Recently we went on a journey as we ventured through the beautiful Enchanted Mountains of Western New York. More precisely, we walked through the hellacious tenure of former Allegany-Limestone football boss Paul Furlong. Then, we walked through the locker rooms and the scene at Fred G Grace Stadium where the Gators have rebuilt and are eyeing a playoff spot in the 2019 season. Now, we are going to embark on another journey, a very emotional journey.
The journey will remember one of the region’s best coaches, friends, mentors, teachers, fathers, husbands, and grandfather.. Very special fond memories have been weighing on my mind about Frank Martin for a couple of weeks now. The memories have intensified as I walk by his classroom inside Allegany-Limestone seeing someone besides him for a second straight year.
March 21st, 2018 forever changed the Allegany-Limestone school district. Just five days after leading the Lady Gators to their first post-merger New York State Final Four appearance, Frank Martin passed away at the age of 59, unexpectedly.
Martin was a three-sport coach coaching Varsity Volleyball, Varsity Tennis, and Varsity Girls Basketball. The Basketball team and his family were the core of his heart. I remember walking through near the end of the day on Game Day and seeing coach had taped teddy bears and candy to each of the girls’ lockers. Inside the gym, Martin would pump his fist anytime a play or moment went the way he expected. If a moment did not go the way he expected you should have expected a frustrating hand clap followed by him shaking his head.
A striking thing about Martin was the electricity that he brought to the court. Those iconic fist pumps or halting timeouts had an effect on the student section. Those moments would trigger the student section one way or another. When the ref made a bad call, Martin would toss his hands and question the call and the student section would react.
It was rare for him to call the girls to the bench for a chat, but when he did, he was fired up. He would kneel in front of his bench and talk in a very fiery and stern voice to make his point very clear to his girls. The way he treated his girls was with the utmost respect. The girls made sure to dish it back to their right-hand man.
The respect goes beyond the team, it stretches to fellow coaches and teachers. Section VI chairman Chris Durr commented in the local paper shortly after the passing saying “He was always caring about how you were doing and, if you were coaching another sport, how your other teams were doing or congratulating you on your previous season,” Durr added. “He was just a wonderful, wonderful man to have as a friend, and we’re going to miss him.”
The respect was not just randomly given it was earned. The tough love certainly paid off. He was the boss for 17 campaigns inside the swamp. He racked up 278 wins compared to 108 losses.
The community loved Frank and they instantly jumped in to pay tribute to him. The hardwood inside the swamp is now called Frank A. Martin III court.
The legacy of Frank Martin will always lie within the swamp.
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