Four months after he was hired, Paco Martinez finally feels like the Force’s football coach.
When Wink Hartman was unable to secure a buyer for the Wild franchise he put up for sale in July, everything associated with the team went away. So after he was named coach by Force general partner Marv Fisher in August, Martinez went about securing new equipment and sponsorships.
Football, at that point, was secondary.
“We’re starting from scratch,” Martinez said. “… My time was dedicated, a lot, to getting the nuts and the bolts and the small things organized to make a football season happen. At the same time we’re trying to do sponsorships and the arena and turf and things like that.
“I’m just now switching to football mode where I can focus on football. To me, it was a whole new experience.”
The Force begins its season on Saturday as a new tenant of Intrust Bank Arena, where it will host Salina. Wichita joined the Champions Indoor League, the result of a merger between the Champions Indoor Professional Indoor Football League and the Texas-based Lone Star League.
Martinez was one of the first to know about a potential new franchise, or the continuation of the Wild. Fisher attempted to purchase the Wild from Hartman during the summer, but after the deal fell through Fisher was awarded a new team.
Legalities mandated that the new franchise couldn’t be associated with the Wild in any way, so Fisher had a blank canvas with which to work. It looks similar to the old one, with the same color scheme and many of the same players who helped lead the Wild to consecutive CPIFL championships.
Martinez, though, had none of the luxuries associated with a familiar finished product. He became a team salesman, trying to earn the attention of local businesses of which he was asking for financial support.
He also had to secure player commitments and contracts, even though many Wild holdovers were willing to return to Wichita.
“It was really challenging,” Martinez said. “I’m friendly and I talk to people, but sales is a whole different animal. It takes a different set of skills. I’m not the most-known coach of the professional coaches here, so just going in and saying ‘Hi, I’m Paco, I’m the head coach of this team,’ that didn’t get me into many doors.”
Martinez and the rest of the front-office staff, including new general manager Ashley Lawless, are putting the final touches on getting the Force into playing condition, but Martinez said the team could have started on Monday if it had been necessary.
Martinez confessed to anger at the sale of the Wild not long after the second straight CPIFL title. He’s moved beyond those feelings, though, to focus on building the Force from the ground up.
“Right now, the day-to-day stuff, I’m still waiting on knee pads,” Martinez said. “We’ve got the chains and the helmet pumps, and getting shoulder pads situated. It’s been a little bit of that, but that’s getting cleaned up and by next week we’re going to be 100-percent football mode, everything is ready to go.”