COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Frank Martin isn’t surprised by allegations of corruption in college basketball, though he was stunned one of his friends and former assistants is among the 10 arrested in the national federal investigation of the sport.
“Any coach in this business that tries to act like there weren’t some shenanigans going on the way it was reported, they’re not being honest with you,” Martin said.
Martin spoke for the first time Thursday since Lamont Evans was among those charged with corruption and bribery last month. Evans and three assistants at other schools, along with an Adidas executive and five others were charged by the Department of Justice. Evans worked with Martin at Kansas State and later at South Carolina.
The fallout from the arrests have led to Louisville coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich being put on administrative leave, the firing of Evans at Oklahoma State and Auburn offering to refund season ticket buyers after assistant Chuck Person was arrested.
Martin didn’t provide details about what shenanigans he was referring to and when asked why if he suspected illegal practices were going at other schools he did not report them to the NCAA, he indicated it wasn’t his responsibility.
“There’s no snitching within your family,” Martin responded.
Martin explained that if a coach is willing to risk his career to get involved with shoe companies and agents to lure players with NBA potential, “do what you’ve got do, man,” he said.
Martin said neither he nor South Carolina are targets of the federal inquiry, though the university has launched an internal investigation and plans to hire a third party to conduct another.
The Gamcocks coach defended himself against accusations he should have known what Evans was doing since he gave Evans his first basketball job at K-State in 2008 and brought him to South Carolina to coach with him until 2014.
“I have not worked so hard to overcome the odds, to obtain the job and the trust of the people who have employed me to circumvent it for a couple of dollars,” said Martin, whose rise from a bar bouncer, to a Florida high school coach and into one of college basketball’s hottest coaches was widely chronicled last season as South Carolina went to its first Final Four.
“It’s one of my guys and it’s not one of my guys under my umbrella,” Martin said. “It’s like the child who makes mistakes at college while they’re away and not while living at my house. That’s what’s frustrating.”
Martin also said college basketball coaches know there are problems in the sport, including the NBA’s one-and-done rule, but added there isn’t enough talk how to solve them.
“I think kids should have the right to declare out of high school for the NBA,” Martin said. “And if they want to take money from a shoe company, an agent, whatever, do it above board, do it the right way. Go be a pro.”
Martin offered a solution for those top-flight players going to college, suggesting the sport pay players whether from income generated in jersey sales, from a player’s likeness or some other stream of revenue. He said after a player graduates, maybe they should get 30 percent of that money, 30 percent should go to the school, 30 percent to the apparel or shoe company and 10 percent to charity.
When asked about an unidentified player in court papers, Martin said he didn’t know who it was.
The coach said neither he nor the university is trying to shield a player or withhold information when it comes to which South Carolina player was named in court papers as “Player-3.” Documents state that Evans told an agent and a financial adviser if “Player 3” was paid, they would get him as a client along with five more similar players.
“If we were being investigated, I’d have that answer for you,” Martin said.
Martin said he was especially heartbroken when learning of Evans’ arrest on Sept. 26 because he tries to know everything about his program and he feels like he was betrayed by a family member. He said he hasn’t spoken to Evans since his arrest.
“I’m not ready for that day with Lamont right now,” Martin said.
“I’m sure I could speak to him through third parties, but I’m not doing that.”
Evans’ ties to Martin has led to the several inquiries if South Carolina was directly connected to the scandal: Evans joined Martin with the Gamecocks in 2012 after working for him at K-State.
Evans left South Carolina to join another of Martin’s ex-assistants in Brad Underwood at Oklahoma State in 2016.
Evans remained on the Cowboys staff after Underwood took the job at Illinois this past March. Evans was retained by former South Carolina guard Michael Boynton, who also coached on Martin’s early staff with the Gamecocks.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner did an internal investigation after Evans arrest and found that no past or current staffers at South Carolina are part of investigation. But he wants a more exhaustive investigation done by an outside party in coordination with the Justice Department and the NCAA.