GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mr. Martin, the former high school math teacher, took the place of Frank Martin, the head coach of South Carolina, for just a few minutes at Thursday’s press conference for the Final Four.
Asked about the pressure he and his team are facing in their first experience in a national semifinal, Martin said that this — the stadium, the lights, the attention — is nothing.
“I’m not one of those guys that believes in pressure when you’re playing the game,” he said. “I said this a long time ago and I’ll say it again: You know what pressure is? Thirty-five students, 27 desks, 188 textbooks, 180 days. You’ve got to educate every single kid in that classroom for 180 days. That’s pressure.”
Martin hasn’t had to teach a class like that for a very long time, but in a way he never left.
“I’m an educator,” he said. “My job is not to pay attention to the scoreboard. My job is to help young people that are put in front of me so I can help them become better human beings in life, to help them understand.”
To that point, Martin said he told the team to focus not on it’s opponent on Saturday, Gonzaga, but on itself.
“I said ‘Don’t be the guy that doesn’t do their job to prevent us from having an opportunity of staying here until Monday night,” he said. “Focus in on doing your job. And at the end of the day if our job is not good enough, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. But we’re not playing the arena. We’re not playing the tournament. We’re not playing the Final Four. We’re playing Gonzaga.”
So no, there is no pressure.
“Maybe I’m too dumb to understand what pressure is in sports,” he said. “I get it. We’re playing a real good team. We’re playing on the biggest stage of them all. I understand all of that. But we’ve got to worry about keeping our ears to the right voices. We have to focus on all of us doing our jobs.”
Martin, it seems, has had the same one all his life.