GLENDALE, Arizona -- When the allure of this South Carolina run wears off, many, again, will probably turn back to an old and familiar mantra: Sure, Frank Martin just had some success, but it’s not real.

It won’t last.

This Final Four run that ended with a 77-73 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday was a one-time miracle run, and it was nice, and it was fun, but it’s over.

Those people are wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Frank Martin, long after either North Carolina or Gonzaga cuts down the nets Monday night, will remain one of the game’s elite coaches. Period.

His entire life, people have seen failure in Frank Martin and missed the greatness that would prove to be inevitable. That was true of his father, who left home and, years later, would place a photo of the son and rising-success story he’d left behind on his desk. Too late.

It was true of the sports intelligentsia in and around Kansas City when Martin took over for Kansas State in 2007. It was true, again, when he went to South Carolina.

People saw the angry outbursts, they read the resume heavy on high-school coaching and supposedly short in college success, and missed entirely the man and what he was about. They pronounced certain failure and sat back smugly to await the inevitable.


Frank Martin was the first to reach injured Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski. USATSI

In 2007, when Bob Huggins bolted Kansas State after just one year to go home to West Virginia, Martin was tapped for the job. I was a newspaper reporter in Kansas City at the time, and the outcry -- the laughter, the guffaws, the surety that the guy got the job simply to retain stud recruit Michael Beasley -- was everywhere.

The big-time columnists slammed the hire, and their influence was both well-earned and widely felt. The highly revered sports editor I worked for called me a know-nothing idiot for believing in Frank. Yet all it took was one day with the then-Kansas State coach to know they were wrong.

Problem was, few took the time to take a truly close look. Martin’s lack of greatness seemed to them too certain to double check.

Martin might seem a caricature from afar, but he’s a fascinating and complicated man up close. That rage is real -- I’ve sat in on some practices and halftime speeches that were profanity-laced howlers, and he can certainly hold a grudge -- but so is what inevitably follows: a much more nuanced man than the one the doubters see, and a guy with an uncanny ability to channel his life’s experiences into his teams and their play.

Once, while reporting a piece on him, I accompanied Martin as he drove three hours from Manhattan, Kansas, to the airport in Kansas City to drop off his son, who lived with his mother in Miami. His tenderness toward his son and his emotion at saying goodbye were powerful, and revealing, and a reminder who people are on television are far from who they actually are. Then, on the drive back, one of the players Martin had destroyed in practice that morning called to tell his coach he loved him and appreciated him, and, clutching that steering wheel as he listened, Martin began to cry.

It was the same fascinating dichotomy -- the rage and the sweetness, the intensity and the deeply felt emotional connections -- that everyone had missed.

Everyone but his players. It happened again here Saturday, when a reporter asked Martin to talk about what it had meant to inspire so many people with this team and he broke down on the dais, as the media waited uncomfortably. Several reporters mistook the moment for one that was tough to watch, but it was actually revelatory: The man cares, and connects, with his teams. It’s part of his greatness, then and now.

There’s a reason Martin’s teams play as hard or harder than any team in America (they had college basketball’s second-best defensive rating this season) -- why beyond the cliches his teams really do rise above expectations, fight as a family, rage against the doubters and inevitably surpass all expectations. That’s the Frank Martin story, and as much as any team in America his inevitably take on his personality.

Still, and always, doubts and ridicule follow him. And Martin has heard it all, remembered every word. He’s seethed. He’s remembered. And then he’s made all those doubters look wildly, wildly silly.

He did it in 2010, long after Beasley, Kansas State made an Elite Eight. That didn’t stop his athletic director at the time from forcing him out and onto South Carolina.

He did it again at South Carolina, making a perennial loser pretty good.

He did it this tournament -- this incredible run -- and in the loss to Gonzaga, where South Carolina had a real shot to win against the best team in the country.

Now that they’re heading home, let the doubters doubt, again. Time, as always, tends to side with Martin.

Mark Few, not often the most loquacious man when it comes to talking to the media, had this to say after the battle:

“I mean, that run South Carolina made on us, that just shows just the heart of a lion they have, that Frank instills in them, that they get from him.”

Don’t make the same mistake everyone else has. South Carolina’s arrival in this tournament was a Cinderella story in the true sense of the story: not a one-time magical dance, but the beginning of a remarkable story for Martin and Gamecocks fans that will have a happy ending.

The man is one of the best coaches in the country. It’ll just take most people out there a very long time to grasp it.