Easy street was life in the Greater Spokane League.
All Christy Martin did as a guard at Ferris High School, and an assistant coach at her alma mater, then at fellow GSL powerhouse Central Valley was win basketball games.
Then something peculiar happened: Martin took on one of the toughest small-school rebuilding jobs in the state at Liberty of Spangle in rural Eastern Washington as her first head-coaching gig.
Not only did Martin discover she had the skills to rejuvenate lost programs, she liked getting her hands dirty during those rebuilding efforts.
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Now 36, Martin is on the west side, trying to do the same with the Tacoma Community College women’s basketball program.
In her third season, the Titans are not only nearly a lock to post their first winning season since 2012-13, they are NWAC West Division contenders and ranked sixth in the association’s rankings.
“The most important thing, if you are at the college level, is to bring in strong-character players,” Martin said. “In recruiting, we haven’t looked at players talent-wise first. We look at their coachability and how they respond to teammates. We look at their integrity. And obviously we look at their competitiveness.
“You want to get those things established first.”
Martin remembers her first day as coach at Liberty in 2004. She was 24, and white-faced nervous about holding an all-encompassing parents’ meeting in the school library.
“Quite frankly, I looked the age of their daughters,” she said.
Nearly 45 parents showed up to hear what Martin had to say. And she laid out her plans of keeping basketball a positive experience for the girls on the team.
“I had a ‘Hoosiers’ moment: I thought they were going to burn me at the stake,” Martin said. “They stood up and yelled at me, and said I was in over my head. I got a lot of push-back from the community.”
Liberty had won two games during the season before Martin’s arrival. It won 60 games over the next three seasons with her at the helm, making the Class 1B state playoffs for the first time in 13 years in 2006-07.
Two years later, Martin took over at Blue Mountain Community College, one of the doormat programs of the NWAC South. By the time she left six years later, the Timbers were coming off back-to-back playoff appearances.
Martin said she wanted to get back to a bigger city. She was hired by TCC in November of 2014 as Dan Kriley’s replacement.
Her first two seasons with the Titans were a struggle. She won a combined 11 games. But with her returning group of sophomores, Martin felt like TCC could be a factor in 2016-17.
“I don’t ever go into a season saying we are going to win this many games,” Martin said. “But when we brought these players together and saw them practice, and saw them jell, I felt we could make some waves and surprise some people.”
A pair of Northwest Conference basketball teams have now moved into the top 10 in the latest d3hoops.com poll. Whitman remains at No. 2, and at 19-0 is the only NCAA Division III men’s program in the country still undefeated. The Puget Sound women (18-1) moved up five spots to No. 7, the highest ranking in school history. ...
The Pacific Lutheran swimming programs keep rolling along. The Lutes women defeated UPS, 197-46, on Saturday to capture their 22nd consecutive NWC dual-meet victory, dating back to 2013-14. Their senior group finished with a career 27-1 record. Under coach Matt Sellman, PLU will be gunning for its fourth consecutive conference title at the NWC meet Feb. 10 at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. ...
The National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators announced PLU as one of its winners this week for the distinguished community-service award (Award of Merit) for its volunteer work at Winterfest, which provides resources to low-income families during winter holidays.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442