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‘Tough, fiery, competitive’: How Mike Martin ’04 became Brown men’s basketball’s winningest coach

Co-workers, players reflect on coach’s career, impact on team

Becoming a coach was always a part of Mike Martin ’04’s career trajectory. “He always wanted to lead by example, but also wasn't afraid to use his voice — you know, his opinion — and correct his teammates,” reflected Associate Head Coach T.J. Sorrentine. 

Courtesy of Chip DeLorenzo via Brown Athletics
Becoming a coach was always a part of Mike Martin ’04’s career trajectory. “He always wanted to lead by example, but also wasn't afraid to use his voice — you know, his opinion — and correct his teammates,” reflected Associate Head Coach T.J. Sorrentine. Courtesy of Chip DeLorenzo via Brown Athletics

Despite falling short of qualifying for the Ivy League Tournament, Brown men’s basketball enjoyed a historic milestone this season: Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 became the winningest coach in Bears basketball history, breaking a 54-year-old record previously held by Stanley Ward, who coached from 1954 to 1969. Martin achieved this feat with a Feb. 11 victory over Cornell, notching his 134th win. Martin, who was named Ivy League Coach of the Year in 2019 after leading Bruno to a program-best 20 wins, currently holds a 135-153 career record.

Born in Agawam, Massachusetts, Martin attended Cathedral High School, where he was a standout basketball player, a member of their 1998 state championship squad and winner of the 2000 John Lahovich Award, given to the best high school basketball player in Western Massachusetts. In 2000, Brown recruited Martin to play under Glen Miller, to whom Martin credited much of his career. 

“Without him, I (wouldn’t be) coaching here,” Martin said. “I wouldn’t have been a student at Brown. I wouldn’t have played here. I wouldn’t have met my wife.” 

“The great lessons I was taught and all the great things I learned schematically from Coach Miller and his staff (and) the relationships with my coaches impact how I try to build relationships with our student-athletes,” he added. “The time spent with my best friends who were my teammates — I want to create those opportunities and those memories for our current students.”

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Martin graduated from Brown with a degree in economics in 2004. During his senior season, he averaged 11.0 points per game on 42.5% shooting from behind the arc. Martin’s graduating class posted the winningest four years in Bruno’s basketball history, earning a 63-45 record and going 39-17 in Ivy League play. Martin’s 143 three-pointers made sits third in Bears history. 

After graduating, Martin played professionally in Ireland for a year before becoming an assistant coach at Penn.

In 2012, Brown hired Martin to take over as head coach. In his debut coaching season, he was named a finalist for the Joe B. Hall Award for best NCAA Division I first-year head coach. 

Martin said that leading the same program he once played for provides extra motivation: “When it’s your alma mater, and you have all those relationships and you have all those memories, … it makes you that much hungrier to bring a championship to this program.”

Today, Martin coaches alongside former Amateur Athletic Union teammate T.J. Sorrentine.

According to Associate Head Coach Sorrentine, Martin’s playstyle “was tough, fiery, competitive — super competitive.” 

“That’s the word that stands out the most, and you can see it when he coaches,” Sorrentine added. “He wants to win.” 

For Sorrentine, becoming a coach seemed like a natural part of Martin’s career trajectory. “He always wanted to lead by example, but also wasn't afraid to use his voice … and correct his teammates,” Sorrentine explained. 

Martin’s “very detailed, very smart,” he added. “We always joke around in the office that his memory is off the charts. He’ll recite a stat or a play in a game from 10 years ago.” 

Sorrentine described Martin’s loyalty as his most prominent trait. “I always know that he will have our back,” he said. “Family’s important to him, and that’s how he runs his program.” 

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As a coach, Martin has sought to foster a tight-knit environment. “This season, … we had a good balance of leadership coming from both the coaching staff and from within the team, and so that allowed us to have a really good winning culture,” said Paxson Wojcik ’23, men’s basketball co-captain this past season. 

On Dec. 2, Brown upset rival Bryant University with a 72-60 win. Before the game, Wojcik recalled that “Coach went around the locker room and looked at every guy, went down the line and gave a brief story in front of everyone to the time that he first saw the individual recruit in high school and realized that he wanted them to be a Brown Bear.” 

During that game, Bruno “came out with a lot of emotion and played together,” Wojcik said. 

Martin “encourages us to play with a lot of freedom and share the ball,” Aaron Cooley ’25 wrote in a message to The Herald. “When you can get that level of trust from your coach, it gives you confidence in yourself, something that can easily be lost throughout a season.”

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“Once (players) know you love them and care about them … you can challenge them in a way that helps them be more confident in themself,” Martin said.

Sorrentine said that he knows Martin will “cherish” his recent accomplishment, but “knowing him and his competitiveness and who he is, (eventually) getting to the NCAA Tournament will be way more important than this honor.”

This season, Bruno fell short of their goal of making the Ivy League Tournament, losing to Yale in a game that would have guaranteed them a spot. 

But this disappointing conclusion “doesn't take away from the progress we made as a program,” Martin said. “I’m very much process-oriented, and I think that we took another step forward.” 

Next season, Martin aims to bring Bruno to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1986.



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