Kirk Martin admits he wasn’t all that knowledgeable about the sports he coached after graduating from Cedarville University in 1976 and taking a teaching job at Miami View in the Southeastern school district.
But no matter the season, no matter the level, Martin jumped in — coaching three teams a year for 10 years.
He was compelled by his love for kids and a passion for sports, though he had other motivations.
“I got into coaching because my wife needed a refrigerator,” Martin said with a chuckle.
“Honestly, that was part of it. In teaching, you just need money periodically, and we were young and needed things.”
Those early years not only ensured that Vicki Martin would have updated appliances, but they also were a springboard to one of the more successful basketball coaching careers in Miami Valley history.
After going 297-34 in 13 years with the Southeastern varsity girls, capturing a Division IV state title and finishing as runner-up twice, Martin was hired at his alma mater and built a downtrodden program into a Division II power.
He is 358-100 in 14 years at Cedarville, including two NAIA national runner-up finishes, seven conference championships and an NCCAA national title.
Martin, who announced Wednesday he will retire after the upcoming season, has reached 20 wins 12 times. Before him, the Yellow Jackets topped 20 victories twice.
Cedarville has already picked his successor: former player and longtime assistant Kari Hoffman.
“Our desire is to be a nationally renowned program that can represent Christ the right way. That’s a great platform for us. And we’re close,” said Martin, who turns 62 later this year.
“But if you know me well enough, you know I worry about doing things right and doing the best I can. I haven’t enjoyed a Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or my wife’s birthday as well as possible. I’m interested in seeing what that looks like without feeling that pressure.”
The head-spinning victory totals couldn’t have come without top talent, of course, but his former players say his passion and character spurred them to greater heights.
“I think of him as the ultimate motivator,” said Carrie Ferguson-Henry, a Southeastern star in the early 1990s. “When I look back at my years in high school, most of my favorite memories involve him. … We always felt he cared about us as people and not just players.”
Stephanie Stewart-Zinger, the star point guard on the state title team, believes Martin has an innate gift for getting players to respond to him. And he isn’t afraid to get in their faces.
“My freshman year, he said, ‘Stephanie, throw the ball to the people in red (fellow Trojans). People questioned me starting a freshman, and then you play like that.’ But then after the game, he said, ‘I really gave it to you, and you didn’t cry. That showed me strength.’
“I got that honesty from him, but then it turned into something afterward that I felt good about, which is a gift.”
Kayla Jenerette, who played at Cedarville from 2010-14, says Martin’s exhaustive scouting reports always gave her teams an edge.
“I loved playing for him. He knew what he was talking about. He executed it well,” she said. “He built us up, but he had constructive criticism when we needed to be better. He always pointed us to Christ. He’d say, ‘We play for one person, and that’s to glorify God.’ “
Martin’s teams at Southeastern won 162 consecutive Kenton Trace Conference games and 11 league titles.
From 2004-06, he led Cedarville to 72 straight American Mideast Conference wins.
“I’ve had an opportunity to travel with him and see the way he and his staff interact with the kids,” said Cedarville athletic director Dr. Alan Geist. “We all love to win — and he’s done his share of that — but the team members are very successful in the classroom. They love the Lord. They do everything to fulfill our mission here.
“Yes, it’s tough to have someone leave who’s been successful on the court or on the field, but because there’s so much more to him, there’s a much bigger void we’re going to be feeling.”
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