Quick. Which SEC coach is the biggest jerk: Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema or South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin?
To be honest, those two are really the only coaches in the running. Both have said/done things just in the last few weeks that have embarrassed themselves and their universities. Neither has won games as expected (though it’s still very early in their tenures). So who ya got? Bielema or Martin?
The Razorbacks’ coach has garnered more press. Dating back a full year prior to his joining the SEC, he stated publicly that the Big Ten — where he was coaching Wisconsin at the time — wanted to be nothing like the league he currently represents. Soon after arriving in Fayetteville he “joked” about having a better Big Ten record than Alabama’s Nick Saban had had while he coached Michigan State. We suspected he’d make some noise at SEC Media Days… and he did. His temper flared when someone fed him a quote from Auburn’s Gus Malzhan that Bielema took personally. There was Swinging Gate-Gate, in which he violated an SEC rule by talking about an alleged Auburn rule violation. Later he complained about “the location of some of these (SEC) universities and the towns around them” while hotel-hunting prior to the Hogs’ trip to Ole Miss.
Making matters worse, Bielema’s first Arkansas team went belly-up. The roster he inherited wasn’t built for the style of play he prefers and it showed. UA went winless in league play for the first time in decades and set a school record by losing its last nine games. Congratulations. We wondered by mid-November if Bielema could be labeled a fish out of water in the SEC. That was before a lackluster signing day and his latest remarks regarding no-huddle, hurry-up offenses. Back on February 20th when he was asked about evidence of increased injuries he responded: “I’m not talking about injuries, I’m talking about death.” That was in reference to California’s Ted Agu who had died on a conditioning run in early February. Cal’s AD immediately called Bielema’s comments “misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insentive.”
So just how bad has Bielema bungled things in his short Arkansas tenure? SI.com’s Stewart Mandel put it this way last month: “With Lane Kiffin now muzzled as a member of Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama, Bielema is well on his way to replacing him as college football’s most reviled figure.”
Now Martin at South Carolina doesn’t have a resume of missteps that long and he’s actually nearing the end of his second season in the SEC. But his offenses — depending on your point of view — are nastier than Bielema’s. Carolina’s coach appears to be this generation’s Bobby Knight, minus the chair-tossing and player-choking. (That said, would anyone be surprised if a cell phone video of a Martin practice someday leaked out and revealed that he’d strong-armed a player or two?)
Last February, Carolina’s coach — who routinely berates his team and his players during games — said after an 18-point loss to LSU:
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years, nine of which as a junior varsity high school coach. That means I’ve dealt with 14-year-olds. I’ve never been more embarrassed to call myself a basketball coach than I am today…
If this was the NBA, we’d fine (the players), we’d take their money, we’d release them and say, ‘Good luck with ever finding another job.’ I shouldn’t coach basketball ever again if this is how my team plays.”
When those quotes went viral and led many to say he’d thrown his team under the bus, Martin laughably responded with this beaut:
“If you know anything about me, for 28 years I have never thrown my players under the bus. I threw the culture under the bus. I threw our approach under the bus. Don’t ever say I threw my players under the bus.”
We’ll allow you to re-read that first quote and then decide for yourself if Martin was throwing his players or USC’s culture under the proverbial bus.
Fast-forward to January 22nd when this site wrote a story headlined: “Martin Apologizes For Rant At Player (And It’s Unlikely To Be The Last Time We Write That).” At that time, Carolina’s coach had ripped into senior guard Brenton Williams during a loss to Ole Miss. Fast-forward to Tuesday of this week and our parenthetical proved true:
That was Martin unleashing a flurry of profanities at his team, specifically freshman guard Duane Notice. His Gamecocks dropped the game to top-ranked Florida, but the blow-up from the coach became the key takeaway. And now Martin himself has been taken away… suspended for one game by South Carolina AD Ray Tanner, himself an ex-coach. “The one-game suspension is a result of inappropriate verbal communication as it relates to the well-being of our student-athletes,” Tanner said in a press release.
One can’t seem to ever say the right thing. One can’t seem to ever stop ripping his players and team. And making matters worse for Misters Bielema and Martin is the fact that neither is winning.
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