Former area coach Martin inducted into state hoops hall of fame



COLUMBUS — Kirk Martin was given four minutes for his Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech, and he spent that time thanking all who fit in the couldn’t-have-done-it-without-’em box — players, assistants and administrators, of course, but especially wife Vicki.

“She didn’t marry a coach. She married a fifth-grade reading and English teacher who was on a career path to principal and maybe later superintendent,” he said during the ceremony at the Hilton Polaris in Columbus on Saturday.

“She’s the real Hall of Famer in our family. Ask my kids or ask my players. I got a text this week from a former player that said, ‘Congrats, you’re the best — and, of course, Vicki is better.’ And they’re right.”

Martin’s wife may not have known what she was getting into, but she had no qualms about being the unofficial team mom through his journey as a high school and college basketball coach — and what a ride it was.

The 70-year-old Martin went 297-34 in 13 years with the Southeastern High School girls team, building the program into a Division IV behemoth.

The Trojans won a state title in 1996 and once won 162 consecutive conference games.

He was 380-108 in 15 years with the women’s team at his alma mater, Cedarville University. He averaged just over 25 wins per season, which is more than any previous Yellow Jacket team (only two topped 20).

They once won 74 straight league games and twice were NAIA Division II national runner-ups.

Martin didn’t play much organized hoops. His start in coaching came when he was a middle-school teacher, helping out with football and track (not basketball, that came later) — taking the jobs only because he was newly married and needed the extra income.

“I know my path to coaching basketball both at high school and even more so at the college level is beyond conventional and is a testimony to trusting God and his perfect timing,” Martin told an audience of about 500 while fighting back emotion.

“It has given me a platform to impact people for the Gospel and to give God the glory. As we left the floor at Cedarville, we came together as a team and said, ‘For Him.’

“I’d like to leave you tonight with” — he paused and pointed skyward — “‘For Him.”

He was one of 13 inductees in the 2024 class, which included Dayton-area official Thurman Leggs, Jr.

Leggs has been a college referee for most of his nearly 30 years as a ref, reaching as high as the Division II men’s national title game. He’s also has mentored hundreds of young officials, having started his own camp.

Family and friends burst into applause when he was introduced, many capturing the moment on their phones.

“When I got the call about going into the hall, I couldn’t believe they would have noticed a referee. Usually, when a referee gets noticed, that isn’t a good thing,” he said, drawing laughter.

The class also included Don DeVoe — best known for compiling at 512-389 record as a coach at Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Florida, Wyoming and Navy from 1970-2004 — along with former Cleveland Cavaliers standout Craig Ehlo and Xavier star Tyrone Hill.

The hall has now honored 365 athletes, coaches, contributors and teams since its first class in 2006 — including many with Dayton ties: Flyer coaches Tom Blackburn and Don Donoher; players Don Meineke, Bucky Bockhorn, Don May, Hank Finkel, Roosevelt Chapman, Johnny Davis and Jim and John Paxson, among others: UD women’s star Ann Myers; and Wright State coach Ralph Underhill.

Co-founders Doc Daugherty and the late Don Henderson made it their mission to preserve the storied hoops history in the state and took a scouting trip with their fledgling board to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.

But while it draws more than 10,000 visitors a year, the Indiana hall is devoted only to high schools. And the two prep coaching retirees — Daugherty spent 40 years at Euclid near Cleveland and Henderson 29 at Springfield North — had a bigger vision than that.

“We went back to Don’s house after that trip and talked for hours,” the 93-year-old Daugherty recalled. “I said, ‘My input is that it has to be colleges, too. And we’ve also got pros and women’s players. If we’re going to save the history of the sport, it’s got to be more than just high schools.’

“I went home after that and was ready to call it quits. But Don called and said, ‘Doc, I made an executive decision. We’re going to do it your way. And you and I are co-chairs.’”

Both began searching for a permanent home almost immediately. Henderson passed away in 2017, but Daugherty hasn’t given up.

The Cavaliers sponsor the Ohio hall ceremonies each year, but they couldn’t come through on their original promise of finding room in their arena to display the plaques of honorees.

Daugherty and Henderson had talks with Springfield and Dublin, but nothing materialized — though the Ohio hall could potentially develop into a tourist attraction.

“Maybe we’re dreaming — and it was a dream to begin with — but that’s what we’re really interested in,” Daugherty said.

“Everyone now says, ‘Internet, internet, internet.’ And we do have a decent website. But what Don and I and the Ohio Basketball Coaches Association have really wanted is a place to save the history of basketball for the state of Ohio.”

About the Author