By L.D. Dennis
In terms of experiencing and playing the game of basketball, there isn’t a whole lot first-year Bighorns head coach Darrick Martin hasn’t seen.
On the court, Martin has earned multiple honors through his career. He was a McDonald’s High School All-American, UCLA point guard, professional NBA basketball player, the 2003 Continental Basketball Association playoff MVP, and a one-time Harlem Globetrotter. Off the hardwood, he has been a player development coordinator for various NBA teams and also the radio voice for his alma mater, UCLA.
With the lengthy list above, Martin has shown through the course of his career, he has the talent and credentials to effectively teach the game of basketball at a high level. That is why with great enthusiasm, the Reno Bighorns added the title of head coach to his extensive resume back in the fall of 2016.
Indeed Coach Martin is all those things mentioned above and more. He is also an avid golfer, a wine aficionado and fluent in Spanish. Martin has the ability to surprise you at every switch of the conversation topic, but what was most surprising and endearing were his goals for his new position with the Bighorns and how they can impact the Reno-Sparks community.
“I want to develop my players on and off the court and that means being a major part of this city,” Martin said during in an interview during his first month on the job.
Martin is joining the team at a pivotal time for the franchise as the Bighorns, just like the city of Reno itself, are going through a major cultural shift. The Sacramento Kings became majority owners of the Bighorns in the fall, bringing a new energy to the organization. This is following the cultural and economic boom in northern Nevada with all of the global technology companies and local business growth bringing new life to Midtown, downtown Reno and all the surrounding Reno areas. Coach Martin understands this in a very genuine way.
“Winning is a byproduct of doing everything right,” Martin said. “When I took this job I said I was open to do everything needed before, during and after the games”.
For the new head coach, winning means making the people he comes in contact with better. A substantial part of “doing everything right” means letting the people of Reno know no matter the age, demographic, or what part of the community you come from know that the Reno Bighorns are their team. A team “The Biggest Little City” can identify with. Coach Martin is the perfect man to bridge the enthusiasm that is felt due to the Kings taking over as majority owners and the Bighorns helping be a part of the script for the new Reno. He has a great working relationship with members of the King’s basketball management such as Bighorns general manager Peja Stojakovic and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac. From conversation with him, it is easy to see the willingness to get victories in the win column and learn everything he can about the place that is now his home.
He started to refine his focus for life after playing from the time he was at the latter half of his professional career playing for the Toronto Raptors, where he knew where his next steps in his professional career would be.
“Playing in Toronto I went from being either the youngest or the middle-of-the-pack guy age-wise in a NBA locker room, to the old guy,” Martin said. “I walked into the locker room and everybody was 23, 24 and I’m 34, 35 and I became an instant mentor. Developed some great relationships with Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Kris Humphries, Anthony Parker, and Andrea Bargnani at the time. We would talk and relate and I coached them every day on and off the floor. I really got the bug.”
The bug was not just coaching or doing a job well in hopes that it leads to a bigger opportunity. The bug was making his players better men when they leave him. Coach Martin plans on making defense a staple, emphasizing a culture of winning and working hard every day with his players to be a better team. Through his litany of experience, Martin knows basketball provides many opportunities on and off the court. It takes you places you never knew a sport so fun could provide. He told me he is going to prepare his players and staff for basketball but also “there is life after basketball.”
All of this new energy makes this is a promising future for the Reno Bighorns as a team. This is promising for the Reno Bighorns organization as a re-born affiliate of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Finally, this is promising for everything new and exciting for the Reno community on the horizon. As a coach and newest member of the biggest little family, one thing coach Martin said stuck out beautifully. Something that undoubtedly made him an architect of a point guard and will help him greatly in his ventures on the hardwood and beyond.
When asked about his passion he replied:
“I love helping people achieve the greatness they want out of life, I always have,” Martin said.