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Monday, March 28, 2011

Tennessee annocues Cuzono Martin as their new men's basketball coach.

The University of Tennessee will formally introduce Cuonzo Martin as their men’s basketball head coach today. Martin of course will fill the role vacated by lightning rod Bruce Pearl. After chasing high profile names such as Villanova’s Jay Wright and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, the Vols decided that the best option left was Martin.

Cuonzo is among the most promising young coaches in the game, and we are excited about the coaching ability, toughness, and energy that he brings to our program," Tennessee Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton said. "He has a proven track record of success as a head coach at Missouri State and an assistant at Purdue as well as an outstanding career as a college basketball player. His Missouri State program improved from 11 wins to 26 in just two seasons, and they won the regular season conference championship this year." Said athletics director Mike Hamilton

Cuonzo Martin (pronounced CON-zoe) may not be the splash in the pan that most Vol fans were looking for, but upon closer inspection, he seems to be a judicious hire due to the circumstances facing the program. Under normal circumstances, UT with its facilities and deep pockets would be a coveted job for most coaches. However because of to trail left by Bruce Pearl and the possible NCAA infractions facing the program not so much at this time. Martin will inherit a program that has a due date with the NCAA infractions committee just 3 months from now and will learn their fate. Not to mention that the cupboard could be bare as Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson could jump to the NBA and incoming freshmen Kenny Ware could look to sign elsewhere with Pearl gone.

Nevertheless, Martin has proven that he can change a programs fortune. While at Missouri State, he took the Bears to a 26-9 and a conference championship in his third season. That was a stark turnaround from a team that just two years ago was 11-20 and last in the Missouri Valley Conference. He is a another coach off the Gene Keady coaching tree as is current Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. Martin has no history of NCAA violations which is important after the whole Bruce Pearl saga. He also received coach of the year honors in the MVC conference and is a finalist for two national coaching awards this season: the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award, presented annually to the top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball, and the Ben Jobe Award, presented annually to the top minority head coach in Division I.

Martin also survived a cancel scare as he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1997. He was last treated for the disease in 1998 and is now in full remission. The Martin era may not be what many UT fans wanted after six successful seasons by Bruce Pearl. My initial reaction to the hire was like most in saying who is this guy? The Vols had little choice really after reportedly being turned down by multiple coaches for the job. I figured it would have to be someone with strong resolve and determination to undertake such a dubious job. Martin seems to be as strong willed as they come after growing up on the mean streets of East St. Louis and surviving cancer, an NCAA infraction should be the least of his worries.

In summary, Martin should serve well in Knoxville. He wasn’t the first choice but if you remember back last time UT had an opening, neither was Bruce Pearl. His background shows that he is a man of high character and moral standards. His tenure may get off to a rocky start in rocky top but if his track record proves anything he will be able to endure the challenge of keeping UT in the top echelon of SEC basketball.

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