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March 7, 2014

Martin apologizes for behavior

In a rebuilding job expected to be filled with humbling moments, University of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin never pictured this.

While his team was making preparations to travel to Starksville, Miss., for its final SEC regular season game, Martin faced a bank of reporters at Williams-Brice Stadium not to talk about the contest without, but the contest within as he prepares to serve a one-game suspension for "inappropriate verbal communication as it relates to the well-being of our student-athletes," according to USC athletics director Ray Tanner.

Wearing a gray sweatshirt with a large Block-C logo on front, Martin gave an opening statement then answered questions for 20-plus minutes about everything from the personal demons he battles to his 30 years of success in a demanding profession to his role as a pioneering Hispanic head coach with a responsibility to behave better.

The one theme Martin came back to again and again, however, was accepting that no one created this situation for him but himself.

"Regretfully I'm sitting here in front of you after first and foremost embarrassing my family," Martin said. "I'm extremely disappointed in my ignorant actions that have impacted our team in a negative way.

"For 30 years I've gotten on the bus and I've gotten off the bus, and I've stood up and fought with my guys. It's going to be hard tomorrow to know that they're going in there and I'm not going to be there for them."

"I fully, fully support Ray Tanner's decision on this. He acted like the great leader that he is in trying to resolve something that was embarrassing to our university."

Martin said the past 24 hours have taken a toll.

"Real hard," Martin said when asked to describe them. "But it's self-inflicted pain. What took place with Duane the other night isn't the first time that happened.

"My passion for people is my greatest asset. That passion also becomes a weakness at times. I have to work at that every day. That's my challenge.

"No one has more faults than me, and I understand how hard it is to work on your faults. I wasn't put on this planet to criticize others. I was put on this planet to be the best human being I can be and to help others. You've heard me talk a lot about maturity this year. I think it's time I start maturing, too."

Martin said the suspension didn't come out of the blue and was a product of a longer conversation with Tanner that dated back to before Martin made his first public apology following a tirade directed at senior point guard Brent Williams during the Ole Miss game Jan. 18. He said

"(Tanner) didn't act based on one situation," Martin said. "He and I have been in constant dialogue the last five, six months on things that he wants to help me (with), not for public reasons, but to become a better coach. I couldn't be more thankful that he's my boss."

Martin specifically referenced Williams as an example he's had of why he's in the profession to begin with.

"I live for moments like the one I had Tuesday when Brenton Williams' dad, a young man I did not recruit to come here, shook my hand, looked me dead in my eyes and said, 'Thank you for helping my son become a man.'

"I live for that moment."

Martin told reporters he knew immediately after the game he had crossed a line he wasn't comfortable crossing and called Tanner the next morning by phone while on a recruiting trip to apologize for letting him down. He said that's when he first became aware of the video that had captured the moment and was making the rounds of Internet message boards and spreading nationally.

When he returned yesterday afternoon, the two met in person and discussed the suspension.

"As soon as the game was over I was uncomfortable with that moment," Martin said. "I know what I do. I know what I say. I don't forget things."

"No one looks in the mirror more than me. I do it every day. I have faults, and I have to fix them."

As for how Martin intends to correct his behavior, he said he doesn't have to look far for how to do it when he's motivated to do so.

"I gave up swearing my last year at Kansas State," Martin said. "New job, different responsibilities, different expectations, different challenges, kind of strayed me away from a commitment I had made to myself at my previous place of employment.

"There's been some challenges this year, personally, in my personal life, and in basketball. I have a big, big problem in that I care too much. I care about our players. I care about my past players, I care about my present players. If I was worried about my image or my salary, that problem would be easy to fix.

"I worry about my players. I worry about them taking advantage every day of everything that's in front of them so they learn how to prepare for life."

Martin said the suspension has led him to examine how he handles delivering criticism.

"The easiest things to do in life is to sit and criticize others' faults," Martin said. "The hardest thing to do in life is look in a mirror every day and face your own faults.

"I'm concerned with fixing my problems, because I can't help others unless I fix my own problems. I have challenges. We live in a world where we expect people to be perfect. I can sit here and tell you I'm nowhere near. I preach to our players all the time that if you put all their faults together, you still don't come close to the faults I create every single day."

"I can manage this. I need help. I need my players, Ray Tanner, my family, my wife whom I've deeply embarrassed, my mom who has not stopped crying since she found out about this yesterday, those are the people who believe in me. I need their help to give me strength so I can continue to grow as a person."

Martin said he and Tanner did not discuss the consequences of any further violations, only to say that he feels confident it won't happen again.

"There's only one person you can blame if it does happen again," Martin said.

Martin also said he didn't believe his language has hurt his team so far this year.

"I don't believe it has impacted us in a negative way (before now)," Martin said. "For 30 years I've always had good players on our team. I think our team has taken on every challenge this year and grown up.

"I created this. Nobody created this for me. I don't speak like that 24 hours a day. There might be 12 seconds a day that something comes out that shouldn't. I have to work on those 12 seconds. I feel pretty good about who I am the other 23 hours and whatever seconds of the day.

"I work at a university. I represent higher education. I understand that. I have a duty to the people at this university who hired me to conduct myself a certain way."

Martin was asked if he felt the suspension and language issues would be used against him on the recruiting trail.

"When I recruit, I go in homes and I speak to parents exactly about what I stand for and believe in and who I am," Martin said. "I'm not a used-car salesman. I don't act a certain way in front of people and act a different way when people aren't looking.

I don't sell dreams. I sell who we are so that people can connect with us, and then together we can make a dream a reality. That's what I've tried to do my whole career, and I invest all my energies in young men to try and help them become men."

"I can do that without becoming overly aggressive for 12 seconds on the sideline during a game. I've got to be able to manage that dynamic of my personality."

For fans who disapprove of Martin's language and who were encouraged that the suspension will lead to corrective behavior, Martin asked their forgiveness.

"I can't do anything but apologize," Martin said. "'I'm sorry' is a powerful two words, and if you use it over and over for the same reason, it loses all its steam. I can't do anything but apologize.

"I have to be who I am. Everyone else has to be who they are. I can't force people to like me, but I have to respect this university. I can't force people to come to a game if they choose not to come. But I have a responsibility to act the right way for this university. That's all I can consume myself with right now."

While Martin's team travels to face Mississippi State, Martin said he intended to use the time to be with his family and do the soul-searching he believes he needs to do to be the best he can be.

"My last year at K-State I stopped swearing because I got home and my little guy walked up to me and said, 'You've been a bad boy,' and I said, 'Why?' and he said, 'Because you used a bad word.' When a child says something to you it's a lot more powerful than when an adult sends you an email.

"This morning, when my little guy found out that he and I were not going to Mississippi and his dad couldn't coach and he couldn't see the boys play, like he calls them, that was a real, real difficult moment for me.

"I've got to work on those 12 seconds a day."



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