COLUMBIA — It’s silly season, so it’s no surprise that Frank Martin’s name is linked to another coaching opening.
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman Tweeted Thursday that Martin is a “key target” for the open job at Cincinnati. While the name is intriguing — Martin was a Bearcats assistant coach for two years — at this point it doesn’t appear South Carolina has anything to worry about.
Martin has repeatedly said that he and his family are happy at USC, although he’s never been shy at stating his wish for more support from his fans, and the numbers don’t seem to work out. The Bearcats are seeking a replacement for Mick Cronin, a Cincinnati alum who was making $2.2 million in his 13th year at the helm.
Martin made $2.9 million at USC last season, and that will rise to $3 million in 2019-20. He would also owe USC $1 million if he were to leave.
“My intentions, my goal is to keep building this program here,” Martin said at his season wrapup press conference in late March. “If I wanted to leave because I wasn’t happy here, you think I’d do it this year or you think I’d have done it after the Final Four?”
Martin said then that a report linking him to the UNLV job was false, claiming neither he nor his agent had ever spoken with the Runnin’ Rebels. He also clarified why he always seems to get linked to that job, stemming from a comment long ago when he said he loved the tradition and history of UNLV.
The Cincinnati storyline, when it comes to Martin, is linked to UNLV. After the 2015-16 season, UNLV was looking for a new coach and set its sights on Cronin. Cronin was believed to have accepted the job, leading to speculation that Cincinnati would look at Martin.
But Cronin didn’t leave. Martin took his next USC team to the Final Four. UNLV hired Chris Beard, who was there 19 days before leaving for Texas Tech (where he just led the Red Raiders to the national championship game) and then hired Marvin Menzies.
UNLV hired South Dakota State’s T.J. Otzelberger to replace Menzies while UCLA finished a coaching search that began on New Year’s Eve by getting Cronin. But at least in terms of looking at Martin, the late date helped Cincinnati — his buyout dropped from $2 million on April 1.
Martin was an assistant coach under mentor Bob Huggins at Cincinnati in the 2004-05 season, and stayed the next season when Huggins was replaced by fellow assistant Andy Kennedy in August 2005. Cronin was hired to replace the interim Kennedy; Kennedy took the head coaching job at Ole Miss; Martin took an assistant job at Kansas State under Huggins; and one of the Bearcats’ best players, point guard Devan Downey, transferred to South Carolina.
Martin has two postseason appearances in seven years at USC, with the only NCAA tournament bid resulting in the program’s only Final Four. He has a young, explosive core of players returning next season.