March 28th, 2013 02:30 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Tennessee
Tags: NCAA, NIT, recruiting, UT
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported yesterday afternoon that “a source with knowledge of the situation” told the paper that Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and his agent “will pursue an extension and possible renegotiation of his current contract when or if Tennessee reaches out this offseason.”
A tip for Martin and his agent: You don’t let it leak that you want a raise just one week after losing a first-round NIT game to Mercer in front of 4,000 fans in your home arena.
Let’s repeat that: You don’t let it leak that you want a raise just one week after losing a first-round NIT game to Mercer in front of 4,000 fans in your home arena.
Martin currently makes $1.3 million which ranks 10th in the Southeastern Conference among basketball coaches. Only Johnny Jones (LSU), Rick Ray (Mississippi State), and Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M) make less per year than Tennessee’s coach.
But aside from Tony Barbee — who’s stealing $1.5 million at Auburn — who should Martin be moved ahead of on the league’s salary chart? He just finished his fifth year as a head coach, his second at Tennessee. He’s never reached an NCAA Tournament. He’s still an unproven commodity.
John Calipari and Billy Donovan deserve to be at the top of the conference in pay. Mike Anderson hasn’t reached an NCAA tourney with Arkansas yet, but he certainly did at Missouri and UAB. Anthony Grant has been to the Big Dance. So have Mark Fox, Frank Haith, Kevin Stallings, and now Andy Kennedy. Frank Martin just finished a horrible first season at South Carolina, but his NCAA Tournament record at Kansas State suggests the Gamecocks will improve on his watch.
So what’s the argument for Martin to get a raise? Well, it’s threefold:
1. In two years, Martin has led UT to a ho-hum 39-28 overall record, but he inherited a bigger mess than most Volunteer fans are willing to admit. His first team was picked to finish 11th in the then-12 team SEC. A late run actually landed Tennessee the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament and put them on the NCAA bubble.
This past year, first-team All-SEC preseason selection Jeronne Maymon — truly the leader of UT’s team — was lost for the entire season due to complications from offseason knee surgery. But Martin led the Vols to another strong finish and back to the NCAA tourney bubble.
All things considered, that’s not bad work.
2. It’s believed that if Martin isn’t extended, rivals will use it against him in recruiting battles. That may be true, but negative recruiting will always exist. If it’s not Martin’s contract, rivals will focus on something else. Still, it’s a possible reason to renegotiate and extend.
3. Tennessee might need to quiet the “Bring Back Bruce” chants before they begin. (Technically, they already appear to be a little late on that front.) Ex-coach Bruce Pearl will be eligible for NCAA “parole” when his show-cause penalty expires after next season. There is a segment of the Vol fanbase that wants the highly-successful, affable showman to return to Thompson-Boling Arena.
While we’ve been told the only way Pearl would get another shot would be if the school replaced it’s president, chancellor, AD, board of trustees, and several key donors — in other words, it ain’t happenin’ — there will be a groundswell of fan support for Pearl should Martin and his team struggle at all next season. Hey, UT fans never gave up on the Jon Gruden dream, did they? So you better believe the Bruce Brigade will champion the return of their ex-coach regardless of how unrealistic that option might be.
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