MHERST - Geoff Arnold is piling it on Chuck Martin.
The University of Massachusetts men's basketball media guide is hot off the press, and one picture of Martin, taken at Manhattan where he was an assistant coach, is less than flattering.
Martin just rolls his eyes as Arnold cracks himself up imitating Martin's sleepy expression.
Arnold and Martin likely will share many such light moments in the coming months. Arnold is the Minutemen's associate coach, and Martin is the team's new assistant coach.
When assistant coach Tony Barbee left to join John Calipari's staff at Memphis in March, head coach Bruiser Flint was looking for a replacement who could teach and recruit, and who preferably had contacts in recruit-rich New York.
But a side qualification for any successful applicant was having skin thick enough to hold off barbs from the chop-busters that inhabit the Mullins Center's southeastern corner office.
Aside from an occasional lack of photogenicism, Martin has successfully filled the post.
Martin gets the Minutemen going in practice.
"He's been a great fit with the rest of the staff. He's funny," Flint continued. "We have some funny dudes on this staff."
Martin, whose given name is Jose, got his nickname, as well as a recommendation for the UMass opening, from another wisecracking coach.
"I called him Chuck, because when he played for me, all he ever did was shoot," says Gary DeCesare. DeCesare, who is the coach at St. Raymond's High School in the Bronx, coached Minutemen Dana Dingle, Charlton Clarke and Kitwana Rhymer in high school.
In the summer of 1997, when Flint was looking for a big man, DeCesare had his answer in Rhymer. When Barbee left, DeCesare had an answer again.
"Bruiser talked to me a little bit about taking the position," DeCesare said. "I wasn't in a position in my life with my family that I could do that. But I recommended Chuck."
Like Rhymer, Dingle and Clarke, Martin attended St. Raymond's before playing at Monmouth College in New Jersey, where he graduated in 1993.
DeCesare said even in high school, Martin had the makings of a potential coach.
"Chucky was a very mature player," DeCesare said. "He was almost a coach while he was playing. You could definitely see coaching ability in him as a player. He's going to be a great young coach, and he'll definitely get the chance to be a head coach somewhere down the line."
Martin served as an assistant coach at La Salle Academy and then at St. Raymond's, where he coached Rhymer. During the 1998-99 season, he moved to Hoop Group, an organization that runs basketball camps and tournaments, where he was the director for the Eastern Invitational Basketball Camp, which annually draws some of the nation's top Division I prospects.
"It allowed me at one time or another to talk to just about every AAU coach in the country trying to get their kids to come to camp," Martin said. "I can't think of a job that would have better prepared me for college basketball than being a recruiter at camps."
Last year, Martin served as an assistant at Manhattan under former Virginia assistant Bobby Gonzalez.
Flint said Martin's Hoop Group experience will help him as a recruiter.
"They have to recruit those kids to come to those camps," Flint said. "Not only that, they have to recruit the people that bring the kids there. (Martin) knows how to recruit the AAU guy, the high school coach."
In addition to Martin's recruiting, Flint has been pleasantly surprised by his rapport with the players.
"The thing that really has surprised me is how he is with the guys," Flint said. "Before practice he'll get two or three guys and say, 'Hey come on, let's go work on this.' Guys really like that. It makes them feel special, (Martin) putting that attention to them."
Martin's enjoying his UMass experience so far.
"The kids have been really receptive," Martin said. "The assistant coach tends to spend a lot time with the players. I wanted to establish a good rapport with them so they know they can trust me to come into the office and talk to me about X's and O's, but also personal stuff, if need be."
Martin, who lives in Amherst and who has a daughter, Ashley-Monet Martin, 3, shares the long-term dream of most assistants, but is happy in his current spot.
"I want to learn as much as I can and have as much success as I can as an assistant, and hopefully if there is an opportunity somewhere down the line, you have to take a look at it," Martin said. "But right now I'm happy as an assistant here at UMass working for Bru, winning some games and getting some players for him."
Martin will get his first look at his new team in a game situation Friday, when the Minutemen begin exhibition play against the California All-Stars at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center.
MHERST - While Bruiser Flint was dishing out the assists for the St. Joseph's University men's basketball team in the mid-1980s, Jose L. "Chuck" Martin was doing things a little differently in the backcourt for St. Raymond's High School of the Bronx, N.Y.
"He got his nickname in high school, because he shot every time he touched the ball," said Gary DeCesare, the St. Raymond's coach who has provided University of Massachusetts basketball with three players — and now an assistant coach in Martin, 31, who was hired after Tony Barbee took a job with John Calipari's staff at Memphis.
Martin (center) gets greeted by the team at Midnight Madness 2000.
He landed the UMass job with the reputation of a man who could recruit in New York City. What Flint has learned, though, is that Martin offers much more.
"The bottom line in hiring him is that he could get us some players, but I've been happy with everything he's done," said Flint, whose team plays its first preseason game tomorrow night against the California All-Stars at the Mullins Center. "He works with the guys well, and he's fit right in with the staff. He's much more than just a recruiter."
UMass and St. Raymond's have had a fruitful association for years, and the high school has supplied the Minutemen with Dana Dingle, Charlton Clarke, and Kitwana Rhymer. But Flint had only sketchy knowledge of Martin until the interview process, which Martin said was the first time the two men had spoken at length.
"Everybody talked well of him, though," Flint said. "Gary DeCesare told me that if I wasn't going to hire him (DeCesare), he had a guy that was right for me."
"I like all the coaches here, but his being here gives me a sense of relaxation," said Rhymer, who attended St. Raymond's when Martin coached there. "When they said he was coming, I thought that was great. It's easier when you know a face from the past.
"I called him Mr. Martin at St. Raymond's — that was still high school," Rhymer said. "I've started calling him Chuck a little, but usually I still call him Mr. Martin."
Not many others do.
"Gary tells everybody the same story," said Martin, chuckling at tales of his playing days. "I definitely have to agree. For me it was, when in doubt, shoot."
For the record, the well-established DeCesare really wasn't interested in the UMass job. But Martin is excited.
"I think I can bring some enthusiasm and excitement, and to some extent, the kids can relate to me," said Martin, who is only four years younger than Flint but understands the importance of assistant coaches as buffers between the head coach and the players.
"And I'm willing to learn every day. I think Bruiser has done an awesome job, getting the guys to know what's expected."
Martin is working with the guards and forwards, allowing Flint to give extra attention to the post players. And he strengthens UMass in the fertile but competitive world of New York recruiting.
Martin thinks the St. Raymond's coaching experience served him well.
"The biggest difference between high school and college coaching is that there's no recruiting at the high school level," Martin said. "But Gary has done a great job, running his program a lot like a college team with conditioning, weight training and so forth."
"Chuck is going to give UMass a (recruiting) presence in New York City, because he has a great relationship with all the coaches down here," DeCesare said. "And having coached both in high school and college, he sees both sides. He's got a great way with kids, and he knows what the job takes."