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March 11, 2014

Martin: I have to (change)

Has Frank Martin changed?

Yes, no, and maybe.

Yes, he's a different man with a different plan than the coach who a week ago admitted he crossed a line during an obscenity-laced confrontation with guard Duane Notice in a home loss to Florida that earned him a one-game suspension.

"I have to (change)," Martin said. "I put myself in a predicament."

No, he's not fundamentally changing what's made him successful over a remarkable 30-year career that began as a junior-high school coach.

"I am who I am," Martin said. "I'm proud of who I am."

Maybe, the two perspectives - humility and success - have forged a needed course correction, but only time will tell.

"I don't know," Martin said when asked if he'd behave differently on the sidelines. "I don't know."

Addressing the media Tuesday afternoon before heading to Atlanta for the SEC Tournament Martin said he wasn't able to watch but the last 30 seconds of USC's win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

"I couldn't (watch the game live)," Martin said. "I told my staff, 'If you need me, call me, if not I'm leaving you guys alone. This has to be our effort through your flavor.' We've been together long enough where I trust the guys that are in place. It's not like this happened the second week of the season. We've been doing this seven months.

"We were in a place where you should be pretty comfortable that guys should be able to play without one guy there."

To get his mind right, Martin drove to Tennessee for his daughter's cheerleading competition, a decision he said was beneficial.

"It got my mind away from an emotion that I really didn't want to kind of deal with," Martin said. "You have to understand, when you've been doing this 30 years, you take pride in knowing that when your guys are going...you see, loyalty is a strong word for me. I live my life by that word. I'm honest and I'm loyal. And if my guys are going, I gotta stick my chin out there, too.

"If I'm the one that gets cold-cocked and punched, then so be it. But I'm not letting my guys go out there without me. Not being able to be there with them was hard for me. When the game's over, not being able to embrace them or stand up and protect them, that was hard for me. But then we won, so I slept better than I have in five days.

"Sunday, my daughter's cheerleading team had their second round of competition and she blew her stuff off the charts, and I got in the car and drove home yesterday so proud of her and my guys that it actually put me in a pretty good mood."

Also putting Martin in a good mood was hearing from many people, including former players he hasn't heard from in years, offering words of encouragement and support.

"They were just sending me notes whether it be emails or text messages just to let me know, 'Yo, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you. Keep your head up.'," Martin said. "When you get all that feedback, when I went back these last four days and kind of reflected back on who I am, I felt good about myself. I felt good that I made a mistake. I felt good that what I do has helped a heck of a lot more people than hurt. The strength of the people that I've shared life experiences with has helped me."

So, has Martin changed?

"Now, will I be different?," Martin said. "I have to. I don't know what better answer I can give you than that. I gotta be who I am."



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