Category Archives: I GOT FIVE ON IT

I GOT FIVE ON IT – Vic Koenning

Asked the last time he was back in Kansas, Koenning, the former three-year starting linebacker and team captain at Kansas State, was stuck. “Probably for an alumni game, when Stan Parrish was coaching,” he said. Following his resignation from the defensive coordinator position at Clemson, Koenning might find himself back in the Little Apple. Koenning, 48, was packing up his family’s home in Clemson, S.C., when he took about 25 minutes to talk about a variety of topics, including the “secret” to attacking the prolific offenses currently populating the Big 12.

1. What happened at Clemson?

I didn’t feel, for what we accomplished… Nine weeks in a row of not allowing 200 yards of passing, four seasons in the top 20 in total defense and the top 16 in scoring defense? For them not to be able to make a commitment to me, I didn’t think that was right. But it’s the new coach’s call, 100 percent, to make his call, and I’m not spiteful. But I would have hoped the administration would have said something… It’s like when you have beautiful roses in the garden. If you have a few weeds, you don’t cut down the rose bushes along with the weeds, too.

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Frank Martin ’08

The Kansas State coach was riding the exercise bike in his office when reached Friday morning. Every day, he alternates between the bike and an elliptical machine for an hour, in case you were curious. Anyway, I figured the perfect way to dust off the “Five” would be to bring back Martin, who was featured Sept. 6, 2007, and is passionate about everything — including his cardio.

1. Some of the fan base has grumbled about the perceived lack of competition in the non-conference schedule. Explain the strategy.

Our schedule is ranked as the 35th-toughest schedule in the nation (Rivals’ pre-season strength of schedule rankings). When we play 16 Big 12 games, that’s 16 better games than everybody but two or three conferences that are competitive with us… When you put games on your schedule, you do so to get on television and to chal-lenge your team. If I was concerned with going 12-0, we wouldn’t play Oakland, Cleveland State and Gardner-Webb. We’d play someone else. Sometimes, the sexy games are difficult to schedule… We’re playing Southern Miss, which is coached by Larry Eustachy, one of the better coaches in country, and he has a point guard who will be in the NBA next year… Last year, Gardner-Webb went into Lexington and beat Kentucky… I know I’m extremely happy with our schedule.

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Clark Kellogg

The CBS studio analyst for March Madness agreed to speak with “K-Stated.” Full disclosure — my dad, B-Mart, has a man-crush on Clark Kellogg. Just sayin’. Anyway, I talked with “Special K,” the former Ohio State and Indiana Pacers star today about a variety of topics, but mostly Kansas State. Enjoy:

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Curtis Malone

Finally tracked down the man, even though he wasn’t hard to find. Mr. Malone, the president of the D.C. Assault, K-State’s favorite AAU curtisorganization, has been at a bunch of home games at Bramlage Coliseum as of late. But I couldn’t catch up with him until Wednesday afternoon, and even then, I wasn’t sure what I should ask him. As fate would have it, I was tracking down something I’d written here on Chris Babb — nothing new there to report, sorry — and I stumbled across a list of questions for Mr. Malone from my pal Sys. So, thanks, Sys. I knew this took a while to happen, but here it is. Don’t say I never did anything for you, and when you speak of me, speak well…

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Bob Lutz

This man is a trip. He kills me. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but I finally asked him. He agreed, and The Eagle’s sports columnist breezed through some questions for his favorite fan base:

1. Why do people get the impression you hate Kansas State? You love KU, don’t you?

Hate? Love? These are very strong emotions. Everybody knows I have no emotion. I simply judge the sports world from a stoic ivory tower and pass down judgments that are, usually, without fault. Can an ivory tower be stoic? Sorry, sometimes my own writing distracts me. Anyway, back to your question. My father whipped me with a purple belt when I was young, so maybe that has something to do with my “hatred.” There were now crimson and blue belts in our house. This is all deeply psychological and, honestly, I’m not comfortable with self-examination. The bottom line is that I’m a sports columnist who writes about my many, many opinions. Everybody has opinions; I get to share mine in a newspaper. I’m sure that annoys people. Hell, it annoys me sometimes. But I have no hatred or love for Kansas State. Ditto for Kansas. And Wichita State. And Delaware State. The only team I have “love” for is the St. Louis Cardinals, and I have a really strong feeling they’re going to test that love this summer. I’m equally loathed by Wichita State fans. And KU fans are just too cool to really care that much about what a columnist in Wichita has to say.

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Ben Martin

His wisdom has grown accordingly with my age, and isn’t that how it usually is between sons and fathers?

Retired and still living in the Vermont house I grew up in, Ben Martin — Benny to some, Dad to me — has been become a Kansas State nut.

God bless him.

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Ulla Pomele

Truth be told, Mr. Pomele wasn’t this week’s first choice for the “Five.” It was supposed to be Brad Underwood, but we’ll do that next week. If you have questions, submit them in the comments below.

Anyway, this is a refreshingly candid yet sort of disturbing “Five” with Pomele, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College who is one of the 19 junior college transfers Kansas State is bringing in or has brought in. Pomele, who is already on campus, is a pleasant, affable kid who, according to his bio, is married. He was a little nervous with so many recorders stuck in his face, but he was honest. Makes you wonder what they sold him on during the recruiting process – besides immediate playing time.

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I GOT FIVE ON IT – Garth Gardiner

He lived in Nashville for five years, attempting to become a country music star. He was an official for women’s basketball in the Jayhawk Conference. There might be a lot more you don’t know about Garth Gardiner, but what is abundantly clear — especially after watching him in action from his court-side seat at Bramlage Coliseum, ranting and raving and causing a commotion — is that he is passionate about Kansas State basketball. He’s passionate about K-State, in general, but let’s be real. “Do I love men’s basketball more than the debate team? Yeah, probably.” With tomorrow’s game against Kansas on deck, Gardiner seemed like the logical choice for this edition of “Five.”

1. How did you become such a rabid basketball fan? How did that all develop?
As a kid, growing up here in western Kansas, I grew up in the (Jack) Hartman era. Rolando (Blackmon), Chuckie (Williams)… We didn’t have a football team then. I was always a basketball fan. I remember playing in my parents’ driveway, doing the play-by-play. I went to Jack’s camp, but I was too slow, too white, and too fat to play. But it was always a dream to play for Jack or K-State… I specifically have a passion for K-State basketball, and it has carried on. Here I am, 40 years old, and some people watch me at games and think I’m an idiot. I think I’m good comic relief for Frank (Martin)… I’ve never seen a win in Manhattan. In 1988, when we went to Elite Eight, we beat KU two out of three times. Everybody kind of assumed we get them again… But in the Elite Eight, the day we lost to them, it was probably the second or third darkest day — when Huggs left, the day we lost to A&M in football and losing to KU in the Elite Eight — of my life as a K-State fan… I love the game of basketball. The last eight years, though, before they hired Huggs, it was absolutely brutal. We accepted mediocrity. Everybody can be mad at Huggs for leaving, but I guarantee he misses K-State basketball more than anyone realizes.

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I GOT FIVE ON IT… Michael Beasley

I billed it to Mrs. Smith as “Family Friday.” Her feature, “Mama Sayz,” went up earlier today and now it’s her son’s turn. A quick disclaimer – it was loud where Mike was talking, and a bunch of his teammates were around. I didn’t take up much of his time, but I don’t think this is going to be the last one we’ll do with him.

Anyway, enjoy:

1. Your mother had a couple of questions. First, she wanted to know what you thought of “Mama Sayz,” and two, she wanted to know if you enjoyed your birthday because, and I quote, “I can’t get a peep put of him unless he needs something.”

Beasley headNo, I don’t read it. I see her every day. Why do I have to read her blog? (laughter) The birthday was cool. I had cake and pizza at her house with the guys. It was cool. I didn’t do too much on my own.

2. Did you like the Sports Illustrated article?

It was real good. I liked it. But it was too long to read (laughter). It was pretty accurate, though. It was definitely who am I, what I’m about and where I’m from.

3. How many serious moments are there in a day of the life of Michael Beasley?

Probably one or two (laughter). Probably on the basketball court. Or when I’m playing video games. If you want to be serious, don’t come to my room.

4. Is college basketball everything you’d think it was going to be?

Yeah. But I don’t like to lose. I’m not mad, though. In high Division I basketball, losing is going to come.

5. Are you really afraid of the dark, as your mother mentioned in one of her earliest blog entries?

Yeah. Bad things happen in the dark.

(BONUS) 6. What are you listening to right now?
(J-Mart note: one group that I couldn’t hear, even after he repeated it several times – there was a lot of background noise). I listen to Jay-Z all day. Lil’ Wayne. And Lauryn Hill.

(BONUS) 7. Players you admire, professional or collegiate?

If I had to say anybody, I’d say (Duke guard) Nolan Smith and Kevin Durant.

(BONUS) 8. So who’s the best college basketball player in the country?

(Laughter) Tyler Hansbrough, I guess. I’ve never played against him. (J-Mart note: Would you like to?) Oh, yeah.

I GOT FIVE ON IT… Matt Figger

This one could have been a feature. This might have been the best “Five” yet. Have to give thanks to Mr. Figger, the first-year Kansas State assistant coach who was a treat to talk to. Great access, great information — it’s a nice combination, the perfect mix for an epic “Five.”

1. How did K-State come about? Did you have a pre-existing relationship with Frank?
Frank and my relationship goes back to when we both used to work the University of Florida camp together. When Billy Donovan got the job there, I got in because I went to school with one of his assistant coaches at the time, Donnie Jones (now at Marshall). Frank and I started working camps and built a relationship. He was a high school coach in Miami, and I was coaching junior college basketball in Vincennes. I moved to Odessa. Frank was coaching an AAU team, and he had a kid that was available late. I signed the kid at Odessa, and that’s how we started working together. I got six of his kids at Miami High. Frank moved to Northeastern, and three of those kids ended up playing at Northeastern. We were two guys who depended on each other… It happens throughout the country. That’s how recruiting is. With every kid in your program, there is a tie with someone who is influential. You can’t find a player in a program where a coach doesn’t have a tie. It’s six degrees of separation… You can check any program in the country and there is some kind of tie. Happens at Florida, at Kentucky, at Duke… When Dalonte was in D.C., he coached the Assault, and he ended up mentoring Mike in the eighth grade. He happened to get a college job, and that’s how this all came about. There’s always a tie with someone.

2. How does a college baseball player end up coaching college basketball?
It’s funny. Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, everyone dreams of playing basketball at Kentucky. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the talent to play college basketball. A childhood friend of mine, who was 24 at the time, ended up playing junior college ball at Wabash Valley in Illinois. I went to all of the games. The head coach, Pat Smith, who later became the head coach at Barton County, noticed I was always around. He asked me what I wanted to do when I got out of college. I said I wanted to be a coach in some capacity, and he said why don’t you come up and join me next year… It wasn’t an easy road. There were so many things to overcome.

My first year at Wabash Valley, I lived in the dorm with the players and drove international students around the campus, six or seven times a say. I started at 6 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. The pay was about $5,000. The No. 2 value meal at McDonald’s was all I ate. I was 24 hours short of my degree when I went up there. I figured this was my only chance. I had gotten things set up for independent study… And I started finishing up when I was coaching there. Then Coach Smith left. He was going to Barton, and he said, “I can’t take you with me — you don’t have a college degree.” So I went to Olney Central, which was about 30 minutes away, doing the same thing. I was painting during the day and I coached basketball in the evening. After about three months, Dan Sparks at Vincennes, told me to come over. I was a tutor — that’s how I got paid — of all things. I got everything done from my first year at Wabash done. But I was still three hours short. There was a three-hour class that never made numbers, kept being dropped. I was a physical education major and the last class was teaching and instructing dance — I didn’t know a thing about it. But it was my third year, in three different places, and I still didn’t have a degree… It was the last semester, and I had to get my degree. From Vincennes, Ind., to Richmond, Ky., is about a 250-mile drive one way. Three times a week, I’d make the drive.

Here’s where the story gets crazy. I was a janitor at Vincennes. I was on campus from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. I’d get in my car — a 1988 Ford Festiva I paid $1,000 for — and drive four hours to Richmond, Ky., which is in a different time zone, for a 10 a.m. class. I’d get back at 7 a.m.  The 1988 Ford Festiva, every 100 miles, it burnt a quart of oil. I’d have to put in a quart every 100 miles. So, I paid my dues, to say the least. I ended up going to Odessa. I was there for three years, and then John (Pelphrey) offered me a job at South Alabama for five years. I told him the story I just told you and he said, “Anyone willing to work that hard can work for me.” And when Frank got the job, I’ve always said I wanted to coach with someone I’m friends with… Here, when the business part ends (at the end of a day), the friendship begins. That’s the most important thing. Nothing is ever personal.

3. How is recruiting junior college kids different than high school kids? Or is it?
Recruiting junior college kids is not as much of a hassle, more to to the point. When you recruit a junior college kid, it’s the coach and the kid. In high school, it’s the AAU coach, and whoever else is giving them advice. In JUCO, the players are swept to the side. They’re the type that doesn’t get the publicity, so they’re humbled. They have to ride in vans, drive to games on gameday… Those kids, to have the opportunity to be recruited by the Big 12.. It’s easier. But when a kid has Big 12 talent, and he’s available late, everyone gets in. So, it’s the cycle all over again.

The thing is, there are probably only 10-12 kids that can truly play and be impact players in the Big 12. Now, way more than that will be signed, but only 10 will have a major impact. They have to be able to adjust to play in the Big 12. Their talent level has to be so good to overcome the adjustment period… I think guards have the easiest transition. It’s not as physical on them. But a 6-foot-8 kid in junior college, he doesn’t get the proper nutrition and conditioning… Physically, a kid at K-State for two years is going to be stronger than a kid who does not have that, especially as a junior coming out of junior college.

4. Who is the best player you coached? What made him the best?
Shawn Marion is obviously the best. What was so great about Shawn, who we got out of Clarksville, Tenn., was that his energy and work ethic was tremendous. But what made Shawn special was that he was a better human being — he was just a good old country kid from Clarksville, Tenn., that grew three inches over the summer. I realized he was a great junior college player. He basically did the same things Mike (Beasley) is doing at the junior college level. The first time I saw he had a chance to be special was when we were working Michael Jordan’s camp. He was playing pick-up with the counselors and against Jordan. This was 1996, 1997, when Jordan was still winning championships. Shawn was lacing them up with him, he was guarding Mike, and he belonged on the court. His sophomore year, every NBA scout wandered into Vincennes. It was all about he and Steve (Francis, who played at Allegheny). There were three junior college kids taken in the top 12 of the NBA Draft that year, Francis was second and Shawn was No. 9. It has never happened since. Since then, prep schools have taken over, and the landscape has changed dramatically… Shawn was probably the best player I ever coached, and Mike has some of those same attributes. I think Mike is a tremendous kid. He’s a happy-go-lucky kid, a great teammate, and there is no selfish bone in his body. He’s not a finger-pointer, and he can handle coaching.

5. Where is Matt Figger in five years? Ten years? What are your career goals?
Obviously, I’d like the opportunity to be a head coach. But it’s not something I sit and dwell on. I’ve been fortunate to get to this spot. I don’t think about ever taking a step back. If there is an opportunity (to be a head coach), it would be a career goal of mine. if someone told me five years from now I’d still be at Kansas State, I’d be fine with that. Because if I’m still here, that means we’re doing something right.

(BONUS) 6. In your estimation, can Kansas State basketball be a power once again?
It starts with the administration. With (K-State president Jon) Wefald. I’ve not been all over the world, but there is no president in this country more committed to having great athletics than Jon Wefald… 17,500 in the Sprint Center? That rivals programs like Kentucky or North Carolina. Only Kentucky can play in some other venue and sell the place out… The fan support, commitment, everything is here. It’s our job to continue to grow, and we have to hit on the things that are positive. I know every kid that we have brought in for a visit has been impressed by all of the passion and purple… Our fans are some of the most passionate in the country. They’re as big of a part of the game as the players are. In my opinion, if you’re a true basketball person, why wouldn’t you want to come to Kansas State?