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In wake of Rick Pitino news, don’t be surprised to see Frank Martin on Louisville’s short list

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Will it happen? Probably not. But Louisville could do a lot worse.

South Carolina v Gonzaga Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The University of Louisville struck quickly in the wake of FBI fraud allegations stating that the program paid over $100,000 to the family of five-star recruit Brian Bowen to essentially buy his commitment. Head coach Rick Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich have been fired have been placed on leave but probably will be fired as a result, potentially leaving one of college basketball’s blue bloods without a head coach. Louisville will almost assuredly have an assistant lead the program on an interim basis while it prepares to search for Pitino’s full time replacement.

We likely won’t know many of the details of the search until late spring, but if Frank Martin is on the short list, it shouldn’t come as a shock. Consider:

  • Martin took the reins from Bob Huggins at Kansas State and went to four NCAA tournaments in five years. His most memorable year was 2009-10, when he led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. Here in Columbia, he had more of a hill to climb after the failure of Darrin Horn, culminating in the Gamecocks’ historic Final Four appearance this past season.
  • The hard, no-nonsense, red-faced coach you see on TV is nothing like the man away from the court. Players who have been mentored by Martin almost unequivocally state how much they love playing for him and how he served as a father figure for them. He’s an engaging interview who pulls no punches and doesn’t resort to “coach speak” that you hear from most everyone else.
  • He can bring out the best in his players. Who had South Carolina as a Final Four team at the beginning of last year? The list of players that haven’t gotten significantly better under Martin’s tutelage is incredibly short. When you’re able to lure four- or five-star recruits to your school on a consistent basis, that’s fine, but what about at places like South Carolina that aren’t “sexy” destinations? Martin’s player development skills could be another reason for the Cardinals to give him a look.

Now, will Frank Martin end up at Louisville for sure? I’m not sure. Even if the NCAA doesn’t hand down the death penalty to the program - the ramifications of such a move would all but wipe Cardinals basketball off the map - the sheer chance that they might could be enough scare potential names away. Also, with Lamont Evans shown as being involved during his time at South Carolina, that could be a sticking point. Another situation to watch is the one down in Miami, where it’s likely that the Hurricanes have been involved in similar practices that Louisville has undertaken. If Jim Larranaga ends up a casualty, would the Miami boosters and athletic department be willing to write a sizable check to bring Martin home?

Again, this is all speculation. But if Louisville ends up having a chat with Martin come spring, don’t be shocked.