Martin not surprised by alleged corruption in college hoops
By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Frank Martin isn’t surprised by allegations of corruption in college basketball, though he was stunned one of his friends and former assistants was among the 10 arrested in the national federal investigation of the sport.
“Any coach in this business that tries to act like there weren’t some shenanigans going on the way it was reported, they’re not being honest with you,” Martin said.
Martin spoke for the first time Thursday since Lamont Evans was among those charged with corruption and bribery last month. Evans and three assistants at other schools, along with an Adidas executive and five others were charged by the Department of Justice. Evans worked with Martin had Kansas State and later at South Carolina.
The fallout from the arrests have led to Louisville coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich being put on administrative leave, the firing of Evans at Oklahoma State, and Auburn offering to refund season-ticket buyers after assistant Chuck Person was arrested.
Martin didn’t provide details about what shenanigans he was referring to and when asked why if he suspected illegal practices were going at other schools he did not report them to the NCAA, he indicated it wasn’t his responsibility.
“There’s no snitching within your family,” Martin responded. Martin explained that if a coach is willing to risk his career to get involved with shoe companies and agents to lure players with NBA potential, “do what you’ve got do, man,” he said.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said Thursday that there were no indications Evans was doing anything illegal. He learned of Evans’ involvement in the federal investigation by scrolling through Twitter headlines on Sept. 26.
“No, I never had any suspicions,” Boynton said. “I was as shocked as anyone when this happened.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller also spoke for the first time since assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe and paying at least one player to attend the school.
“You have to eliminate the clutter and understand the class has to be tight,” he said. “You have to talk to people, but only we know what happens on a daily basis in our program. This is an example for these guys for them to grow and learn in life as they leave Arizona. They will be much more suited to deal with things that happen. In our attempt to be perfect, sometimes the unexpected happens.”
Martin said neither he nor South Carolina are targets of the federal inquiry, though the university has launched one internal investigation and plans to hire a third-party to conduct another.
The Gamecocks head coach defended himself against accusations he should have known what Evans was doing since he gave Evans his first basketball job at Kansas State in 2008 and brought him to South Carolina to coach with him until 2016.
“I have not worked so hard to overcome the odds, to obtain the job and the trust of the people who have employed me to circumvent it for a couple of dollars,” said Martin, whose rise from a bar bouncer, to a Florida high school coach and into one of college basketball’s hottest coaches was widely chronicled last season as South Carolina went to its first Final Four.
“It’s one of my guys and it’s not one of my guys under my umbrella,” Martin said. “It’s like the child who makes mistakes at college while they’re away and not while living at my house. That’s what’s frustrating.”
Martin also said college basketball coaches know there are problems in the sport, including the NBA’s one-and-done rule, but added that there isn’t enough talk how to solve them.
“I think kids should have the right to declare out of high school” for the NBA, Martin said. “And if they want to take money from a shoe company, an agent, whatever, do it above board, do it the right way. Go be a pro.”
Martin offered a solution for those top-flight players going to college, suggesting the sport pay players whether from income generated in jersey sales, from a player’s likeness or some other stream of revenue. He said once a player graduates, maybe they should get 30 percent of that money, 30 percent should go to the school, 30 percent to the apparel or shoe company and 10 percent to charity.
When asked about an unidentified South Carolina player in court papers, Martin said he didn’t know who it was. The Gamecocks do not have anyone on this year’s roster held out from practice.
Martin said is not trying to shield a player or withhold information when it comes to which South Carolina player was named in court papers as “Player-3.” Documents state that Evans told an agent and a financial adviser if “Player 3” was paid, they would get him as a client along with five more similar players.
“If we were being investigated, I’d have that answer for you,” Martin said.
Oklahoma State spokesman Gary Shutt said the school has hired a compliance group to assist with its internal review. Shutt also said Boynton was limited in what he could say because of the ongoing investigation.
Boynton was hired at Oklahoma State last spring when then head coach Brad Underwood left for Illinois. Boynton said he had no reason to feel unsafe about his position, although he understands his reputation has been damaged by his association with Evans.
Boynton’s main focus is preparing his players for the upcoming season.
“Distractions come in a lot of different forms,” Boynton said. “One of our jobs is to try to eliminate the effect that those distractions have on our team. I told our team this is a distraction, one that may linger on longer than we’d like, but one that we’ll certainly be able to look past.”
South Carolina’s Martin said he was especially heartbroken when learning of Evans’ arrest on Sept. 26 because he tries to know everything about his program and he feels like he was betrayed by a family member. He said he hasn’t spoken to Evans since his arrest.
“I’m not ready for that day with Lamont right now,” Martin said. “I’m sure I could speak to him through third parties, but I’m not doing that.”
Evans’ ties to Martin has led to the several inquiries if South Carolina was directly connected to the scandal:
— Evans joined Martin with the Gamecocks in 2012 after working for him at Kansas State.
— Evans left South Carolina to join another of Martin’s ex-assistants in Underwood at Oklahoma State in 2016.
— Evans remained on the Cowboys staff after Underwood left for Illinois this past March. Evans was retained by Boynton a former South Carolina guard who also coached on Martin’s early staff with the Gamecocks.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner did an internal investigation after Evans arrest and found that no past or current staffers at South Carolina are part of investigation. But he wants a more exhaustive investigation done by an outside party in coordination with the Justice Department and the NCAA.
Arizona issued a series of statements on Tuesday, including one from athletic director Dave Heeke in support of Miller. He reiterated his stance on Thursday.
“Obviously, a very unique situation,” Heeke said. “I would like to know as much as I could know at this time. I don’t have a lot of information. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Sean has always run a program of integrity, honesty, through his career here. We’re very, very supportive of the program and our coaches.”
AP sports writers Cliff Brunt in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and John Marshall in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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