Many remember Marty Clark for his clutch performance against Indiana in the 1992 National semifinal game. There, only a sophomore, Clark routinely converted late free throws to hold off the Hoosiers and propell Duke to a second straight National Championship. Now, a decade later, Clark sits down with TDD to catch up and look back on his four years at Duke.
It has been almost 10 years since you left Duke can you give us a timeline update as to what you have been up to both basketball and non-basketball related?
Well, after graduating I played professionally in Europe and the US for about 4.5 to 5 years. I played in Finland, Turkey, Australia, and a little bit in the CBA. After that I was part of two start- up companies with Duke Graduates. One of the businesses was in the apparel industry and the other was on the internet. I am now a high school coach and a basketball guy again.
Where are you coaching now?
St. Joseph High School, Westchester, IL, my Alma mater, it is a Western suburb of Chicago.
Weren’t you in the movie Hoop Dreams when one of the players was attending St. Joseph’s with you?
Yes, William Gates, a St. Joseph’s grad, he was a junior when I was a senior and William is an outstanding person. He is a preacher now and does a number of outreach programs for youth in the inner city.
He wound up at Marquette right?
Yes he went right to Marquette and finished up there.
In your time at Duke you were a part of countless amazing games. Which games are the sweetest looking back?
I’d have to say the Final Four game against Indiana. Grant bows out, Brian Davis gets hurt and Coach K looks down the bench at me, Christian Ast and Kenny Blakeny. So I sort of jumped up and played the last 2.5 minutes of that game. I was lucky to hit some free throws and have a small part in a big game. We had a great senior year, so many games that year were special too. As far as individual games it’s tough to say. The 1992 NCAA game against Kentucky was one of the most unbelievable games that I have ever seen or been a part of. Having been a part of 20 NCAA tournament games and sitting back I realize there are guys who would give a left arm just to be in one NCAA tournament game. And here we are in 20. I got to play with a lot of great players and that is the reason I went to Duke.
Your senior year you played a big role as the sixth man, you played a lot of important minutes, how did it feel when it all came to an end in that championship game against Arkansas?
Well I felt like I maximized out my potential. If you looked up in Webster’s Dictionary under overachiever you would probably see my name. I think reaching your potential, on or off the court, especially at a place like Duke is something really neat and special and something I wish a lot of other kids could enjoy. The basketball ended on a sweet note. We played all the way out. We beat Florida in the semi-finals and played Arkansas in the final where it came down to a last second shot by Scotty Thurman. Arkansas had an outstanding team with Corliss Williamson. I left satisfied that I had given just about everything that I could.
Can you tell us about the Chicago Player Academy in Chicago that you run?
It is an organization geared towards developing aspiring young talent. We spend two thirds of our time working on skill development and the other third in competition. If there was anything anti-AAU it would be the CPA. We are geared towards making kids better, finding out what they need to work on rather than just playing games. The CPA is for kids that want to get to the next level. It is for kids who want to get better.
Where is it held?
It is out of St. Joseph High School, we have a really nice facility there with three courts, eight rims, a weight lifting facility and it is ideally located just West of Downtown Chicago and smack dab in the middle of everything.
Obviously you are back here at Duke working all three weeks of Coach K’s camp so you still maintain a lot of relationships here. Of the guys you played with, which do you still maintain great friendships with?
Out of all those guys, Christian Laettner is probably the guy I talk to the most. It is funny, he was our captain and leader for so long and he still sort of seems to be that way. Brian Davis, Thomas Hill, Cherokee Parks are all guys I still talk with. Kenny Blakeny I stay in touch with a lot. Christian, Thomas, Brian and I get together three of four times a year and we go skiing or fishing or we work out. We are still teammates and we always will be. Those guys are great!
Jay Williams is still recovering from his injuries sustained in Chicago, where you are now and he was in Durham for the first session of camp, giving you a chance to work and play together. How do you feel about his current situation involving his accident and upcoming rehabilitation?
Sad. We just can’t really believe that someone who was gearing up for his second professional year and coming off of such a great Duke career could have this happen. 36 hours before the accident I was playing pick-up with him and 10 year olds on the basketball court. It is sad and shocking to see so much talent and earning potential to have that happen to him. Let’s face it that was a 50 or 70 million dollar mistake. Not so much the money, but Jay’s happiness as a person is going to be altered by this event. It is a lesson. Every person and kid is going to learn that lesson. Certain things and certain situations are extremely dangerous.
Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?
I have ridden a motorcycle and I’ll tell you a story. I was heading down LaSalle Boulevard (in Chicago) crossing North Avenue. The lanes in Chicago are so well traveled they are kind of wavy. I was on my Dad’s motorcycle and I hit a little bump and I went flying off the motorcycle. The only thing that was touching the motorcycle was my hands. Everything else was off. My heart jumped through my throat, and I stopped. I then went to a side street and proceeded home at about 5 miles an hour. I have never been on a motorcycle since then.
Did you have a helmet on?
No, Illinois does not have a law that requires helmets to be worn at all times on motorcycles.
I understand you are a big music fan Marty, what are your favorite bands?
I am a big Smashing Pumpkins fan. I like a lot of their old stuff, Gish, Siamese Dreams, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Billy Corgan is extremely creative. As is the drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. I also like Dave Matthews. All those guys are true musicians and great to listen to.
What did you listen to before games at Duke to get pumped up?
I used to listen to the Black Crowes and Pearl Jam’s album Ten. Especially the song Alive.
You mentioned you played professionally in the United States, were you in the NBA at one point?
I got two try outs after the Portsmith Invitational Camp. I tried out for the Milwaukee Bucks. Mike Dunleavy Sr. was their coach at that time. I also tried out for the Utah Jazz. I was close to making both teams, but I was not able to shoot the ball deep enough from 25 feet and that is the reason I am not in the NBA. Duke was my NBA!!! (laughs)
Marty, you have a degree from Duke in Economics, two National Championships, 20 NCAA tournament games, and tremendous progress as a player. What did Marty Clark as a person take away from Duke and what did you learn here that helped you get to the point you are at right now?
The biggest thing I learned was how big time sports organizations run at a very high level and maintain that level of excellence for a long period of time. I learned how to communication well from Coach K. Psychology I learned in the locker room. Socio-Economics I learned on the road getting to know other players. Basketball taught me a heck of a lot about life. Outside of basketball I learned that every individual on campus is really neat in some way and you never know who you are going to meet. Duke students are so talented, all you have to do is open your eyes and listen and you’ll learn a ton of stuff. I learned a lot about integrity, communication, and friendship. Those are the cornerstones of any good organization, company or family!
At some point do you desire to coach college basketball? If you had the opportunity to coach here at Duke or at any other school, is that a goal of yours?
I am going to be a coach at the highest level. I want to be a head coach. In doing that, In getting to that point, right now I am in my fourth year of coaching at St. Joseph’s which is a very high level Illinois high school. We will see where it goes from there. If there were a position open at Duke I would jump at the chance to come back and learn the flip side of how to win and get better. I have reason to stay in Chicago because of my girlfriend, Alissa. Currently that is keeping me in the Chicago area. I have moved so many times in my life I am not sure if I am ready to move six or seven times again as most coaches do. It is going to be a tough decision. I am going to have to make some tough choices. As long as a person does a good job and is happy with what they do, everything else will take care of itself.
When you say the highest level, are you saying that you would also be willing to coach in the NBA?
Clark averaged 5.3 points per game in 122 contests for Duke from '91-'94.