By Alan Brads
Kirk Martin, former head coach of Cedarville’s women’s basketball team, earned a nomination as an inductee to the Ohio basketball Hall of Fame.
He will officailly join legendary Cedarville figures like Don Callan and Maryalyce Jeremiah as members of the Buckeye state’s hall of fame in April, 2024.
Martin led the Lady Jackets from 2001-2016, but he had already made a name for himself at Southeastern High School, just 11 miles northeast of Cedarville.
As a head coach, Martin really only did one thing: win. He stacked up 380 career wins at Cedarville and took the team to two NAIA division II championship games. He averaged 25 wins per season, a mark no other Cedarville women’s coach has attained in even a single season.
Perhaps most impressively, he led Southeastern to a 162-game conference winning streak, and Cedarville to a 72-game conference winning streak.
“It indicated a commitment by my players to the idea that we are gonna do things right every night,” Martin said.
How did he sustain such success at two schools?
“We kept it simple,” Martin said. “We’re gonna outwork you, we’re gonna run, we’re gonna run, we’re gonna take quality shots and we’re gonna rebound the basketball.”
Martin coached old-school ball, developing post players that practiced carefully rehearsed back-to-the-basket post moves. He laughs about his refusal to change with the times, but it wasn’t broke, so he didn’t fix it.
Simple but effective philosophies like that win basketball games at any program, but only if the players buy what the coach is selling. Some would say that’s out of the coach’s hands, but Martin found a way.
“I believe every player knew I cared about them,” Martin said. And therefore they trusted that what I was asking them to do would get us to our end point.”
Building that trust in college proved far more difficult a task than it ever was in his small-town high school career.
“There’s a little more trust in a high school team,” Martin said. “There’s more trust from a player who grew up down the street from me than a young woman who never met me until she was a college student.”
But no matter how challenging it was to start late, Martin had to build those relationships if his players were going to buy into him and his system.
“I felt like in four years’ time I’d developed relationships with my Cedarville players that matched the relationships I had with high school kids,” Martin said.
After building effective bonds with his players he still had to convince them to buy into his philosophy. He chose to do so with an all or nothing approach. He determined Cedarville women’s basketball players would behave as team because they belonged to the team.
Every detail mattered to him, from what his players wore on the bus to how they stood for the national anthem.
“I had expectations of silly things for them to follow because it teaches team, and teaches that we’re in this together,” Martin said.
He did everything he could to get his players to buy in, but still takes as little credit for it as possible.
“Lots of coaches can ask for that stuff,” Martin said. “If you don’t have players that want to buy in it’s not gonna work. God gave us kids that wanted to buy in.”
His players point some credit back to him.
“He had a really impressive way of making the young women on the team want to run through a wall for him,” said Kari (Flunker) Hoffman, who played under him for four years and assistant coached on his staff for another six years.
“He had high expectations for us,” Hoffman said. “You will be in chapel every day and you won’t be in the back row. You will go to church on Sundays.”
Like any other sport, the best coaches develop coaching trees, a network of assistant coaches that have success long after their legendary predecessors retire. Martin and Hoffman have that relationship.
Hoffman took over as head coach when Martin hung up the whistle, and did so well in her five years coaching Cedarville that she moved on to coach Division I Wright State.
Martin always believed in Hoffman. He believed in her enough to fly to northern Wisconsin for a recruiting visit on a dinky plane sketchy enough to make him so sick he threw up in her front yard. He believed in her enough to ask her to join his coaching staff the year after she graduated. And he believed in her enough to hand her the keys of the program he gave a legendary status.
“I didn’t really have a choice,” Hoffman said with a laugh. “He primed me for that and talked in that direction for a couple years before he retired. He convinced me that I was the person for the job.”
Hoffman learned from Martin, it would be impossible to spend 10 years with a hall of fame coach and not learn. One thing she learned was when to push her players to their limits, and when to keep things fun.
Just when Martin’s players expected a tough conditioning practice, he would declare they could forego basketball in favor of whiffle ball and ice cream, a tradition that lives on through Hoffman’s teams.
“He had a way of relating to us, it was just easy to get behind him,” Hoffman said. “There’s not too many male coaches who have that ability to relate to college age women and then get them to play hard for them. He had a really good balance of caring about us, keeping boundaries, but also pushing us to great lengths to get the best out of us.”
When he made the jump to the college level some things remained as constant as ever.
Martin ran many of the same plays under the same names he ran at Southeastern, perfectly recognizable for Southeastern fans in the stands watching their old coach.
“I loved my time at Cedarville trying to figure out what my limits were as far as a coach and how good I was or wasn’t.”
As it turned out, his high school wins were more than a product of a program led by another hall of famer, Gary Bradds. Martin was just that good.
“I came to Cedarville and had no desire to go anywhere else,” Martin said.
Given his love for daily chapel and Jasper Hills golf course, he could never find a reason compelling enough to leave.
But when the time came, he didn’t hesitate to leave the office and never come back.
“Kari was ready,” Martin said. “And I have a golf course that needs me.”
Alan Brads is a senior journalism student and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums, speaking Spanish and watching Buckeye football like his life depends on it.
Photos by Scott Huck