In charge of the math department at Patterson, Clippers boys basketball coach Harry Martin certainly knows numbers. In the past couple years, they've been quite impressive at Patterson. Last season, the Clippers went 25-2 in capturing the Baltimore City title and reaching the Class 4A state title game. This season, they are ranked No. 1 in the area and off to a 5-1 start. The Clippers haven't lost to an area team since the 2009-10 season despite playing in Baltimore City's demanding Division I. In his sixth season as varsity coach, Martin has a 85-36 mark. A City College and Coppin State grad, he has been at Patterson for 14 years, also having coached the boys soccer and girls basketball teams. In high school, Martin was the No. 1-ranked chess player in the state and he also played baseball at Coppin. He and his wife, Carey, have a two-year-old daughter, Bianca. As this week's Coachspeak guest, we asked Martin about the challenges that come with coaching the top-ranked team in Baltimore, the development of All-Metro Player of the Year Aquille Carr, and what he's looking forward to most on Christmas day.
What's the biggest challenge as coach of the area's No. 1-ranked team?
Every night, the opponent is going to give you their best effort. We used to be the team that could kind of sneak up on teams, but now we try to tell our guys that every single night somebody is trying to make their season by beating us. So I think going into the games knowing there’s a target on your back, we know you really can’t have too many off-nights with our schedule.
From a coaching standpoint, what's it like dealing with the Baltimore City schedule?
You know that probably the top six or seven teams in Division I can beat you on any given night. You have some great coaches with [Herman 'Tree' Harried] over at Lake Clifton, Cyrus Jones at Dunbar, Daryl Wade at City, Johnnie Grimes down at Digital Harbor. Those coaches -- a lot of them have state titles. You also have Darnell Dantzler at Edmondson that’s real tough, too. When you’re going up against those types of coaches, it becomes a chess match: Who’s going to out-scout somebody? Who’s going to make the adjustments during a game?
How can last year’s run to the Class 4A state title game help you take the final step of winning the crown?
I think the experience of just being down there in that arena with the atmosphere will help. They know this year – especially with Aquille and Myrek [Lee-Fowlkes] – that March 10 is the date of the state championship game at 5 p.m. So as we go along throughout the season that’s something that’s in the back of our mind that we want to get back down there. Two of our top players – Aquille and Myrek – having had that experience and going through the disappointment they went through last year serves as motivation throughout the whole season.
What's it like coaching Aquille from a day-to-day basis?
Basketball-wise, you know any time you have a kid that can go for 40 or 50 points a game, you have to feel good about your chances of winning that night. At practice, it’s just one of those things where you know he’s going to push the younger guys. ... From time to time, you’ll also see a new trick from Aquille or a different move where you just kind of shake your head.
What quality does Aquille have that separates him from other players?
I think it’s the inner toughness that he has -- that’s what he thrives off of. With his size, he has to play with that toughness. To see him on the court, the way he attacks the basket, the way he tries to finish and the fact that you see him with a smile out there from time to time, he’s having a good time. That’s what he lives for -- being out there on the court.
Now that you have a daughter, how has Christmas changed for you? I don’t need anything, so now it’s really about her. This will be the first Christmas where I think she understands what she’s getting. So to be able to wake up on Christmas morning and watch her open all her presents will be something I’ll look forward to.