K-State coach apologizes for contact

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Kansas State's Frank Martin is a fiery old-school screamer who expects his players to play with the same kind of passion he coaches with.

That passion got the better of Martin on Saturday -- and he feels bad about it.

Caught up in the heat of a tight road game, Martin hit senior Chris Merriewether on the arm with the back of his hand late in a 74-68 loss to Missouri for Kansas State (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP). Martin wasted little time in apologizing, telling reporters he was wrong before taking questions during his postgame news conference.

"That's a mistake on my part," Martin said. "I'm an old-school guy, but I understand the times are real sensitive now. I love him. I don't know what to tell you. It's wrong on my part and is completely out of line and has no part in the game. I need to apologize for that."

Martin's swipe came during a timeout with 1:17 left after a turnover by Merriewether led to a foul at the other end.

Before Marcus Denmon hit one of two free throws to put Missouri up 66-63, Martin called timeout and gathered his team in front of the bench. He immediately started screaming at Merriewether and flicked the back of his hand at the senior, striking him on the arm with his fingers.

The crowd at Kansas State's end of the floor reacted and Martin, realizing he had made a mistake, flipped his hand again, appearing as if he were trying to high-five Merriewether.

Martin sought out Merriewether in the locker room after the game and apologized for popping him.

"It was just in the heat of the moment; big game, lot of heated plays going on," Merriewether said. "I mean, he hit me in the arm, it was nothing serious. [Teammate] Jacob Pullen came back right after and he hit me in the arm, too. It really wasn't too much. I trust Frank and Frank trusts me and it was just a heat of the moment-type deal. It's not a big deal at all."

It may not be a big deal to Merriewether, but Martin's swipe is sure to get some attention at a time when coaches are being punished for abusing players.

Kansas football coach Mark Mangino resigned last month amid allegations that he mistreated his players. Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach was fired in December after he was accused of forcing an injured player to stand in a dark shed. South Florida fired football coach Jim Leavitt on Friday, saying he grabbed a player by the throat, slapped him in the face and lied about it.

Pullen didn't believe Martin's moment was in the same category.

"I think people really looked at that wrong," Pullen said. "I don't think Frank really hit him like you would hit somebody if you wanted to fight them. He hit him as like 'Let's go.' Frank is an enthused person, he's emotional on the sidelines and that's why I think everybody came here to play for him, because we knew we had an emotional coach who would get out there just like we do."

Martin has never been accused of inappropriate behavior with his players and Kansas State athletic director John Currie didn't seem overly concerned after meeting with him and Merriewether following the team's return to Manhattan on Saturday night.

"Coach Martin clearly understands his contact with Chris at the end of the game was unacceptable, regardless of the emotion of the moment," Currie said in a statement. "I am proud of coach Martin for immediately apologizing and I expect that there will be no further such incidents."