PITTSBURGH — The phrase “greatest of all time” probably gets thrown around a bit loosely these days. But in the world of ACC baseball, there really isn’t much of argument to be made.
Entering his 40th season as the head coach of the Florida State Seminoles, NCAA career wins leader, eight time ACC Tournament champion and College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Mike Martin truly is “the G.O.A.T.”
Martin is truly a legend in the sport, and he’s also the mentor of new Pitt head coach Mike Bell. Bell learned from Martin as both a player and an assistant coach, but he’s left his roots right before Martin’s final year to head out on his own path.
What he left behind at Florida State obviously means a lot to Bell. He choked up during his introductory press conference as he ran down those in Tallahassee that he felt he owed a debt of gratitude for the newest step in his career.
“My wife and I graduate from Florida State,” Bell said. “Florida State is family from us. Florida State is family to us. Chip Baker, Mike Martin, Jr., and obviously, the G.O.A.T., the greatest of all time, Coach Martin.”
Bell said his conversation with his mentor was “tough,” but that the legendary coach supported his decision to take the reins of the Pitt program.
“It was really tough,” Bell said. “I’ve always felt growing up, the two people you didn’t want to disappoint were your father and your grandfather, people you’re very close with. In a lot of ways, he’s a father figure. In a lot of ways, he can be a grandfather figure. More importantly, he’s a very close friend. I knew he would be excited. I knew he would be sad. But those are all great emotions. At the end of the day, he was tickled to death for Alicia, Klyer, Alexis and I to have this opportunity. He really was.”
Bell isn’t the first former ACC assistant with long ties to a coaching legend that Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke brought in this year. Jeff Capel played and coached for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Lance White studied under Sue Semrau at Florida State. Lyke said that it wasn’t just the familiarity with the conference that made them attractive candidates, but the quality of the coaches that they served under, as well.
“I think the quality of baseball in this conference and understanding the level of competition and the type of recruit that you need to bring to this program is attractive,” Lyke said. “There’s some legendary coaches in this league, as well, when you’ve been in a place or learned from that caliber of a coach.”
His association with Martin and the Florida State program is one of the things that made Bell and attractive candidate for the Panthers. But Martin remains the G.O.A.T. He’ll have the chance to prove it next spring.
“He’s looking forward to May third, fourth and fifth,” Bell said with a smile.