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Becky Martin, longtime McDaniel College women’s basketball coach, Carroll County Hall of Famer, dies after 3-year fight with pancreatic cancer

Becky Martin, who coached women’s basketball at McDaniel College for more than three decades after becoming one of the program’s first true standout players, used social media last week to let friends and family know her three-year battle against stage 4 pancreatic cancer was “coming to an end.”

Martin died Tuesday night at age 62. Online condolences poured in from former players, friends and colleagues Tuesday night and throughout Wednesday.

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Former McDaniel player Kelsey Goretsas took to Facebook to thank Martin for “supporting me and treating me ... as a part of your family.” Manchester Valley girls basketball coach Heather DeWees said via Facebook that Martin’s legacy “influenced me as a coach and a person.”

Martin won 554 games over 37 seasons as the Green Terror’s coach, and took her team to 15 Centennial Conference tournaments. The Terror won four conference titles and made six NCAA Division III postseason appearances, most recently in 2015. She remains the winningest women’s coach in Centennial history.

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Westminster native Sue Head Conklin played at then-Western Maryland College from 1990 to 1994 and said Martin had a big influence on her life.

“As a coach she knew her stuff,” said Conklin, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark during her college career and later earned spots in the Carroll County and Green Terror Sports Halls of Fame. “She made you work hard. She got the most out of you. But it didn’t stop there. It was more about you as a person, you as a part of that community and a part of her family.

“All of us girls, all of us former players, I feel like we’re lucky enough to be a part of this amazing family that she had put together over all these years.”

Martin became the 26th Division III coach in women’s basketball to reach 500 career wins in January 2015 with a 53-38 victory over Gettysburg. All the while, she deflected those sorts of accomplishments in an effort to praise her players and their success.

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“I always joked with people when they’d ask if I have any children and I would say, ‘Well, I have a couple hundred and the only bad news is I don’t get to claim them on my taxes,’ ” Martin said in 2019. “Our program has always been bigger than basketball. It’s been about the family connection and about the parents trusting us because one of the things you recognize when children come to college as young adolescents, part of the deal is to learn how to become a young professional.”

Said her longtime assistant coach, Phil Popielski: “I’m forever grateful to her for this circle of sisters I have because of her.”

Martin took an indefinite leave of absence in August 2018, a few months after being diagnosed with cancer. Five months after that, in January 2019, McDaniel dedicated its Gill Center playing surface in her honor by renaming it Rebecca L. Martin Court.

McDaniel College Gill Center basketball court named for former coach Becky Martin.
McDaniel College Gill Center basketball court named for former coach Becky Martin. (Bill Ryan / For Carroll County T / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“It’s honestly a tribute to her and what she means to every one of us,” Colleen Gohegan Rosberry, who played for Martin from 1980 to 1984, said that day.

Martin retired from McDaniel following the spring semester of 2019.

She became Western Maryland College’s women’s basketball head coach in the fall of 1981, one year removed from finishing her playing career as the Green Terror’s first 1,000-point scorer. Martin’s first three teams combined to go 13-46, and she didn’t experience a winning record until her fifth season.

Things took off from there, though. Martin led the Green Terror to their first 20-win season in 1988-89 and built a consistent winner throughout the 1990s that then turned into a powerhouse.

“As a coach she learned on the job, because basketball was changing so fast,” said Carol Fritz, Martin’s college coach. “But she loved the game, and she loved to play and loved to coach.”

McDaniel went 201-77 (a .723 winning percentage) from 2001 through 2010. The Terror posted back-to-back 25-win seasons in 2004 and 2005, and reached NCAA tournament’s third round in 2004. Martin led McDaniel to a 24-4 record in 2014-15, when the Green Terror reached the NCAA tournament for a sixth time.

McDaniel College women's basketball coach Becky Martin lines up with players and college president Roger Casey for a group photograph celebrating her 500th career win following the Green Terror's victory over Gettysburg on Jan. 21, 2015, in Westminster.
McDaniel College women's basketball coach Becky Martin lines up with players and college president Roger Casey for a group photograph celebrating her 500th career win following the Green Terror's victory over Gettysburg on Jan. 21, 2015, in Westminster. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Martin played her high school basketball at Westminster High and arrived on the Hill in 1976. Martin’s 1,299 points are ninth-best on the Terror’s all-time list, and her 17.3 career points per game average is second-highest.

Martin’s 39 points in a game, which she achieved Feb. 20, 1980, in her final college game, still stands as the program’s all-time mark.

“She was the best player that I had the privilege to coach,” said Fritz, who won 124 games over 13 seasons at WMC. “She was easy to coach. She listened and did things. I asked the kids one day, ‘Do you mind that Becky gets all the ink from the paper?’ … And they said, ‘Nope. We have a job to do, and that’s to get the ball down the floor and get it to Becky, and that’s for Becky to get it in the basket.’”

Martin also ran track and field, and played softball and volleyball — Fritz said she encouraged Martin to give volleyball a try because “she drove me crazy wanting to play basketball all the time.” She helped WMC’s volleyball team to three Middle Atlantic Conference titles (1977-1979), and won the MAC crown in the high jump as a graduate student in 1981.

Martin earned MAC Hall of Fame honors, along with Fritz, in 2012. Martin is also in the Green Terror Sports Hall of Fame (Class of 2004), and the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame (Class of 1996).

McDaniel women's basketball coach Becky Martin works with the team during practice.
McDaniel women's basketball coach Becky Martin works with the team during practice. (Ken Koons / Carroll County Times)

Conklin said it was heartwarming to seeing so many former players come together when they first heard of their coach’s cancer diagnosis in 2018, which led to a fund that provided the Gill Center court renaming and maintenance.

“People showed up out of the woodwork ... it was a great turnout,” Conklin said. “It was great to see a lot of alumni, and part of that family. It’s hard right now, and you’re still processing all of this and getting through it, but my thought is ... there are just things that I hopefully will chuckle about down the line.”

Martin was the daughter of the late Paul Otto Martin and Dorothy Baumgardner Martin. She is survived by cousins Carl Graham, John and Susan Rinehart, Dave and Dottie Haschert, Dennis and Shelley Miller, John and Sue Dell, Gary and Judy Dell, Vincent Dell, Sarah DeRita, Gary and Martina Lane, Scott and Nikki Swartz, Charles and Kate Haschert, Steven and Cassandra Koresko and Rachel Rinehart.

The family will receive friends Friday, June 11, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 12, from 10 a.m. to noon at Fletcher Funeral & Cremation Services at 254 E. Main St. in Westminster. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at St. John Catholic Church, 43 Monroe St. in Westminster.

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