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Martin 'much more than X's and O's'

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

SNELLVILLE — Eddie Martin has coached at two different schools since, but he will never be forgotten at Brookwood.

The floor of the Broncos' gym will make sure of that.

Martin Court was dedicated Saturday, the name written on the hardwood as a permanent reminder of what the coach referred to by most as just "Eddie" meant to Brookwood and still means to Gwinnett basketball.

"I'm very flattered. This is such an honor," Martin said.

"It leaves me speechless, really."

The ceremony took place between games during preseason scrimmages involving the four schools where the legendary coach and former star player has made his mark.

Martin was so good at Central Gwinnett that he once held the county scoring record. But he has been even more successful as a coach, posting a 548-202 career record.

Martin's first 20 years as a coach was spent at Brookwood, where he began the program and was 350-180 despite never being blessed with an abundance of height or talent.

Then he spent six seasons at Norcross, going 170-18 and capping his stay with three consecutive Class AAAAA state titles. Now Martin, retired from the Gwinnett County school system, is at Greater Atlanta Christian, where the Spartans were 28-4 in his first season and made the Class AA semifinals.

First-year Brookwood boys coach Daniel Bowles played for Martin. So did Craig Witmer, who preceded Bowles. Opened nearly 30 years ago, Brookwood has had just three coaches.

"What makes him so special is that he has been able to get the most out of every kind of team he's had," Bowles said. "At Brookwood, his teams overachieved by doing the little things.

"At Norcross, Eddie showed he could blend a lot talent into a team. That isn't easy, either, and it certainly wasn't something he had to deal with at Brookwood. But he's been able to make every player and every team he's had better."

Martin, though, has touched lives by more ways than just basketball success.

"It has almost become cliche to say that coaching is about more than wins or losses, but Eddie instilled in his players much more than X's and O's," Witmer said. "He teaches his players to have a strong work ethic and he builds character."

Martin is known for the sweater vests he usually wears during games, and Norcross girls coach Angie Hembree wore one as a salute on Saturday. "This is for Eddie," she said.

But Martin had on a black suit for the dedication, although he admitted, "It's hot in here with this on."

Martin was presented with a large plaque telling of his many achievements, and he shared the occasion with his family, former players and many friends.

Brookwood girls coach Scott Terry joked that it should have been Eddie Martin Court so the gym could be called "The Ed" like Turner Field where the Braves play is called "The Ted."

But basketball has always been a family affair for Martin, so just using the last name was appropriate.

Sons Clint and Brent played for their father, and wife Malinda, a vice principal at Brookwood, has always kept the scorebook for her husband.

"It should be Mr. and Mrs. Martin Court for all the blood, sweat and tears I put in," Malinda joked.

Brookwood principal Debbie Dees, once the Broncos' girls basketball coach, spearheaded the move to have the court named for Martin and the writing was actually painted on this summer.

"To be remembered and honored like this is very special," Martin said.

"I think the highest honor a coach can have is having the court named after him because that's where countless hours of practice, drills and workouts occur," Witmer said.

"I guess I have a unique perspective on Eddie because I played for him, coached under him, followed him and then coached against him. He's been my coach, mentor, colleague, peer and, most importantly, friend."

As the roles of those around him have changed, so has Martin. A good coach can't be inflexible if he wants to stay successful.

"He's changed with the times and he's changed with his players," Bowles said. "A lot of coaches won't do that.

"Eddie means a lot not just to Brookwood and the other schools where he's coached, but to Gwinnett basketball. He's pushed it to the top."