Cuonzo Martin gets ringing endorsement from Gene Keady

Purdue coaching legend Gene Keady was like a proud papa on Sunday night when asked about new Tennessee men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

“It was evident early in his playing career he would be a leader in some type of profession,’’ said Keady, who served as an executive advisor for St. John’s staff this season. “He’s the best leader I ever had as a player.

“He’s almost like a son to me.’’

Martin will be introduced today as the 18th coach in UT men’s basketball history.

He replaces Bruce Pearl, who was fired last Monday as a result of the fallout from an NCAA investigation.

Martin, 39, coached the past three years at Missouri State, compiling a 61-41 record while leading the Bears to the school’s first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship this season and a 26-9 mark.

Martin began his coaching career in 2000 working under Keady, and he stayed on the staff when Keady retired in 2005 and Matt Painter took over.

“He’s a class guy that works hard,’’ said the 74-year-old Keady, a six-time National Coach of the Year and the second-winningest coach in Big Ten history. “He’s gone through all of the hard knocks of moving up in the coaching ranks. He has great integrity and will be very easy to work with.’’

Martin is among seven active NCAA coaches who played or coached under Keady, joining such notables as Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings, Illinois’ Bruce Weber and St. John’s Steve Lavin, all of whom placed their team in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Keady remembers that when the 6-foot-6 Martin played for him, from 1991-95, he was like a coach on the floor.

“We’d get in there at halftime, and he’d have everything solved,’’ Keady said. “We didn’t even have to talk to the players. Of course, we had (All-American) Glenn Robinson playing, so that helped.

“He was a lot like Kevin Stallings in that he listened as a player, and he was always attentive to detail.’’

Martin helped lead Purdue to back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1994 and 1995, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors his senior year.

Martin set a school record in a 1994 NCAA tournament Sweet 16 game at Thompson-Boling Arena, making eight of 13 attempts beyond the 3-point arc against Kansas, a record that has since been tied by Robbie Hummel.

Martin, known as a defensive stopper and 3-point marksman during his playing career at Purdue, still holds the school record for most consecutive games played (127).

“I really thought Missouri would be his opportunity because he’s from East St. Louis (Ill.),’’ Keady said, referencing the vacancy at Missouri. “When Tennessee offered, and I talked to one of the people from the (UT) administration (Saturday) night, I thought he would have a great shot.

“He’s very sociable, will be good with alumni, and he’s a player’s coach.’’

Keady said he always has been impressed by Martin’s ability to fight through adversity.

“When he came here (Purdue) in 1991, he had horrible knees, and our trainer told me he’d never play here, but he worked and worked and got himself where he could be functionable,’’ Keady said. “He came back from Europe (Italy) playing pro ball and had (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and got that whipped.

“I told him, ‘You finish your degree, and I’ll hire you,’ and that’s how he got started.’’

Keady said he expects Martin will bring Tennessee some of the staples that he learned at Purdue, such as tough defense and rebounding.

“We did a lot of defensive drills, and we did a lot of block-out drills in our practices,’’ Keady said. “Rebounding drills, stance, helping each other on defense; I really would have liked to have pressed more, but we didn’t have enough quickness to stay with it.

“I think you will see good defense, they will rebound well, they will take good shots and they will work hard,’’ he said. “I remember when he was a sophomore he was 0-for-6 from the 3-point line, and then as a junior he made 88 (3-pointers).

“So he’ll expect his players to work hard in the offseason.’’

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Comments » 49

HoustonVol writes:

The more I read and learn about this man, the better I like him. I am looking forward to seeing the work that Martin puts in. Vol Fans need to remember, next year will be rough. It would be rough if Pearl was still here. This is a good coach that has a clean record. Hopefully it will keep the NCAA hammer from coming down hard. So Vol fans, stand behind this guy and support the program. With or without NCAA sanctions, we have a couple of rough years ahead of us. Seeing his 3 years of work at MizSt, I am encouraged that he can take us back up the mountain.

allvol9 writes:

The more I read...the more I like Coach Martin. Welcome to UT!

thevoice writes:

I'm very impressed. Welcome aboard Mr. Martin.

PepperGrinder (Inactive) writes:

Well if I have learned anything about Coach Martin in the last couple of hours it is that his teams handle a zone better than Bruce's have in recent years. We will be fine.

OrangePsyched writes:

Keady was just plain scary as a coach. His teams would hit you in the mouth and lead the nation in floor burns. Hopefully CM can sell himself to some of our commits because we have a big hill to climb. I'm ready to see our new coach with the orange on and hear what he has to say. GBO!

Dalton writes:

I'm waiing forthe press conference before first judgemen...Dooley made a great first impression and that soothed any early doubt...I know enough to know I don't know everything so let's ride and pray it's smooth. I would have loved to see an interview wih Shaka Smart but we may be too toxic for that rising star and it probably doesn't hurt to hire the best guarantee as early as possible. This program needs to start healing and to be turned down would have hurt...well I'm in....lets do this!

slee writes:

give man the a chance and see what he can do in sec. i hope they gave him a lair test before hiring him.

mikec1000000 writes:

Coach Martin sounds like a straight-shooting, no nonsense coach, which is exactly what Tennessee has to have in place going before the NCAA in June. UT fans should be fine with him. Face the facts. Regardless of recent success under Coach Pearl, UT is not known as a basketball mecca. The job is not going to attract some big name markee guy, but an up and coming guy like Coach Martin will take that SEC stage gladly. If he shines, he can be on te hill for a long time. Ive never heard of him, but all Ive read in the past 24 hours indicates he is a top notch guy. If he can recruit, he may be a gem.

VolunteeringnCostaRica writes:

Now get Hamy off of the hill. He needs to be history. Heck, give me Phil Fulmer--anyone other than the one who has to be held responsible for all of the violations in the department. I have not heard him step up like a real leader and say, "the buck stops here." Get him out of the picture.

Pullingguard writes:

Vols were very fortunate to get a young coach with credentials for the future, especially with the NCAA hanging over them and with the openings that are available with major colleges. Lets be proud and back this coach as he faces the challenges of the future.

TennVol01 writes:

Thank goodness that most fans (including myself) are over the initial shock of hiring Coach Martin. Once common sense kicked in and a research into his background calmed most peoples nerves and a 180 degree turn in opinion. True UT fans will support whoever is at the helm of our basketball program. Welcome Coach Martin. Make us proud.

37934 writes:

During the Kiffin debacle, lots of us took solace in what Bruce was doing with Mens BB. I remember being 'proud' of how we were growing that program and that fan base. Things look different now.

Dooley was the right guy to 'heal the wounds' and say the right things with sincerity about the tough road ahead.

From what I have seen about Martin, he too speaks from the heart, and has not only never backed down from a challenge, but faced them with honesty and hard work vs. lies and cheats.

Go Vols!

TommyJack writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Vols were very fortunate to get a young coach with credentials for the future, especially with the NCAA hanging over them and with the openings that are available with major colleges. Lets be proud and back this coach as he faces the challenges of the future.

I'm with you, guard.

lomas98 writes:

Boy, these comments are 100 times better compared to the ones last night after the initial article. It's a good thing the incoming coaches don't read message boards, he would have changed his mind before he crossed the TN border. Give the man a chance, he wantst to be here with pending sanctions. Hopefully he can keep one of Harris or Hopson. I was hoping for a little better name to show the administration was serious about the basketball program and would pay what it took. Maybe all of the bigger names turned us down behind the scenes and Martin jumped on it? Good luck coach, please just win over the returning roster. There is talent there to work with to keep what Bruce built going. Please keep scheduling the way Bruce did too.

jomo11 writes:

Counzo could be the next Anthony Grant or Shaka Smart......OR he could be the next Wade Houston or Dennis Felton......a BIG risk....my question is why does Hamilton feel like he has to hurry ????/ just like the hiring of Dooley, he didn't need to be in such a hurry on that loser....in otherwords you could have hired Dooley or Counzo 3 weeks later and still got them...and try to get a Stoops for football or a Rick Barnes for basketball....why such a hurry ???

FearlessFreep writes:

Given the circumstances, the Martin hire is about what you expected. First a foremost, he appears to be a guy of great character. That's a very good start. His basketball pedigree is pretty good as well. At least give him some time before passing any judgement on his ability to lead the Vol hoops program.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Very good hire. Can't waite for next season. Welcome Coach Martin!
Maybe our A.D. has finnally taught himself what Tennessee people want.
GO VOLS !!

illinoisvolfan writes:

Go Gonzo for Cuonzo!

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

in response to TennVol01:

Thank goodness that most fans (including myself) are over the initial shock of hiring Coach Martin. Once common sense kicked in and a research into his background calmed most peoples nerves and a 180 degree turn in opinion. True UT fans will support whoever is at the helm of our basketball program. Welcome Coach Martin. Make us proud.

You are so right! Myself included; when I first heard about this hire my first thought was: Here we go again! Green, Houston w/out the son, etc. The more I read about him, the more it sounds better. it will all tell when the games begin! But, I still say Get rid of that sleezebag Hamilton & Cheek and a few more that thinks they know how to run that athletic dept.

lahvolman2 writes:

Just waiting for the year we won't be saying,,, boy it's gonna be a rough couple of years ahead in every sport at UT,,,, As long as Hamilton is there, I'm afraid that's going to be the song and dance every year.... He's great at raising money and ticket prices, but he will absolutely stick it to the loyal fan base.....

volsmith writes:

I think we may have hired a pretty good coach. I don't think the cubbard is bare as far as talent is concerned. It's been sitting on the bench, in favor of walk-ons the past few years. Hopefully, Coach Martin can get Harris to stay and get Golden, Hall and Woolridge more involved in the games.

iadvol writes:

in response to jomo11:

Counzo could be the next Anthony Grant or Shaka Smart......OR he could be the next Wade Houston or Dennis Felton......a BIG risk....my question is why does Hamilton feel like he has to hurry ????/ just like the hiring of Dooley, he didn't need to be in such a hurry on that loser....in otherwords you could have hired Dooley or Counzo 3 weeks later and still got them...and try to get a Stoops for football or a Rick Barnes for basketball....why such a hurry ???

Dooley is a loser? You are a Clueless idiot!

jbocap writes:

Welcome Coach Martin....wish you well here at Tennessee!!!!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

The Sports Animal should be good this AM. Tony Jones will be on there, along with Gene Keady.

For all of you crying, keep this in mind. Bruce Pearl is 1-2 against the Gene Keady coaching tree. His only win coming against Cuonzo in Knoxville. Cuonzo out coached Pearl, and his players played harder even though they fell to UT by 6 in Knoxville. This dude can coach. Jones at Charlotte and Painter at Purdue spanked Bruce. I can't believe that people actually thought Jay wright or Jamie Dixon would even consider coming to UT with sanctions looming. What the hell are they smoking? And being that this young man is willing to take on this program with sanctions looming shows that he is ALREADY more dedicated to this program than the slew of crybabies on this site.

jimr07 writes:

in response to BicardiRum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

blah, blah, blah. you sound like a broken record saying the same thing over and over. you are really getting tiresome.

jimr07 writes:

in response to jomo11:

Counzo could be the next Anthony Grant or Shaka Smart......OR he could be the next Wade Houston or Dennis Felton......a BIG risk....my question is why does Hamilton feel like he has to hurry ????/ just like the hiring of Dooley, he didn't need to be in such a hurry on that loser....in otherwords you could have hired Dooley or Counzo 3 weeks later and still got them...and try to get a Stoops for football or a Rick Barnes for basketball....why such a hurry ???

dream on.

hueypilot writes:

Marked improvement from the lamebrain posts last night. Man improved his W/L % from 35 to 67 to 74 in three years. His teams work hard on defense(anybody notice that all four final four teams won their games this weekend by playing markedly better defense than their opponents), he's beaten cancer, is a great role model for the majority of the young black men who will be playing for him, comes from East St. Louis, IL, a noted community of hard knocks where kids have to fight a lot of adversity, has played professional basketball, is a family man with three children and he dresses well and has a first name that easily makes him identifiable by it in the tradition of other great Tennessee icons (Oprah, Elvis and Peyton to name 3).

As they say in Bud Light land, Here We Go.

VolVox writes:

That was a heckuva endorsement from Coach Keady, and he was pretty specific as to why he liked him and thought he would do well. I remember watching Cuonzo as a player, and he knew how to play; he should have instant credibility with the players and recruits as a result. Add in the work ethic and integrity, and it's hard not to like this hire. After all the upheaval, UT has the chance to be set in the coaching department as to FB and BB for a long time.

bUTchVFL writes:

We will not know about W's and L's until they play, but I really like his character. Should fit in well with Dooley. After experiencing Kiffin and now Pearl, it will be nice to have a program that we can be proud of both on and off the court and coaches that are respected by society. GBO, VFL!

bUTchVFL writes:

in response to jimr07:

dream on.

I'm just curious who you think we should have realistically gone for? I drink the orange kool-aid like most of you, but our athletic department is a mess. What big name coach would electively take this job? Good luck coach Martin.

dvhill100 writes:

I wish him well. Now if we can just get the NCAA not to wack our peepee too hard.

Mule_Days_King writes:

My inital thought when this hit the media: WTH!?!?

I believe my inital thought was wrong. If such a well-respected coach such as Keady gives him a ringing endorsement, then that goes a long way for me. Keady didn't recruit/play chumps and didn't hire incompetents as assistants.

Welcome aboard, Coach Martin. GO BIG ORANGE!! VFL!!!

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to BicardiRum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Glad to see your VFL attitude is still alive there, Coach DeVoe.

RoadTrip writes:

If there was one thing I would change about the average Vol fan it is the initial reaction to change. The Volnation needs to learn to reserve judgment until all the facts are known instead of spewing useless emotional garbage. The assumption that everybody in power is stupid is ridiculous.

My faith in the UTAD has been reaffirmed with this hire. The AD made a couple of mistakes during this process, however, the major mistakes that caused the process to happen were made by the departed coach. One of the AD's mistakes was to remain overly loyal to a coach he had hired that had somehow lost his way and messed in his nest personally and professionally. He should have acted quicker in the best interests of the school and program. However, the initial hire of CBP was a really good one and the Volnation has some really great memories thanks to CBP. Focus on them and move on since change had to happen.

As I stated last night of what I believe from my research; not that which is spoon fed from our self righteous local media types; that this is a great hire that will bring equally or better memories for the Volnation. In light of the NCAA cloud and lack of great long term basketball tradition such that is enjoyed by our neighbors to the north; we had to go mid-major as no "big name" coach in his right mind would come to us for any amount of money that could reasonably be offered. The UTAD did the right thing. I thank them as a loyal Vol fan.

hueypilot writes:

in response to BicardiRum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sounds like more than just a casual observer here Bicardi. Did you or a family member get fired by UT at some time in the past. I know a guy that thought he was and up and comer but they hired C. Holloway and he jumped right past him on the pecking order. Are you like that? It doesn't seem like the KGB had as much nefarious skullduggery as you portray in the Tn Athletic Dept.

ivyvol writes:

Let's get behind coach Martin and make him feel wanted and proud to be with us. Maybe then he will want to reciprocate and do those things which will result in our being proud of our basketball team and the young men on it. Give him a chance folks!

Cartersvillevol writes:

in response to jomo11:

Counzo could be the next Anthony Grant or Shaka Smart......OR he could be the next Wade Houston or Dennis Felton......a BIG risk....my question is why does Hamilton feel like he has to hurry ????/ just like the hiring of Dooley, he didn't need to be in such a hurry on that loser....in otherwords you could have hired Dooley or Counzo 3 weeks later and still got them...and try to get a Stoops for football or a Rick Barnes for basketball....why such a hurry ???

For one thing, it looked like Mizzou had him marked as their #1 candidate. And if you think he's "the guy", why wait?

skyhawk836 writes:

in response to Cartersvillevol:

For one thing, it looked like Mizzou had him marked as their #1 candidate. And if you think he's "the guy", why wait?

I think the worry was that he would end up at Missouri or that if Matt Painter went to Missouri then Coach Martin would go to Purdue.

That's from some newspapers up that way.

skyhawk836 writes:

in response to Cartersvillevol:

For one thing, it looked like Mizzou had him marked as their #1 candidate. And if you think he's "the guy", why wait?

Sorry. I meant to respond to jomo11

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Harsh league! Harsh fans (many). Harsh alumni and "support". Extremely Harsh media. Harsh league!
I think he'll like it here. I think he'll shut every naysayer up. I THINK we'll beat KENTUCKY and FLORIDA next year!!!!!
It could happen.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Missouri was looking at hiring Martin. If they hired Painter from Purdue, then Martin would have been the new Purdue HC. Say want you want, but Purdue is a better hoops job than UT and their fans don't play over hoops. Missouri isn't a bad job AT ALL. If he's good enough for the Purdue and Missouri jobs he's more than good enough for UT. And his conference is one of the tougher mid-major conferences around.

The Sports Animal just did a gig with 2 sports talk guys from Springfield Missouri. They said this guy is a national recruiter, and will recruit lights out, as did Gene Keady.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to lomas98:

Boy, these comments are 100 times better compared to the ones last night after the initial article. It's a good thing the incoming coaches don't read message boards, he would have changed his mind before he crossed the TN border. Give the man a chance, he wantst to be here with pending sanctions. Hopefully he can keep one of Harris or Hopson. I was hoping for a little better name to show the administration was serious about the basketball program and would pay what it took. Maybe all of the bigger names turned us down behind the scenes and Martin jumped on it? Good luck coach, please just win over the returning roster. There is talent there to work with to keep what Bruce built going. Please keep scheduling the way Bruce did too.

I was thinking the same thing! It seems the more people learn about this guy, the better they feel going forward. I will say that he was not my first choice; I at least hoped we could get someone with a little more experience and national name recognition. However, Martin seems to be the type who will make the most of the opportunity and at least give us a personality we can believe in. For better AND worse, ex-CBP was one of a kind. Hopefully, Martin will embody some of the traits we liked in ex-CBP while improving on him in some other important ways. The next year or two might be pretty tough, on and off the court, but given all the obstacles Martin has already overcome in his life, I think he has the toughness and drive to overcome the obstacles here. In any case, he is our guy now and deserves all the support true Vol fans can give him.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Kansas hired Roy Williams and he had 0 head coaching experience. Plus they were put on sanctions right after he took the job from things Larry Brown did.

What makes people think this guy didn't cut his teeth at Missouri State and isn't ready to take on this challenge? It wasn't at the top of my list of coaches, but I'm gonna support him. I just happen to think we found us a good coach here. Time will tell.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I was thinking the same thing! It seems the more people learn about this guy, the better they feel going forward. I will say that he was not my first choice; I at least hoped we could get someone with a little more experience and national name recognition. However, Martin seems to be the type who will make the most of the opportunity and at least give us a personality we can believe in. For better AND worse, ex-CBP was one of a kind. Hopefully, Martin will embody some of the traits we liked in ex-CBP while improving on him in some other important ways. The next year or two might be pretty tough, on and off the court, but given all the obstacles Martin has already overcome in his life, I think he has the toughness and drive to overcome the obstacles here. In any case, he is our guy now and deserves all the support true Vol fans can give him.

Good solid post.

VOLliven2it writes:

I stand behind this hire and will be for Coach Martin as head coach of the bb Volunteer men's team. I do not have any respect for Mike Hamilton but will not let him influence me negatively about our incoming coach.
We will see how it all will turn out beginning with the sanctions in June followed by players we keep and recruiting in the future. My gut feeling is he will be fine given time. So let's try to be patient.

twhite#364344 writes:

in response to jomo11:

Counzo could be the next Anthony Grant or Shaka Smart......OR he could be the next Wade Houston or Dennis Felton......a BIG risk....my question is why does Hamilton feel like he has to hurry ????/ just like the hiring of Dooley, he didn't need to be in such a hurry on that loser....in otherwords you could have hired Dooley or Counzo 3 weeks later and still got them...and try to get a Stoops for football or a Rick Barnes for basketball....why such a hurry ???

Hamilton can't do anything right. People were going crazy because we hadn't hired a fooball caoch in 24 hours. And if you think that Texas, Pitt or anyother major school is going to let us come in there and still there coach you have lost your mind. I know sometimes who we think we are but these other schools can pay just as much as us.

phillyvol writes:

in response to jomo11:

Counzo could be the next Anthony Grant or Shaka Smart......OR he could be the next Wade Houston or Dennis Felton......a BIG risk....my question is why does Hamilton feel like he has to hurry ????/ just like the hiring of Dooley, he didn't need to be in such a hurry on that loser....in otherwords you could have hired Dooley or Counzo 3 weeks later and still got them...and try to get a Stoops for football or a Rick Barnes for basketball....why such a hurry ???

I get the point you're making but why does CCM have to be compared to every other black coach as if Grant & Smart or Houston & Felton represent some sort of continuum? Maybe CCM will turn out to be like a lot of other white coaches who have had successes and failures. Just sayin'.

Pompey writes:

in response to HoustonVol:

The more I read and learn about this man, the better I like him. I am looking forward to seeing the work that Martin puts in. Vol Fans need to remember, next year will be rough. It would be rough if Pearl was still here. This is a good coach that has a clean record. Hopefully it will keep the NCAA hammer from coming down hard. So Vol fans, stand behind this guy and support the program. With or without NCAA sanctions, we have a couple of rough years ahead of us. Seeing his 3 years of work at MizSt, I am encouraged that he can take us back up the mountain.

Look, I appreciate your sprit but UT's Athletic department is in crises and Rah Rah is not going to solve it. Hamilton has become a divisive element with little fan and alum support and will have to go......period.

pcorange writes:

I feel a little better knowing that he's a Keady protege. I was hoping for the likes of Jamie Dixon or Brad Stevens, but I guess that was wishful thinking considering the NCAA ruling that looms.

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