KState-Bama coaches former high school teammates
Frank Martin and Anthony Grant aren't happy about coaching against each other.
``I've got no interest in playing against him,'' No. 17 Kansas State's Martin said.
``I don't look forward to that,'' Alabama's Grant said.
Sorry, guys. The two former high school teammates and longtime friends will lead their teams against each other Saturday night at the Coors Classic at South Alabama in Mobile in a game that was scheduled before Grant took over the Crimson Tide.
``If he would have been the coach at Alabama, we never would have signed,'' Martin said. ``They wouldn't have signed it and we wouldn't have signed it. I don't enjoy playing friends. I like winning too much. If we lose, I'm (angry). When we win and I know my guy on the other sideline didn't find success that night, then I (feel) pain for him. It's a no-win situation for me, so I don't enjoy it.''
This one especially brings mixed feelings. Grant and Martin have known each other since they were 10th-graders in the same English class at Miami Senior High School in 1981.
They played together and eventually became co-workers at their alma mater from 1987-92. Grant is even godfather to Martin's oldest son Brandon.
``My son was born on the same day as a child that he and his wife lost, one that had the same name,'' Martin said. ``He's always been the person I've relied on because he's so levelheaded. He's so good at making decisions. He's always been, since we were kids, the person that I've relied on as a voice of reason.''
He called him to discuss the prospect of taking over at Kansas State three years ago after Bob Huggins left for West Virginia. Grant, who was in his first head job at Virginia Commonwealth at the time, said he mainly tried to give him advice on how to prep for the interview process.
``If I remember correctly, Frank's initial thought was that he would be going with coach Huggins,'' Grant said.
Kansas State (9-1) is happy he didn't. The Wildcats are coming off 15-point victories over Xavier and UNLV and off to their best start since 2004-05 in his third season.
Grant and Alabama (7-3) are facing their third game against a ranked team, having beaten then-No. 15 Michigan and blowing a 16-point lead in a loss to No. 4 Purdue.
The first game Saturday pits UAB against South Alabama.
The timing of Alabama-Kansas State is awkward, since this is the first meeting since 1994 and second all-time.
The two old friends are fire and ice in terms of personalities, but they share the competitiveness that helps explain why neither are comfortable with this game.
``We're different in the sense that I'm loud and obnoxious and he's quiet and reserved, but we both have the same burning fire inside of us,'' Martin said.
The businesslike Grant and others used to sneak into the locker room showers to eavesdrop on Martin's tirades as the high school's junior varsity head coach. He says Martin ``was known to be volatile.''
``It did make for some good laughs,'' Grant said. ``He's a really intense guy. He's always been that way. His players respond.''
Another difference: ``He was just a good player and I was a bad player,'' Martin said.
Their backgrounds are somewhat different. Martin was raised by his mother, who Grant calls ``as sweet as they come.''
``He had two hardworking parents who worked their hearts out to provide him and his brothers the opportunity to get a good education,'' Martin said. ``He's family oriented. That's why he's as close to me as anyone out there and that's why he's my son's godfather. I know the values and the principles that he lives his life by.''