Saturday showed the Chuck Martin the 2019 Miami RedHawks need.
At his postgame press conference, he got choked up. He says he’s proud of his RedHawks after every win. Martin’s words often feel empty, like a point he’s mandated to make.
He was vulnerable and said he loved his players.
After he regained his composure, Martin smiled through much of the next 15 minutes.
He sounded inspirational when he described his team’s mindset as it climbed out of a 14-3 second-quarter hole.
He laughed at dumb questions — you can guess which reporter asked one.
He praised the fans in attendance for bringing some energy instead of calling them “idiots.”
Most importantly, he didn’t offer excuses.
Fifteen days ago, Martin provided the media a viral quote ahead of his team’s matchup with Ohio State.
“It’s kind of like going to recess, and they have the first 85 picks,” he said of the Buckeyes.
He had also used a paraphrased version of the same sentence two years ago when his team traveled to Notre Dame.
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No one noticed the first time he said it, but two weeks ago, oof, it was not pretty.
Fans were mad, Miami students made t-shirts featuring the quote and Martin’s own players liked tweets criticizing his words.
It looked bad, almost as if he was writing his team off for an embarrassing loss five days before actually playing the game.
Was he factually wrong? That’s a question for another column, but the final score was 76-5.
Was he mentally wrong for saying it? Let’s just say it’s something that never would have left the mouth of Miami men’s basketball coach Jack Owens, someone known to give stereotypically bland coach answers but always back his players.
But Martin was different last Saturday.
In his press conference, he gave nothing but positive soundbites. He verbally put himself in the trenches with his team instead of commanding it from above.
In the game, he gave Miami its best chance to win.
After a three-and-out on their opening drive, the RedHawks went back to what made them successful in the first quarter at Ohio State.
Martin and his staff’s play-calling is often questioned. Last weekend against Buffalo, they turned past the first page of the playbook and sifted through the whole thing. Apparently, they found a few gems.
Speed options, jet sweeps, play-actions, wide receiver passes and more.
Some worked and some didn’t, but it gave his team a boost of momentum and an aura of unpredictability. Even with Miami’s passing game struggling, its offense didn’t turn to two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football like it did the last three quarters at Ohio State.
For one week, Martin’s adjustments, both on the field and off, should be applauded. His team responded. He and his players earned a victory they so desperately needed. A 1-4 start would’ve been crippling — 2-3 isn’t too shabby.
Another rebounding run through the Mid-American Conference could be in order.
Martin just has to be who he was Saturday. Hopefully, his team follows suit.