John Adams: UT hires follow pattern

John Adams

When Tennessee hired Cuonzo Martin as its men's basketball coach, fans didn't have to hear the news conference to get a read on their new coach. They only had to know the program's hiring history.

Whatever the last coach seemingly lacked, the new coach would be expected to provide in abundance. It has worked that way for the last 22 years.

Bruce Pearl, Martin's predecessor, was fired because he lied to the NCAA about recruiting violations. So it's hardly shocking that UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek emphasized, " . . . the first thing, you've got to play by the rules" in citing his criteria for coaching candidates.

Cheek added: "(Martin) convinced me without a shadow of a doubt that he is that kind of coach."

That couldn't have been difficult. If you were interviewing at a school about to get swatted by the NCAA, wouldn't you at least hint that you were a stickler for following the rules?

Former UT basketball coach Don DeVoe was a stickler for following the rules in the 1980s. Unfortunately for him, half the coaches in the SEC weren't quite as obsessive about adhering to the NCAA rule book. Those programs eventually went on NCAA probation, but that was of little consolation to DeVoe, who was fired for not recruiting well enough.

UT then hired Wade Houston, who was regarded as a recruiting whiz as a Louisville assistant coach.

As a Vol, Houston recruited great inside his family. But other than his All-SEC son, Allan, no one ever mistook UT's talent for Louisville's.

Wade's laid-back approach to coaching - players didn't always make it to the airport in time, for example - left the Vols in the market for a high-energy guy when they began their next coaching search. They found him in Kevin O'Neill, who managed to function in a near-manic state on a couple of hours sleep while convincing his players that strangulation was just punishment for inadequate defense. Offense was an afterthought for his teams, which fell short of 50 points 15 times in three years.

When O'Neill left for Northwestern, UT sought out someone more offensively inclined. Enter: Jerry Green, whose offense was far better than his people skills. He managed to win 20 or more games for four consecutive seasons and become increasingly unpopular in the process.

UT next hired affable Buzz Peterson, who qualified as the anti-Green in that he won over fans but lost way too many games. Win or lose, he wasn't averse to a good nap on game day.

Athletic director Mike Hamilton probably figured out in the next interview process that Pearl didn't take naps. And since high energy and enthusiasm were again in demand, Pearl was a natural successor to Peterson.

Not only did Pearl have O'Neill's drive, he was even more likable than Peterson. He won big, filled up the arena and did everything you could ask of a coach except, as Cheek would say, "play by the rules."

From what I've read about Pearl's successor, Martin is a no-nonsense guy who will field a disciplined, hard-nosed team and perhaps stabilize the program. And given the current climate on the UT campus, he won't so much as toss a piece of gum on the NCAA sidewalk.

My guess is the next coaching search will focus on candidates with a great reputation for recruiting - even if they had to bend a few rules along the way.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 61

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Adams wastes no time looking ahead...

hodocka writes:

Houston could not recruit nor coach, had no discipline period. O'neill could recruit but as stated no offense. Green won with O'neill's recruits without much discipline. A coach has to have discipline and that's a given for Martin. Although brief, I feel his history shows he can coach offense and defense. I think the only question is can he recruit enough to win in the SEC.

RatherBeDrivingaTitleist writes:

John, You had me all the way until the end. It was your choice to put that last paragraph in. Maybe some day you will figure it all out. Maybe not.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Adams has hit the nail on the head with this one. My biggest concern is that we may not play up and down, fast tempo games. That is what must happen to get fannies in the seats, along with winning. He has 3 years to show he can do both.

jjack61 writes:

SNARKY, BUT ALSO TRUE TO THE FACTS. WE ARE ON THE EDGE OF A SLIDE INTO OBLIVION WITH OUR BB TEAM. NO MORE SWEET 16S FOR A DECADE OR MORE. THE STEADY DRUMBEAT OF DOOM GOES ON AND ON. WOE IS US. WHEN IS THE WORM GONNA TURN FOR THE ORANGE?

huntsvol17 writes:

And the point of this article is what? Information - nope, Entertainment - nope, what then???

jjack61 writes:

WHAT DO THE PEARL PERFIDY,FULMER FIASCO, AND KIFFEN KEELHAUL HAVE IN COMMON:( MORE THAN 1 ANS MAY BE CORRECT) A.GREED B.STUPIDITY. C ARROGANCE D. M hAMILTONS INCOMPETENCE E.SEVERE PR HITS FOR UT. F. ALL THE ABOVE - CAN YOU GUESS THE RIGHT ANSWER- I WILL BET THAT U CAN.

jjack61 writes:

Rhetorical question: Why does a major college call a press conference to talk about self-imposed sancs on the BB coach and program, but chooses to give a handout when a replacement BB coach is hired? Does this seem logical? Is it good for the image of that school? Maybe this whole sorry episode is only a bad dream. Whadda U think?

toldyouthatspsuckedfor3years writes:

That was actually a good article!!!!!!!!!

harveyupdyketreehugger writes:

in response to RatherBeDrivingaTitleist:

John, You had me all the way until the end. It was your choice to put that last paragraph in. Maybe some day you will figure it all out. Maybe not.

Couldn't agree more...Adams took it 99 yards and then fumbled on the one before reaching paydirt.

rocky_topper writes:

Gator Cheek says the funniest things sometimes!

volaholic45 writes:

If the KNS follows the same pattern, JA's replacement will be a likeable fellow who can distinguish between clever writing and pi$$ing people off.

Madkels writes:

I wouldn't put so much emphasis on his recruiting ability yet. I want to know if he can coach, motivate, and bring discipline. Look, Butler, VCU, and Boise State don't top the recruiting rankings, but their coaches can flat out coach. If I were AD, I would go after the guys who can flat out COACH, not just recruit. You may recruit the highest rated players, but that doesn't guarantee discipline, TEAM cohesivness, and wins, although it's a good starting point. There are only a few coaches who can do it all, and that sometimes boils down to the entire coaching staff as a whole.

nwcs writes:

I think Adams will be right on this one. The grass is always greener on the other side and fans always want what they can't have.

movol77 writes:

What a genius observation! You mean it only happens at UT and only in coaching? Thanks for the enlightenment.

westknoxrepub writes:

If his decision to release top 60 basketball players then go after guys getting scholarship offers from Rice, Harvard, Mercer and UTC is any indication, he might not even last four year. This isn't Missouri State coach, you have to compete with Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Memphis, and Georgia for players.

movol77 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

If his decision to release top 60 basketball players then go after guys getting scholarship offers from Rice, Harvard, Mercer and UTC is any indication, he might not even last four year. This isn't Missouri State coach, you have to compete with Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Memphis, and Georgia for players.

Ha. Lowly Missouri State beat Arkansas, Auburn, etc. in away games over the last couple of years. Statistically they beat us this past season in Knox. (We were lucky.) And Wichita State (runner up to Missouri State in the MVC this season...MSU beat them twice) just drilled Alabama for the NIT Championship.

chuckfromwoodbury writes:

Missouri State? Really? That is what Hammy thinks is the best we can get? He has got to go.

movol77 writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodbury:

Missouri State? Really? That is what Hammy thinks is the best we can get? He has got to go.

Among other sensible responses, let's try this again...

Ha. Lowly Missouri State beat Arkansas, Auburn, etc. in away games over the last couple of years. Statistically they beat us this past season in Knox. (We were lucky.) And Wichita State (runner up to Missouri State in the MVC this season...MSU beat them twice) just drilled Alabama for the NIT Championship.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to movol77:

Ha. Lowly Missouri State beat Arkansas, Auburn, etc. in away games over the last couple of years. Statistically they beat us this past season in Knox. (We were lucky.) And Wichita State (runner up to Missouri State in the MVC this season...MSU beat them twice) just drilled Alabama for the NIT Championship.

We're not winning SEC titles recruiting guys bad A-Sun teams want.

volsfan74 writes:

Whenever I read a John Adams column I'm always looking for his dig on Tennessee and once again he doesn't disappoint. He really could of left the last sentence out and it would've been fine but he could not resist.

chuckfromwoodbury writes:

in response to movol77:

Among other sensible responses, let's try this again...

Ha. Lowly Missouri State beat Arkansas, Auburn, etc. in away games over the last couple of years. Statistically they beat us this past season in Knox. (We were lucky.) And Wichita State (runner up to Missouri State in the MVC this season...MSU beat them twice) just drilled Alabama for the NIT Championship.

So what you are saying is we should have hired Rick Byrd.

westknoxrepub writes:

We have the "Dave Ramsey" of college athletic directors. . .Harrod's level program, but hiring Wal-Mart bargain bin guys to run it.

hallsguy writes:

I didn't agree with this hire at first but I'm thinking it may be good.If the guy can coach,win games,have a disciplined team that goes to class,doesn't embarass the university, I'm all for it. If he can do it without McDonald's all americans or Rivals top 100, even better.Check out how many of those kids actually work out or not one and done. Hopson was in that category,and with the very seldom,occasional flashes,has not lived up to the billing. Harris might but he's nowhere near ready for the NBA.
If CCM can coach up,we should be happy.
Adams is actually a good writer-he just tells it like it is and if you can't handle the heat in the kitchen... All the other writers around the SEC get in hot water with their fan base when they tell it straight, so no biggie.

CTVol writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

We're not winning SEC titles recruiting guys bad A-Sun teams want.

I agree. There's no way we are going to be competing for national championships or even SEC championships with these 1 and 2 star players that he seems to be interested in.

chuckfromwoodbury writes:

Martin is making almost ten times what he made at Podunk U. He figures if he can make it four years he can retire.

DRORANGELOVE writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodbury:

So what you are saying is we should have hired Rick Byrd.

I think Rick Byrd is an EXCELLENT BB coach, one of the best in achieving the most out of his available talent, however I fear he would have a tough time recruiting 5 star talent, because with most 5 star players, their attitude is all about ME and points I can score and NOT about WE and playing super star Defense and TEAM. For the same reasons I feel our new coach will have the same problem. Due to his coaching style, however effective it might be, he is going to have a tough time recruiting 5 star talent at UT, NOT because he isn't a good coach, but because he is a great believer in DEFENSE and insists on his players excelling in it. As a former coach I can tell you he is right. GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY wins National Championships, not just scoring points.This concept holds true in ANY ( Team ) sport.

AtLannaVol writes:

Good article.

movol77 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Put their 26-28 conference record in context...
2010/11 - 15-3
2009/10 - 8-10
2008/09 - 3-15

Your point is obviously shaded! Any child can recognize the vast improvement Coach Zo brought to MSU!

movol77 writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodbury:

So what you are saying is we should have hired Rick Byrd.

Good strategy. When you can't handle the facts, change the subject.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say no matter whom we hire or the results we own you as you'll be here whining either way. Witch Doctor say next post SURE you'll mention Fulmer for some reason(?)
Bones never lie.

movol77 writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodbury:

Martin is making almost ten times what he made at Podunk U. He figures if he can make it four years he can retire.

"Nothing is so absurd, if repeated often enough, that people will believe it." - Dr. William James (father of modern psych)

Fact. Martin made more than the reported $140k. He made $300k. He also turned down a significant raise March 7, 2011.

charlyand#601962 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey, Mr. Vanderbilt, maybe instead of looking up figures on Tennessee hires, you should lay awake nights worrying about your football program.

kyvol98 writes:

I have to say, I AGREE with Cantstandsaban!!!!

Ah, phooey, I can't go any further with this April Fool's joke........

murrayvol writes:

I guess the honeymoon is over.

docwater#225789 writes:

Personally, I like up tempo basketball, both offense and defense. I thought Arkansas' "40 minutes of hell" a few years ago was very exciting to watch. On the other hand, Ray Mears coached when I was in school. I lived 200 yards from Stokley and would not walk across the parking lot to see the games for free unless LSU's Pistol Pete or the Ole Miss guy were visiting. These were days before the shot clock and the games were often like watching grass grow unless these guys, who scored 40+ points per game (no 3's) were present. Hopefully, Coach Martin will play the tempo up .

movol77 writes:

in response to docwater#225789:

Personally, I like up tempo basketball, both offense and defense. I thought Arkansas' "40 minutes of hell" a few years ago was very exciting to watch. On the other hand, Ray Mears coached when I was in school. I lived 200 yards from Stokley and would not walk across the parking lot to see the games for free unless LSU's Pistol Pete or the Ole Miss guy were visiting. These were days before the shot clock and the games were often like watching grass grow unless these guys, who scored 40+ points per game (no 3's) were present. Hopefully, Coach Martin will play the tempo up .

Pistol! Showtime! 44.2 career avg.. ppg. without the 3pl. A biographer tracked the LSU score books and discerned that his average would exceed 52 ppg. with the 3pl.

chuckfromwoodbury writes:

in response to movol77:

"Nothing is so absurd, if repeated often enough, that people will believe it." - Dr. William James (father of modern psych)

Fact. Martin made more than the reported $140k. He made $300k. He also turned down a significant raise March 7, 2011.

Did you see that quote on the wall during your last appointment. Admit to the facts. We hired a coach that at best is "pretty good" in the crappy conference he just came from. We apparently didn't take a run at any top tier coaches. I'm sure Walter State's coach got a good look though. This is beyond inept. It is total incompetence on the part of hamilton and cheek.

easleychuck writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You can just see Adams, mmm I need an article tomorrow, mmm, I know I'll write a negative article about UT's new basketball coach whose former team I saw play one time. If and when he is successful, there will be plenty of time for me to jump on the Martin bandwagon. That is, after all, what I do best. Cause, heck-fire (that's a Cajun term from my beloved LSU Tigers), everybody (except for my stupid bossess) surely knows it sure isn't writing.

Now, I can just check the box, column done, and take a nap of my own.

movol77 writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodbury:

Did you see that quote on the wall during your last appointment. Admit to the facts. We hired a coach that at best is "pretty good" in the crappy conference he just came from. We apparently didn't take a run at any top tier coaches. I'm sure Walter State's coach got a good look though. This is beyond inept. It is total incompetence on the part of hamilton and cheek.

You are getting cleaned up with facts over the last few strings. Try again.

dvol writes:

in response to 02champs#209256:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Where have you been John? I've been waiting for the truth about this hire since what Tennessee calls an A.D. announced his hire. 3 years sounds about right to me. If the powers that are now in charge are still here. That will be Dooley's 4th year. That means we will hire 2 coaches in the same year. Has any school ever done this before?

Outdated writes:

in response to DRORANGELOVE:

I think Rick Byrd is an EXCELLENT BB coach, one of the best in achieving the most out of his available talent, however I fear he would have a tough time recruiting 5 star talent, because with most 5 star players, their attitude is all about ME and points I can score and NOT about WE and playing super star Defense and TEAM. For the same reasons I feel our new coach will have the same problem. Due to his coaching style, however effective it might be, he is going to have a tough time recruiting 5 star talent at UT, NOT because he isn't a good coach, but because he is a great believer in DEFENSE and insists on his players excelling in it. As a former coach I can tell you he is right. GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY wins National Championships, not just scoring points.This concept holds true in ANY ( Team ) sport.

Rick Byrd has a strong UT connection and it seems to have gone against him..I see no way Martin is more qualified than Rick.. I think either could be expected to have a difficult time recruiting...It is likely Rick has more contacts in Middle and West Tn than Martin..anyway it is done and we can only hope Adams is wrong..but it is reasonable to consider history...

GBOEngineer writes:

in response to jjack61:

Rhetorical question: Why does a major college call a press conference to talk about self-imposed sancs on the BB coach and program, but chooses to give a handout when a replacement BB coach is hired? Does this seem logical? Is it good for the image of that school? Maybe this whole sorry episode is only a bad dream. Whadda U think?

what do I think...

You are an idiot.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to BicardiRum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The only way he's kept that long is if he wins. He can not cheat all he wants to, but if he's not winning he's gone.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to Outdated:

Rick Byrd has a strong UT connection and it seems to have gone against him..I see no way Martin is more qualified than Rick.. I think either could be expected to have a difficult time recruiting...It is likely Rick has more contacts in Middle and West Tn than Martin..anyway it is done and we can only hope Adams is wrong..but it is reasonable to consider history...

Rick Byrd is an average coach who plays in a bad bad confrence. Martin at least improved a team in an actual mid-major. They've won the same number of NCAA tournament games too. . .Martin actually played a high number of decent teams, that weren't in the state of Missouri. Byrd schedule two, both in the state of Tennessee and his best win was against ETSU.

VolFanInMO writes:

in response to docwater#225789:

Personally, I like up tempo basketball, both offense and defense. I thought Arkansas' "40 minutes of hell" a few years ago was very exciting to watch. On the other hand, Ray Mears coached when I was in school. I lived 200 yards from Stokley and would not walk across the parking lot to see the games for free unless LSU's Pistol Pete or the Ole Miss guy were visiting. These were days before the shot clock and the games were often like watching grass grow unless these guys, who scored 40+ points per game (no 3's) were present. Hopefully, Coach Martin will play the tempo up .

Wasn't Johnny Neumann the 'Ole Miss guy?'

jarvol writes:

UT WILL be hiring another basketball coach in 2016 and UT basketball, at that time, will be much like it was in 2005.

boonevol writes:

in response to BicardiRum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OMG! There is NOTHING H about your O's! (IMHO)

RealisticVol writes:

Vol opponents spend big to get winners and they win. Mikie Hamilton spends small on unprovens and gambles it will pay off. So if we win, we still have to start paying big to keep them and if we lose, we start over from a lower bottom. FIRE HAMILTON AND GET SOMEONE WITH THE BUSINESS SENSE TO PAY IN THE FIRST PLACE.

CarbonCopy (Inactive) writes:

Better beer and President than writer

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