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Vols Won’t Win The Press Conference With Martin, But…

Tennessee’s hiring of Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin hasn’t done much to cool fan anger over the dismissmal of Bruce Pearl.  The early results are in in the form of a non-scientific poll at The Knoxville News Sentinel’s website:

Happy with the hire: 25%
Not happy with the hire: 36%
Reserving judgement: 37%

When just 25% of the fans voting approve of the hire, that’s not a real good sign.  One prominent UT booster — blogger Clay Travis — tweeted this: 

Odds Bruce Pearl returns to NCAA Tourney before Cuonzo Martin goes for the first time?  Nearly 100%.

Funny.  If Pearl doesn’t get a lengthy ban from the NCAA for destroying the UT program — a nugget that surprisingly few Tennessee fans accept.

Even Pearl’s son Steven — who played for the Vols this year — had a rough tweet regarding Martin:

All I can do is laugh and say good luck sir

Of course, Steven has seen his dad’s fall from grace up close and at least has the excuse of a wounded heart to blame for his lack of decorum.

So we at are going to jump in with both feet on this one too, right?  I mean, we questioned Tennessee’s hire of Lane Kiffin and ripped the hire of Derek Dooley.  We must really be prepared to toss some darts after this one, right?  Right?

Wrong.  Hey, if nothing else, Martin is the first coach in three tries (including Kiffin, Dooley and himself) to actually have a winning record as the time of his employment at Tennessee.  That’s a start.

But here’s why this hire isn’t as bad — in our view — as many folks seem to think:

1.  Martin showed class in returning to Springfield to meet with his team face-to-face about his departure.  That’s becoming a rarity these days and it shows character.  Considering Tennessee’s current mess, there’s nothing wrong with the Vols hiring someone with a little character.  Richmond’s Chris Mooney would have been a perfect fit for UT had “major” NCAA violations from 2007 not come to light.  Staring down the barrel of the NCAA’s elephant gun itself, Tennessee couldn’t afford to take any chances.  Martin has a clean resume.

2.  Martin is a B-level, mid-major candidate which is about all the UT administration could hope to land in the Pearl aftermath.  NCAA sanctions.  NCAA probation.  A questionable roster.  High expectations in spite of those last three points.  Now toss in a lame-duck AD.  Why would a “name” coach volunteer to take the Volunteer job at this point in time?  They wouldn’t.  And UT floated trial balloons at the Jamie Dixons and Sean Millers of the world.  It’s not Martin’s fault that he was in the “and the rest” category of UT’s candidate list.

3.  Martin won the Missouri Valley regular season title last year — a first for the school — and he was named the league’s Coach of the Year.  His resume is short — three years in Springfield — but so is Shaka Smart’s at VCU.  Smart’s had a helluva run after miraculously getting into the NCAAs, but pre-tourney, the names Smart and Martin would have been squarely side-by-side on any list of young, mid-major coaches.

4.  His Missouri State players had only good things to say about their outgoing coach.  Again, that’s not always the case when a coach splits.

5.  The Gene Keady coaching tree has sprouted many successful branches: Bruce Weber, Kevin Stallings, Steve Lavin, Matt Painter, etc.  And Keady has glowing praise for his former protege.

Also, when you’re hoping to keep two current players from turning pro, it doesn’t hurt to hire a fiery, late-30s, African-American, former NBA player as your top guy.  Here’s guessing Belmont’s 58-year-old Rick Byrd would have had a tougher time keeping Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris in Knoxville.  No offense, but 30 years at Belmont doesn’t give a man much street cred among 19- and 20-year-olds.

So, from the standpoint, no, Martin is not Mike Anderson, the man Arkansas snared for the only other opening in the league this year.  But Tennessee couldn’t grab an Anderson-esque candidate in its current situation… and among the fallback, B-level candidates, Martin seems to have as many pluses as anyone.

And it bears repeating — at least this guy’s got a winning record as he moves to the foothills of the Smokies.

Does that mean he’ll win 70% of his games on Rocky Top like his predecessor?  Likely not.  But the Vols weren’t in a position to hire anyone else who could “guarantee” that kind of success.

Some links:

This writer bashes the hire and says AD Mike Hamilton will likely be gone soon.

Martin survived a scary bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

This writer says Tennessee made a prudent choice in Martin.



Is it true that on your TV show, when Martin's name was mention,you and the guest said "No" on being hired. If so, Why are you saying its not a bad hire



Nope. Not true. In fact, I spoke out and said he had the Keady coaching tree going for him AND that he'd turned Missouri State around from Year One to Year Two and Year Three.

Maybe we'll show that to start next week's show.

Thanks for playing,


The level of genius required to subtly nod to the Gilligan's Island theme does NOT go unnoticed sir...



And that's the first time the words "Gilligan's Island" and "genius" have ever appeared in the same sentence.

Many thanks,


L M A O! These college coaches inspire loyalty, ethical & upright behavior, professionalism! Only to the Kool-Aid drinkers! Cuonzo Martin went on KY3 television just a couple of days ago and squashed any rumors that he was going to MU as a head coach. Springfield, MSU and his players assumed from the things he said that he was very happy to be the head coach for MSU. Turn out, Cuonzo Martin was using the media opportunity to telegraph to Tennessee that he was still their man and not to worry about MU muddying up the deal. That’s right, if you think Cuonzo Martin put the Tennessee deal together in two days…here’s your sign.


I was one of the people voting that this is a good hire. He has a clean record. His players and fans support him. Everyone that has worked with him support him. He has contacts in the pros, overseas and in the NBA. UT was not going to make a splash with this hire. No named coach would take this job if we had thrown $3million a year at the guy. UT was not about to throw 2-3 million at someone that has a decent chance, no matter how good he is, at having a losing record next year, and possibly the year after. We are not UK, Duke or UNC (though to many UT fans think that). There is not a named coach that want's to notch his career belt with "restored UT to power", because there is no restoring. VCU and Butler now have more history than UT.


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