COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins ran the formation from the wing, running to the top of the key before launching a pass to the sideline.
The inside-out play, which runs about six or seven passes, is designed to put up high-percentage shots either from the perimeter or from under the basket. The guards and big men are the essentials in the plan and a simple mistake can make or break the play.
"Next guy up to the top. You're going to pass to him over there. Ready? Let's go!"
Cuonzo Martin neither barks nor screams, he simply says these words in a way comprehensible to the ear. The players stood there, paying close attention as if they were listening to a college professor explaining why a certain concept is important.
With each run through, Martin stops the play and gets in position with the rest of the players. He sees the mistake from the get-go and vows to fix it personally. He goes into the bunch and describes step by step what should happen before, during and after the play.
"You've got to have your spacing. Let's go!" he continues, again without elevating his voice.
About the only thing missing is a classroom setup complete with a chalkboard, seats and tables.
"He does a really good job at teaching and explaining things," said Darius Miller, a Kentucky guard and senior-to-be who made the 12-man USA roster for the World University Games starting Friday in Shenzhen, China. "If you mess up, he'll stop. He does a good job at communicating with the players."
Martin, who was hired as Tennessee's 18th men's basketball coach in March, is fitting into his role as an assistant coach for the U.S.
"I think it is very important for your job as a coach is you have to be sure your guys are prepared to play," said Martin. "The biggest key is to have the guys understand what they have to do in order to be successful. I try to talk to these guys, tell them a few things, quick hitters and make sure they understand what they are trying to do."
The 39-year-old Martin, who coached at Missouri State for the past three seasons, is working primarily with the big men as part of U.S. coach Matt Painter's staff.
The two have ties since their playing days at Purdue in the late 1990s and again when both were assistant coaches under coach Gene Keady. Martin remained an assistant when Painter was promoted to take over the team in 2005.
Painter said he is happy to have Martin on his staff again, especially because he says he considers Martin a great coach and is someone he has a great level of comfort with.
"In general I think he has a great rapport with people and so anytime you're dealing with young people and you're trying to get them to jell as a team, a guy like (Martin) has great communication skills and has a lot of experience," Painter said.
The 20-year-old Jenkins, who is entering his junior season, is really attracted to Martin's unique style and emphasis on character traits, such as leadership.
"He makes sure we talk and that we encourage teammates. He makes sure we are good character guys like helping each other out when somebody falls and all the little things."
Jenkins, who also made the 12-man squad, added that Martin is just one of the guys off the court, but when it comes to on-court time, he will be tough and expect the best.
"The way he coaches is very unique," Jenkins said. "If you mess up, he will tell you what you did wrong and how to fix it. This helps us out a lot and it's been keeping us trying to get better because most coaches don't do it that way. His style is unique and I like it a lot."
Butler coach Brad Stevens, who also is on Painter's staff, acknowledged that he doesn't know Martin very well in head-coaching situations, but admired his knack for getting players to compete hard and communicate well.
"There's no doubt that guys are attracted to him and that they think the world of him. They listen to what he says, they believe him and they feel he's the guy they can go to," Stevens said.
Jenkins described Martin as a player's coach who tries to emulate his style with the players.
"I think the thing is who you are everyday," said Martin. "I don't think I try to be a certain leader or lead a certain way, I just it's who I am. I try to lead by my acts, by examples and my work ethic more than anything and however that rubs off on people it's a good thing. I just try to lead by example."
Ignacio Marquez is a freelance contributor.