Kansas State: Where Final Four Coaches Stop

Five of Kansas State's last seven head men's basketball coaches have made it to the Final Four. None of them, however, have done it while at K-State. With Dana Altman's Oregon Ducks and Frank Martin's South Carolina Gamecocks set for their matchups Saturday against North Carolina and Gonzaga, respectively, the two coaches join current KSU head coach Bruce Weber, Lon Kruger (now at Oklahoma) and Bob Huggins (now at West Virginia) in making K-State a top talking point this week despite its team not making the Final Four.

Given K-State's rich history with college basketball coaches maybe this isn't a surprise, but let's take a look at the web of college basketball coaches that's been spun out of it...

Lon Kruger tree
Following legend coaches Tex Winter (of Chicago Bulls fame), Cotton Fitzsimmons, and Jack Hartman, Kruger led K-State to four NCAA tournaments in four seasons (after playing in a couple for the Wildcats, too) including the 1988 Elite Eight. He then left for the job at Florida and started us on the path to today. He's reached the Final Four with the Gators in 1994, and the Sooners last year. That's coach #1.

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Dana Altman was hired to replace Kruger at K-State. Looking back almost 25 years later, Altman was a serviceable, young coach for the Wildcats with some success. He was the Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1993, which was also his only NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons. The Wildcats went to two NITs with Altman. However, he wasn't Kruger and with the Kansas Jayhawks returning to glory during his time, the fans and administration at KSU weren't in love with him. 

He took his queue, and left for Creighton in what was a move that we were not be able to comprehend in that landscape. Altman is now in his first Final Four with the Ducks after 16 seasons and seven NCAA Tournament appearances with the Blue Jays. That's coach #2.

The Return of Huggie Bear
After a decade of mediocre basketball under Tom Asbury and Jim Wooldridge (only one NCAA Tournament appearance, 1996), K-State's then-athletics director Tim Weiser made a splash in hiring Bob Huggins, who had been out of coaching for a year following a successful stint at Cincinnati, including a Final Four appearance in 1992. That's coach #3.

Huggins was a controversial hire after he was forced to resign at Cincinnati following a DUI in 2004. But it was exactly what Kansas State needed at the time, and is mostly viewed as a great move by Weiser, even though Huggins stayed only one year.

Why K-State fans should blame Rick Pitino and/or Michigan
Say what? Hang with me here... 

Bob Huggins left KSU after one year to head home to West Virginia in 2006. But that might not have happened had Rick Pitino had taken the Michigan job instead of the Louisville job in 2001. Instead, Michigan hired Tommy Amaker, which didn't go too well and thus had a job opening in 2006. The Wolverines hired then-West Virginia head coach John Beilein, opening the door for Huggie to return home.

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That might be a stretch since Beilein could have taken other jobs, too, but if we're going to play the game that I'm about to play, we should play it with Huggins as well. He liked Manhattan and K-State; it's possible he could have stayed there long term.

How we get to Coach #5
Huggins' departure led to the hiring of Martin, one of the Wildcat assistants at the time. With that hiring came prized recruit Michael Beasley to Manhattan. K-State went on to its first NCAA Tournament since Asbury's second season in 2007, Martin's first season. The Cats went on to three more NCAA's under Martin, including their run to the Elite Eight in 2010 with star point guard Jacob Pullen leading the way.

Newly-named Tennessee AD and former KSU AD John Currie has taken a lot of heat this week (and back then) because Martin left for South Carolina after an NCAA appearance in 2012. The Gamecocks had gone 10-21 in 2012... it wasn't exactly a move that seemed 'up,' much like Altman's move to Creighton. 

Now, Martin has turned the Gamecocks into a winner with the same style and attitude and Wildcat fans adored and still relish. That's Coach #4.

Sidebar: It's worth noting that Martin's schtick on the sidelines of yelling and cursing did wear on some of K-State's fans and not just Currie. But, hey, the grass is always greener, right?

Currie hired Weber after he had just been fired at Illinois, where he led them to a Final Four in 2005. And that's Coach #5. Weber has not been near the disaster that a faction of K-State fans think he is. He's been to three NCAAs in five years, including this year, in which he had "his players." The first two were with Martin's players. He's also won a Big 12 championship (tied with KU in 2013), something no K-State coach had done.

It appears to have been a rough week for K-State fans as they play the 'what-if' game. But what-if Currie hadn't run off Martin, who's to say somebody else wouldn't have paid him enough to lure him away in 2012 or 2013 anyway?

One thing is for sure - there have been a bunch of good coaches make their way through Manhattan at some point.

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Related Topics: NCAA Tournament, Kansas State Wildcats Basketball News, 2017 Final Four