12 months yet," he noted. "There is still a lot I need to learn. I am learning right now, and getting it straight from the horse's mouth. I am learning so much from Coach Huggins, and since I'm the only assistant right now, I am really getting a lot."

That education, which began last year at Kansas State, has continued pretty much interrupted despite the change in venue from Manhattan to Morgantown.

When I got to KState, I thought we would be there for a while," he said. "But sometimes things happen in life that you aren't ready for, and you have to either let them pass by or be ready and jump on them. That was the opportunity to come with Coach Huggins, and I can learn so much from him I felt like I should come with him. I feel confident in who I am. I know it might take me a while to become a head coach, but not too long.

While Martin soaks up everything he can from his former coach and boss, he is also slowly getting to know the players on the Mountaineer team. Like many assistant coaches, he will work closely with the players, but will have the added advantage of knowing what it was like to play for Huggins.

"I've always said that playing for coach Huggins, it doesn't matter who you bring in. There will always be different reactions to him. Guys who know Bob know how he coaches. He's intense. If [that style] that's not for them, I hope they realize it soon. They have to realize that what he says isn't personal. And if they listen to him, they will get better."

As noted in Part I of this interview, Martin battled with Huggins for several months before figuring that out, and once he did he quickly rose to become an all-conference performer, earning selection to an NCAA All-Region team along the way. Noting with a laugh that, "you will never win a grudge match with Coach Huggins", he also is quick to point out that those who are able to do what he asks will be put in a position to have great success.

Martin will therefore to be able to coach from several different perspectives. In addition to the traditional coach role, as well as from the perspective of a former player for Huggins, he will also be able to use the lessons he learned playing professionally, in the CBA as well as overseas, to help leaven his teachings.

That process is just getting underway, of course, but Martin, who at 35 is closer in age to the current Mountaineer players than he is to Huggins, should be well-equipped to relate to college students that are having experiences closer to what he had than what coaches on the upper side of 50 did. He will certainly use that to his advantage in building relationships – ones that will form the foundation upon which this year's team is built.


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