You've heard all the sayings about never giving up. Scott Martin is living them out this week.
We're not just talking about his life as a junior varsity boys' basketball coach at Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, N.C. -- though that's at stake here. And this isn't about waking up early for morning workouts, sacrificing a late-night outing with friends because of a game the next day, or the frustrations of building a winning program. Those battles are there, but no longer the true test for this man.
On Aug. 26, Martin got a phone call from roommate, Nate Cline. Scott had left Wilmington earlier that day to visit his family in Hendersonville, N.C., to "appease a worrying grandmother" about impending Hurricane Irene.
"I got (to Hendersonville) probably around 4 o'clock," Scott says. "I hadn't sat down five minutes, and then the phone rings. Nate called and said, 'I hate to tell you this, but I'm being completely honest -- there's no joke here -- there's a tree in our kitchen.'"
Martin bought the house on 5555 Wrightsville Avenue in 2007. To help pay for the mortgage, he rented rooms out to Nate and another friend. Irene hadn't made even landfall, and yet the outer bands of the storm had destroyed their home.
Nate and Jason were not in the house at the time of the accident, but they were in Wilmington. More than five hours away, Martin made a frantic call to his insurance company to file a claim.
Then, the "real nightmare" began, as Scott's mother, Sheila McFalls, describes.
Martin pays his mortgage company an escrow which includes his mortgage, home insurance and property taxes in one lump sum. He says he thought his insurance company was Nationwide. However, that's not the case anymore.
"There's some screw up with my mortgage company, and they dropped my insurance, which was like full coverage," he says. "Now I'm signed up with their in-house lender insurance, which is only structural coverage."
Martin assumed once he got back in town, the process of getting his house fixed could begin. However, he's reluctant to pay contractors and repair crews out of pocket before he knows what insurance will cover. FEMA can't get involved without knowing that information, either.
Martin says Nationwide told him mandatory paperwork was sent to him, but the company never received it back. So he was dropped. His mortgage company signed him up instead for structural coverage with Assurant. According to Martin, Assurant advised him to remove the tree Tuesday morning -- four days after the initial claim.
Robert Byrd, senior director of communications with Assurant, told ThePostGame.com late Tuesday afternoon in a phone interview: "He is insured with us. Our people have been in contact with him."
Byrd verified that Assurant made contact with Martin on Tuesday. The company does not have a policy regarding the number of days it takes to send an adjuster. Byrd says that time period varies depending on the situation.
"It depends completely on the circumstances," he said Tuesday. "It's our commitment to serve everybody as quick as we can, but in the event of a major hurricane, it does take time."
Then, an hour later, Martin says he received a call from the head supervisor of adjusters, who told him he will visit the house Wednesday.
"Being a man of faith, I really believe that God is going to deliver me through this," Martin says. "I'm just going to keep speaking that positivity and letting people see that positivity in me.
"You can't let a tree falling through your house crush your dreams. It may crush your roof, but it's not going to crush your dreams."
When the tree fell through the roof, a large branch came within inches of one of the many small crosses Martin hangs in his house. Even the light switch is warped from exposure to rain, but that cross is still there -- the only thing that was undamaged on the wall.
Scott Martin smiles.
In the kitchen with a large, gaping hole in it, he talks about the real possibility of being homeless, unable to afford even the deductible if insurance picks up the tab for the damage.
A tree limb hangs down, poking out of the black tarp stapled to the ceiling to prevent further rain from entering the house. The walls of the laundry room and his bedroom are waterlogged, and he has to speak up over the constant drone of an oscillating fan swiveling to prevent mold infestation.
The living room is about 10 feet away, except it's no longer a living room. Scott sleeps there now, because most of his bedroom is still wet from the weekend storm.
"If I can't pay for this, I can't pay for it," he says.
He smiles again. Can't give up now.
"If I don't have a place to live or if I don't have a home," he says, "then so be it, but I will find a way until this basketball season is done.
"I'm going to see this through."
Martin was hired this past summer for the boys' junior varsity basketball head coaching position at Cape Fear Academy, a local private school. He spent the past two seasons at Coastal Christian High School, where he was a volunteer assistant coach before being promoted to head JV coach the following season. Under his direction, CCHS won the school’s first state championship with a 16-2 record.
However, none of those positions are full-time jobs, so Martin worked three part-time jobs last season in addition to coaching at CCHS and finishing a Communication Studies degree at UNC-Wilmington to make ends meet.
In the past week, Martin says he applied for about 10 jobs and hasn't heard anything back.
"I can't find a full-time job and here I am 29 (years old), and I'm trying to pursue this dream of coaching full-time," he says. "The problem with that is I need full-time money to be able to pay my mortgage and all that other stuff."
Martin wants a job that he can work at while being a coach at Cape Fear Academy. "I'm applying for jobs that I feel I'm overqualified for and I can’t even get those," he says. "I've applied at Blockbuster, Vitamin World, GNC, Bojangles -- I'm applying for like fast food jobs just so I can coach, pay the bills and keep it going."
Before the storm, Martin backed into another person's car in his driveway, resulting in $1,700 worth of damages. His car needs new tires and while driving to Hendersonville, the air conditioner broke. His mother and stepfather, John McFalls, drove him back to Wilmington after the storm because his car is in a repair shop.
Car trouble, a frustrating job search and a fallen tree. If anyone has earned the right to be pessimistic, it's Martin. Monday night, he got more bad news.
"You are not gonna believe this ... my phone broke," Martin texted. "I dunno what happened to it. I just left Verizon and they had to get me another one. I lost all my pictures and videos ... It just keeps raining on me brother but I keep right on moving. :-)"
Martin almost gave up coaching. He accepted a promotion to be the head JV boys' basketball coach at CCHS last year, but says the school only paid him $1,800 for the season.
That can't pay the bills. He was offered a job with U.S. Cellular that paid him well but he was not willing to work around his basketball schedule. In fact, he would have to miss about half of the games and the mandatory 8 a.m. Communication Studies core class that he needed to graduate.
"I'm like, 'Do I keep pursuing the dream and coach JV and get my degree, or do I take this job that’s going to help me pay my bills and give me the health benefits that I need?'"
He agonized over the decision and called his mother for advice. "I'm on the phone with my mom and I'm like, 'Mom, I don’t know what to do.’ She's like, 'Pray about it and God will let you know.'"
Minutes after that call, Martin walked to his mailbox. "I pull out my mail and I have a letter from Jerry Wainwright," he says. "I have never met Jerry Wainwright, and I'm thinking, 'What in the world is this?'"
Wainwright is a UNCW coaching legend. In eight seasons as the men's basketball head coach from 1994 to 2002, he led the Seahawks to two conference championships and the team’s first NCAA Tournament win.
Someone had reached out to Wainwright on Martin's behalf. "He was like, 'Scott, I heard that you have an interest in coaching and you want to pursue coaching at the college level, and I'm just encouraging you to pursue your coaching dream,'" Martin says. "I'm like, 'Well if this isn't a sign, what is?'"
The next day, he contacted U.S. Cellular and rejected the job offer. He would continue coaching. "The sacrifice I made was financial," Scott says, "and I'm doing everything I can to just get by. I'm not giving up coaching; there’s no way."
After receiving inspiration from Wainwright, Martin's passion became more intense. "I sent a message to my athletic director this morning that I'm committed to this job and I'm going to be back there as soon as I can," he says, raising his tone from soft-spoken to bold. "If I have to find a place to sleep or if I have sleep in my car in the parking lot everyday and take a shower in the locker room, I'll do it because I’m committed. This is what I want to do, and this is helping me pursue the dream of coaching college at some point."
In nearly two hours of showing the damage and retelling perhaps the worst weekend of his life, Martin never gets emotional. He never curses and he never wallows in why-me despair. "I just want to be able to live," he says. "I just want to be able to make it. I just want to be able to have a roof over my head ... which has a tree in it now."
And of course, at this he smiles.
Tyler Heffernan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.