"In a way, it's harder to do that than what we do here. All were competing against each other for D-I scholarships. But he had absolute control. They played as a team. They played the right way. And they had a great time."
"Hugs never got one of my players, even though he tried," Martin recalled. "Yet he gave me my break in this business."
Huggins actually helped Martin twice. Back in 2000, Martin was on the Northeastern staff under Rudy Keeling, who was subsequently dismissed. Now-Duquesne coach Ronnie Everhart the took over the Huskies in 2002.
"When Ronnie got that job, I told him he should hang on to Frank," Huggins said.
"He went to bat for me," Martin said. "He tried to convince Ronnie to keep me."
Everhart did and the pair had success, recruiting and coaching the likes of Dallas Maverick world champ J.J. Barea before Huggins broke up the band by calling Martin to work for him at Cincinnati. After Huggins was dismissed at UC, Martin stayed to work for Andy Kennedy - until Huggins landed the gig at K-State and called again in 2006.
The rest is Wildcat history. Huggins provided the spark before leaving for Morgantown. Martin landed his current job and the team flourished.
"[Huggins] fought like heck to get the [K-State] administration to hire me," Martin said. "Then, knowing we had [Michael] Beasley, [Bill] Walker and [Jacob] Pullen, he could have said, 'Hey, let's all go together to West Virginia.' That's what 99 percent of the coaches out there today would have done.
"But that's not what he did. He made sure all of our staff stayed in place. He didn't try to take the players.
"That's what people don't understand. That's what people don't know. He doesn't fit the persona the media tries to paint. He's the best human being in this business."
And, without question, Huggins is Martin's mentor.
"He's my sounding board," Martin said. "He's my voice I go to when I need to make a decision. I'm grateful the Good Man upstairs put him in my life."
Martin says he considers Huggins family, along with Everhart and Kennedy. "That's our little nucleus," said the K-State coach.
"We became friends through basketball," Martin said, "and because of basketball, we became family."
So, yes, Thursday's game will be an important non-conference matchup for the teams. It will be a return to Kansas for Huggins.
But understand this one also has family ties.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.