Several former University of Cincinnati basketball players have spoken, and there is consensus that longtime West Virginia assistant and former UC teammate Erik Martin should be the program’s next head coach.
After just two seasons in Cincinnati, men’s basketball coach John Brannen was relieved of his duties with immediate effect on Friday, UC Athletics Director John Cunningham announced after the university found six unspecified allegations related to Brannen and by Brannen’s players had checked the men’s basketball program entered the transfer portal.
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Brannen’s resignation sparked reactions everywhere as fans called for former Bearcats point guard and longtime NBA player and assistant coach Nick Van Exel to take the reins.
Former UC players have a different plan in mind.
“Nick is working on his graduation. As a Bearcats alumni, we’re sponsoring Erik Martin,” color analyst and former UC player Terry Nelson told The Enquirer. “Erik will hire Nick to work so that he can finish his studies by the summer and help with recruiting and all other day-to-day operations.”
Nelson, who together with Martin and Van Exel led the Bearcats to the Final Four in 1992 under the then UC coach Bob Huggins and to the Elite Eight in 1993, was formerly director of the C-Club, the alumni of the University of Cincinnati group consisting of former students Athletes. Nelson was also the head of basketball alumni.
James White, who played for the Bearcats from 2003 to 2006 before moving to second round in the 2006 NBA Draft, also assisted Martin as Cincinnati’s next men’s basketball coach.
“I like Erik,” said White, who now trains and coaches the high school and Division I basketball players. “He’s been out and about a lot when I was there. He has a passion to make the Bearcats what we were. He’ll take care of the players and the school. I want someone to be part of the Bearcat story gets the job. I know they’ll care more than anyone. “
Martin, who has spent the past 15 seasons as an assistant at Huggins, the most successful male basketball coach in UC history, said it would be a “dream” to come back and train at his alma mater.
“To get the chance to train at Cincinnati, what can I say? You can’t put it into words,” said 49-year-old Martin. “I wasn’t a head coach before, but I learned from a Hall of Famer and spent enough time with him, and he talked about some of the things that are challenging at Cincinnati. I’m looking forward to the opportunity, too have to be the guy running the university. “
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Huggins, one of six coaches in Division I basketball history with 900 career wins, spent 16 seasons in Cincinnati before breaking up in August 2005 after a drunk driving arrest and conviction in 2004 and a rift with then UC President Nancy Zimpher was forced to resign.
Martin was Cincinnati’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer (only behind Van Exel) in the 1992–93 season. The 6-foot-7 forward was one of the first players Huggins hired at UC to ensure the toughness that has become the long-standing mark of the Bearcats program.
After holding positions as an assistant at the Jacobs Center and at the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Martin joined Huggins in Kansas State in 2006. Martin followed Huggins to West Virginia the following season, where Martin was also responsible for post-game mountaineering development, assisting with game scouting, recruiting, fundraising and community outreach.
During his time in Morgantown, West Virginia, Martin continued to recruit from the Cincinnati area. Martin helped the climbers land the former Moeller High School standout Miles McBride. The 6-foot-2 sophomore security guard recently signed up for the 2021 NBA draft after averaging 15.8 points, 4.9 assists, 1.9 steals and All-Big 12 second-team honors had received. McBride had 30 points, six rebounds and six assists against Morehead State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“I’m still very attached to Cincinnati,” said Martin. “Great city, great university. What you’ve done to the campus since I left is amazing. I hardly recognize it when I come back. It would be an honor to call this place home again.”
Cunningham said the university will “work quickly but sensibly to find a new head coach”.
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