The last stop of coach Eddie Martin’s prolific career is off to an uneven start.
Martin, winner of seven state championships and more than 700 games, took over Buford’s boys basketball program last spring. With a passionate, supportive community and a respected administration, Martin thought it was the perfect spot to cap off his illustrious career.
Then, he saw the Wolves’ schedule.
“If I had done all this scheduling on my own, then I probably need to be fired,” Martin said with a chuckle
He was joking, kind of, but he’s got a point. Buford’s non-region schedule featured two defending state champions, two teams one-year removed from state championships and a handful of perennial powers. It’s taken a toll on the Wolves’ record--they entered Friday’s game against North Hall at 7-9—but not on Martin’s confidence in what this program can be.
“I want to get this program to where, first of all, they expect themselves to be good every year,” Martin said. “And, second of all, we are competing at a high level every year. If we can pull a state championship out of it, more power to us. But I can’t sit here and say we’re going to win a state championship during my tenure at Buford. I couldn’t say that to start at anywhere I’ve been.”
Judging by Martin’s history, you have to like the Wolves’ chances. He won four state titles at Greater Atlanta Christian, his previous gig, and three at Norcross. He’s already in the Gwinnett County Hall of Fame and has little left to prove. But the passion is still there. You could hear it in his voice, when he chided the refs and barked instructions to his team down the stretch of Friday's game.
"Pressure," he yelled with three minutes to play, with his team trailing by one.
He's not used to this kind of start and wanted badly to beat North Hall.
“It’s been quite a few years since I’ve gotten off to this kind of start,” Martin said last week.
Buford lost all of its starters from last season and a few key reserves. This season’s squad, Martin says, is basically last year’s junior varsity. And they’ve taken their lumps. They opened the season with a 56-18 loss to Tift County, the 2014 Class AAAAAA state champions, and have suffered four losses by 20 points or more. They face Tift County again today.
“Obviously, our expectations are going to rise every year,” Martin said. “My goal is to get to the point that every year that we start the season, there are expectations to get to the state championship game. To say that for this year, I’d be throwing smoke up in the air, with a young, inexperienced team and a new system. But our goal is to get to the state playoffs.”
The Wolves improved their playoff chances against North Hall. Trailing by one with 2.5 seconds left, Buford's Tobi Obasanya hit two free throws, and Will Springer made two more after North Hall coach xxx was called for a technical, lifting Wolves to a 58-55 region win. Buford is now 3-0 in Region 8-AAAA.
Martin says Buford is the last stop of his career, but he hasn’t put a timetable on how long he’ll coach the Wolves.
“This is will be the last stop,” he said. “I don’t know how many years that will be. I haven’t put a number on that yet. I hope it’s several more years. We’ll just have to wait and see.”