By Tim Linafelt, Senior Writer, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – New Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin Jr. met with the media Monday to discuss his new job, his vision for the program and how he’s different than his legendary father. Here are his full remarks.
When did you feel confident that you would get the job? When the president stood up and offered me the job. I’ve always been … I work out of fear. I’m a pessimist. That’s another Dellinger trait. But that’s just me. I never take anything for granted. I’ve never been given anything. I want this team – my teams – to take on my personality. And that’s one of which I was always told I was just on the team because of my dad. I caught my first game in Division I at 150 pounds. I wanted to play with a little edge. We’re going to obviously bring enthusiasm, but a little more. A little extra.
What were your emotions after you found out? I was on the phone. I’ve literally had a phone glued to the side of my head for three days. Again, things happen quick in recruiting. And the kids that have been waiting, thank goodness. I do want to thank them for waiting. Some of them bought in and said, “I love this place. I think he’s the guy. I’m not going to bet against him,” and committed. Or waited. I want to thank them as well, because there’s a lot of them. And we’ll start having a pretty good deluge here shortly of kids committing.
Some players from last year’s team have announced they are leaving the program. Is that normal for this time of year? Yeah, with small scholarships, playing time, unforeseen (circumstances) – someone gets sick, a divorce, whatever. There’s always going to be attrition. We want our guys happy. And I get it. If you’re not happy, I don’t want you to be around here and be miserable. Go chase your dream. And we’ll support it.
Was there any worry that staying here as an assistant would be the best way for you to get the head coaching job? Did you ever feel like you had to leave? I’ve interviewed and I’ve been told a lot, “Hey, you’re our guy. Guess what, sorry. We can’t hire you. We’re not going to be a stepping stone job.” One of the trustees or whomever else rejected it. I’ve had it happen quite a few times. I wasn’t afraid to leave. And then, I got divorced and I ain’t leaving my boys.
How much did you feel like you had to prove you were the right candidate during the interview process? There were some questions. Some tough questions. This world and society, I don’t want to get on a soapbox, but there was a lot of questions about a lot of things. Things that have been said about me that are flat-out not true. They wanted to know who I was thinking I was going to hire. What kind of guys I wanted to hire. My managing style. There were tough questions. But, again, they were right in doing their due diligence.
Do you have an idea of who you’d like to have on your staff? Have you made any offers? No, I haven’t. And I’m not able to comment on that, but I’m going to interview a lot of guys. Planning tomorrow, I’m going to zig-zag around. Some via phone. But I want to know a lot about their personality, their beliefs, a lot of things that go into it.
When you look at assistants, what’s the biggest thing you want from someone on your staff? Well, energy. That’s first and foremost. I want positive people around. I’m big on camaraderie and teamwork. We call it “feel” – say the right things and at the right times. I’m not into a guy that’s going to berate players, that old Bobby Knight style of coaching, I’m not into that. But offensively, pitching, I don’t want to bore you with all that. but there’s a lot that goes into that. But personality is big.
Would you like a Major League scouting background be a priority in identifying an assistant? I do. I want to find one, yes. I think it’s important. We need to broaden the net. And any time you can do that, widen, broaden, whatever you want to call it, it’s important. And if I can find the right guy that knows how to coach and has the right personality and is respected in that community, I will try to get him. Because it’s important. When they’re out watching guys and there’s more sets of eyes (to say) “Hey, this freshman down here in, wherever, Palm Beach, is really good,” we want to be one of the first calls.
You mentioned being more aggressive at the plate. You’ve served as the team’s hitting instructor for the past several years. Can you talk about the dynamic of being the hitting instructor but not being the head coach? Well, he (Martin Sr.) is an offensive guy as well. But I’m an assistant. Assistants make suggestions. There’s a lot of things that, again, I’m not going to roll the guy, for crying out loud. (Laughter) But there’s things that we differ on. But again, I stay in my lane, if you will. We’ve had some doozies, I can promise you. I think the funniest is Tyler Holt, we got into it.
First of all, my locker was on one end and his locker was on the other. It used to be there was two lockers in front of us. Well, the more in the middle makes for a more peaceful environment. And we got into and he left or whatever, and Tyler Holt looks at me and says, “Is it always like this?” “Yeah, get ready. That was just an average one.” It’s all part of it. All in the name of winning.
The national championship eluded your father. Is that a singular focus for you, or are you more of a process-oriented coach? Everything is going to be geared toward (the national championship). The mental health side, I want to put them in more pressure situations via music, via their teammates getting on to them, trying to rattle them. I’m really into the mental side of competitive athletes. I think that’s something that we can do a better job at as well, as far as the changes we’re going to make. I’m going to mandate regular visits with psychiatrists and mental health people because these kids come in with an awful lot and you’ve got to get that out.
How did your dad do it for 40 years? Kids don’t know – care to know what you know – until they know that you care. That was one thing that he was really, really, really good at. Those guys would run through a wall for him and genuinely loved him. He got them to play hard. I think that’s, again, the way you treat young men. Take opportunities to (share) life’s lessons. They respect that. And he was incredibly driven. He brought it every single day. You knew what you were going to get every day. There was no one day up, one day down. He was a consistent personality. I think that’s the main thing.
How do you combat the comparisons to your dad? How do you make the program your own? Winning, for one. And just being myself. I’m not trying to be anybody else. Anybody that’s spent enough time with me knows I am who I am. Set in my ways. I’m not going to deviate. I think that’s important. I think the core principles, the foundation of the program, it’s not going to change. And that’s the biggest gift that he’s taught me and given to me when it comes to this program. So just plugging away, doing my thing. And we’ll get the right guys in here. That will help to.
David Coburn said he was skeptical of your candidacy in the fall. How did you approach your interactions with him? I never sensed that. He was very professional and first-class. I don’t blame him – I would be (skeptical) too. “Is it him helping or just the boss doing his thing?” But minus that little part, we did all right (during the season). I think that’s important. He saw the run we were on, and we spent time (together) and got to know each other a little bit better. And we’re very similar. Kind of straight to the point. We know what we want, and that’s it.
What kind of reaction have you received from your coaching colleagues around the country? Just, “You’re deserving,” “Great job.” That’s what you do. You put in your time and work your way up. I was a volunteer for six years, I never got paid. And then I moved into this role. And just very gracious, kind. Some of them I’ve helped out along the way and they haven’t forgotten that. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. A lot of folks reached out, and I’m very thankful for it. Some people I still haven’t gotten back to, but I’m working on it. Seven-hundred-and-something of them. It’s been difficult.
You’ve mentioned that, in the past, jobs you were interested in didn’t work out because schools assumed you would come back to FSU at your first opportunity. But now that it’s here, and you are the head coach at FSU, what does it feel like? It’s been a long time. He (Martin Sr.) is 75. So for the last eight years, everybody thinks he’s going to be retiring at any moment. So I feel like – I don’t feel – I know I’m ready for this. I’m excited about it. We’re going to hit the ground running. I’m relieved. I am. Any time you’re able to provide and be where you want to be, that’s pretty dang good.
Have you met with the team yet as head coach? No, everybody left (after) we flew back in. Some of the guys are in summer school. I met with all the guys that are in the recruiting class and some of the guys from the current team that stayed back for rehab or summer school purposes, I’ve spoken with them. But, via text, just about everybody. Yes.
How did you approach recruiting over the last three weeks? We’ve been in a standstill for a while now. Everybody was waiting to see what was going to happen.
Do you have a timetable for when your staff will be in place? End of July? It would be well before that. We’re in a prime recruiting time right now. While I’m finding out who I want, I’m not sure how long (the job) has got to stay open and all that. But it will be ready as soon as it closes and we can make a decision, it will happen right then and there.
What do you think is the best use of resources for the program? Well, there’s a lot. With small scholarships, we have to get creative. The chartered airplanes, being able to get them back and get them in bed so they can go to that eight o’clock class on Monday morning is really important. Being able to play – I don’t want to say “keepaway” but that’s kind of what you do with the pro people as kids get drafted. Well, we bring them in for summer school. We have to pay for that. The meals that we’re able to provide, the NCAA allows us to provide for, we’ve got to have money for that. And it takes a lot to have money to pay for all that stuff. And we’ve got to be able to maximize, and we can’t lose ground. Little things that we need to keep the program moving forward, if something breaks, boom, let’s rock and roll so we have it. It’s good. So feel free to donate, anybody.