Becky Martin was met with a standing ovation as she stepped up to the microphone set up in the middle of the Gill Center basketball court at McDaniel College.
Martin, moved with emotion, waved and blew a kiss to the crowd prior to asking those in attendance one question — Why is this particular Saturday always one of her favorite days of the year?
It was alumnae weekend, she said, the day all of her girls come back home.
Home indeed, to a program where Martin made so many of her women’s basketball athletes feel welcome as the Green Terror’s coach from 1981-2018.
McDaniel renamed the Gill Center basketball court the Rebecca L. Martin Court in honor of Martin, a Carroll County Sports Hall of Famer who was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer last spring.
“It was emotionally overwhelming, it was,” Martin said. “It’s been a couple of weeks since I was told this recognition was going to happen and it’s been a whirlwind and it’s brought up so many fond memories of my career and relationships and a lot of reminiscing but it was very heartwarming just to see everybody today.”
At the conclusion of Martin’s speech, she embraced Green Terror interim head coach Rick Little, who took over when Martin took an indefinite leave of absence from the program last August, as well as associate head coach Alyssa March and assistants Phil Popielski and Jerry Georgiana. There wasn’t a dry eye on the Green Terror bench as Martin moved down the line and hugged every current player.
Her signature was enlarged in thick black ink, printed and resealed on the court almost directly in front of the sideline spot where she coached the team for so many years.
Current Green Terror guard Renie Tsomos is the team’s lone senior and she played for Martin the past three seasons at McDaniel. Martin is the main reason Tsomos chose to attend the college, she said.
“I visited a lot of schools but just the way she talked about the program and how dedicated she was and how inspiring she made it seem, like it was more than just basketball,” Tsomos said. “She’s what made me come here and the first three years really lived up to that and it meant a lot to be here with her. She’s gone through her 500th win and everything like that so it was really, really special to be here.”
Martin, 60, was a multi-sport standout at Westminster High and a student-athlete at McDaniel, formerly Western Maryland College. She was the Green Terror’s first 1,000-point scorer and still holds the program records for scoring average in a season (23.0 ppg in 1979-80) and career (19.1).
She took over as head women’s basketball coach in 1981, one year after graduating from the college. Since then, the Green Terror have made 15 Centennial Conference tournament appearances, won four conference championships and made six NCAA tournament trips.
With a 554-369 record, Martin is the winningest coach in Centennial Conference history.
“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. “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.”
There are growing pains, Martin added, and it’s not always easy. She liked to remind the girls that there would be a lot of tears and laughter, but getting through those growing pains always made for a magnificent transformation when they walked across the stage at graduation.
Kelly Cramp-Tomlinson played for Martin from 2001-2005 and helped lead the Green Terror to their first Centennial Conference championship in 2002 and the team’s first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in school history in 2004.
She also excelled in golf at McDaniel and said Martin, an avid golfer herself, would often watch her play. Cramp-Tomlinson said little moments like this solidified her confidence in choosing to attend McDaniel.
“On the court, our team chemistry was great from the get-go and that was probably the start of the team bonding we built from there,” Cramp-Tomlinson said. “We did really well and better each year and she was always right there just pushing us to be better. It was a good balance, I think. We had Coach Popielski and Coach [Brian] Hollingsworth so it was definitely a good balance coaching.”
Participants in attendance for the ceremony included McDaniel College president Dr. Roger N. Casey, Martin K.P. Hill, chair of McDaniel Board of Trustees and Heidi Snyder Reigel, a 1997 McDaniel graduate and Westminster resident.
McDaniel alumnae and friends of the Green Terror women’s basketball program have established The Rebecca L. Martin Court Endowed Fund, which provides for the naming of the court used by the men’s and women’s basketball teams, volleyball team and wrestling team, as well as supports the annual maintenance of the hardwood floor.
“It’s honestly a tribute to her and what she means to every one of us,” Colleen Gohegan Rosberry, who played at McDaniel from 1980-1984, said. “Personally, for me, she had a great amount of confidence in me that I was able to really build upon and take into my life and into my career. I feel like I owe part of my success to her and everything she brought…she means the world to me and she’s an awesome person, very dedicated.
“She truly cares about her players and that shines through and you saw that today.”