Why this coaching hire is so important to the younger generation of fans
As a member of the “younger generation”, I have seen the ultimate highs and lows of Kansas State basketball. I remember not even paying attention to the team as a young kid in the Kansas City area when Jim Woolridge was in charge. It was easy to just ignore it when the losses were rampant and ongoing. So, like many fans my age, most of whom are finishing college or just starting their young adult lives, K-State basketball didn’t exist until a certain coach by the name of Bob Huggin came to town.
Even then, though they made improvements and Huggins and his all-star lineup of assistant coaches recruited future K-State legends like Michael Beasley, Bill Walkerand Jacob Pullen for the following season, the roster he inherited was still on the outside. In his only season in Manhattan, his team failed to make the NCAA Tournament. While many K-State fans and media widely acknowledge that this is the first season where K-State finally turned things around, many young fans like me wouldn’t have gotten their first taste of what would truly be K-State basketball lore until Bob Huggin returned home to West Virginia and in the process directed K-State to a fiery Miami-born young man by the name of Frank Martin.
Martin would take over, convincing Walker, who had worn a redshirt the previous season due to injury, to stay. He also convinced the nation’s number one rookie, Beasley, to come to the Little Apple, as he did with Pullen.
My first vivid memory of K-State basketball would be the memory that cemented my childhood fandom. That memory dates back to 2008 when Martin and company knocked out KU at home in Bramlage Coliseum to end the streak. After 20 years of programs going in opposite directions, Kansas State had finally eliminated the Jayhawks and in doing so welcomed a whole new generation of fans while officially reviving the old and proud tradition that is basketball. of Kansas State.
Frank Martin continued his success for five years before former athletic director John Curries chased him away and took him in Bruce Weber. Although Martin never won a conference title, he won more than 20 games in Manhattan’s five seasons and appeared in the NCAA Tournament four out of five seasons. This success would relaunch the program and gain full buy-in from everyone, including young fans who would grow up idolizing guys like Pullen, Thomas Gipson, DJ Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Curtis Kelly, Jordan Henriquezand Denis Clement among many others.
After Martin’s departure and Weber’s hiring, much of the fan base was divided over the decision. Kicking out a coach as highly regarded as Martin was not a popular decision, and hiring Weber after being fired from Illinois was even less appreciated. The younger generation, many of whom were now in high school, stayed the course. Winning was all that mattered and if Weber could do that, he could retain the support of a group of fans who had grown accustomed to winning but never really understood the history of the program.
In the early years, Weber would win a Big 12 championship and compete in the NCAA Tournament, but after a meltdown he missed the tournament for two straight years and barely made it the following year. While many fans clamored for his firing, young fans persisted, confident that next year would be the year K-State would once again become the dominant program they had seen for seven years after Huggins’ departure. After all, can you blame them? Winning is all they knew.
Their patience was rewarded because Bruce Weber struck gold with dean wade, Barry Brownand Kamau Stokes. This group would go on to make an Elite 8 race and win another Big 12 championship. Those original fans who hated Weber’s hire and hated it even more after the first meltdown had no choice but to be all -in now. Weber had most, if not all, of the fan support, especially that “young” group of fans who were now classmates and friends with many of the players Weber recruited to bring K-State back to national prominence. This younger generation who had seen Beasley and Pullen as children now considered the legends of Wade and Brown to be the mainstays of K-State basketball and they were 100% invested.
However, as it happened the first time, the good would end. Three straight years of mediocre basketball putting Bruce Weber on the chopping block and now Kansas State is looking for a new head coach. After those long and hard three seasons, many fans decided to refuel and move on. Not this younger generation though. Many of those fans still came to Bramlage every night, anticipating disappointment but still cheering on their team because they remembered the not so distant past. They remembered the good times and how they felt. They said “if this team gets hot, watch out”, even though they knew the likelihood of that happening was slim to none. This optimism was present in all of their fandoms. But, for many, this season was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Student attendance was down, and it became painfully clear that K-State basketball was in decline. The hope was still there, but many of those same fans who supported Weber after his first meltdown knew a change was needed. While the fanbase is now in full agreement that a change is due, some fans who watched K-State hire Tom Asbury and Jim Woolridge know that this program could easily go in the wrong direction. But for young fans, those who saw Martin get hired, who saw Weber have immediate success, this hire is so important.
It’s a chance to bring in those young fans who may now have young families to redeem. It’s a chance to make an impression on another young group of fans who have only seen K-State wrestling. This hiring of a new basketball coach is more than just trying to win basketball games. This is a chance to revitalize the university and send it on an upward trajectory where the past will be just that, the past.
With a solid player to build around Pack Nijel, the new coach has an All Big 12 guard to build. One of the best players to come through K-State since the aforementioned Beasleys, Pullens and Browns, Pack can serve as a bridge to the next generation of winners. While the Transfer Portal and NIL change everything, having a fundamental piece like Pack can help turn K-State into a winner much faster than some might think. For younger fans, Pack is Pullen and he’s just waiting for a solid coach and surrounding cast. Getting the right parts is the next step, but finding the right trainer is the first challenge.
Finding the “right guy” is a lot easier said than done, there’s no doubt. But, this young group of fans just wants a winner. They want a leader. K-State has the opportunity to do the right thing and bring in someone who can change the course of the program once again, but if they don’t they will lose another generation of fans, one that has seen nothing but success in K-State basketball. This hiring is extremely important and, as a wise man who rebuilt the University from the ground up once said, “not to be taken lightly.”