Cuonzo Martin, staff help with storm relief effort

University of Tennessee head basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and athletic director Mike Hamilton talk as students and UT Athletics volunteers gathered on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 to collect donations for victims in East Tennessee affected by recent severe weather. Donations were taken at the Regal Soccer Stadium, where they were sorted and loaded onto trucks, that will be driven to a Salvation Army distribution center Wednesday.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

University of Tennessee head basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and athletic director Mike Hamilton talk as students and UT Athletics volunteers gathered on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 to collect donations for victims in East Tennessee affected by recent severe weather. Donations were taken at the Regal Soccer Stadium, where they were sorted and loaded onto trucks, that will be driven to a Salvation Army distribution center Wednesday.

Home Depot and UT: Two shades of orange volunteer for disaster relief

Cuonzo Martin may still be a newcomer to the Tennessee community.

But the men’s basketball coach doesn’t have to be an expert on all the counties in the area to know they need help, particularly after his first tour on the Big Orange Caravan gave him a close-up look at the recent tornado damage in Cleveland, Tenn.

With that in mind, Martin and his new staff put on some aprons from Home Depot and got in line with a large group of volunteers on Tuesday morning at Regal Soccer Stadium to load up a truck full of supplies to help the victims of the storms that have claimed at least 37 lives in 10 area counties, reaching out to the neighbors still in the process of getting to know him.

“It’s one of those things, you have to do your part as a community,” Martin said. “Tennessee has really done a great job being involved and helping, and I just think it’s what you have to do and it’s what you need to do.

“I think in anything like this, whether you’re coaching or you’re just a regular, everyday guy, I think you want to support and be helpful — it’s your community. I think more than anything, that’s how you should look at it. Not necessarily because I’m the coach at Tennessee, I’m out here because I could be a part of this as well. This could happen to my family, so that’s the reason you really do these things.”

The athletic department and representatives from both men’s and women’s sports did plenty to give back to the various areas of need throughout the day, giving the Red Cross $25,000 and filling UT’s football equipment truck with necessities until early in the evening to send to residents in Bledsoe, Bradley, Cocke, Greene, Hamilton, Johnson, McMinn, Monroe, Rhea and Washington counties.

That the basketball program draws its attendance heavily from East Tennessee wasn’t lost on Martin or athletic director Mike Hamilton as the Vols begin the transition to a different regime, though it certainly wasn’t the motivating factor for the new coaching staff or the couple players packing up the bottles of water and toiletries.

“He’s been here long enough already to appreciate the fact that the thing that makes Tennessee athletics so special is the grassroots support from our fans across the state,” Hamilton said. “If one of our fans is suffering, then we’re all suffering. The tragedy of what happened a couple weeks ago is significant. Certainly there’s been a lot of national attention for what happened in Alabama, as you would expect, but we’ve had our set of tragedies here in East Tennessee.

“For basketball in particular, our fan base and most of the folks that are coming to our games are in East Tennessee. He’s smart enough to realize that we need to reach out when we can, and he’s actively engaged down here throwing boxes around and bottles of water and got a number of his team members doing the same and that’s good.”

That’s not necessarily a change of direction for basketball, which Hamilton pointed out had won several community service awards over the last couple years under former coach Bruce Pearl.

But Tuesday might have been another example of how quickly Martin seems to be adjusting to his new home.

“Once I took over the job, I was a part of it,” Martin said. “I mean, I’m excited about the future of our basketball team but also this, I think it’s very humbling because I know our fans have been affected by it. You just have to do your part.

“It feels good. The shoe could be on the other foot at some point, and I like to think somebody would try to help my family out.”

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward

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Comments » 7

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Thanks for the help for those that really need it. Our prayers are still going out and we hope you all are praying for us here in Memphis!!

Anyone have any info on the new center (Makanjuola, I think)?

rockytopwestone writes:

Who knows folks, The jury still has to be out on Coach Martin. Maybe he is somewhat of a politiction, I guess most coaches are. He seems to have a serious side though, just look at the picture. I don`t think he`ll gladly take a bunch of phooey from Mike Hamilton. Sunday I and a friend were in ST. Louis MO, on the sidewalk outside the entrance to Busch Stadium. My friend was wearing a Tennessee t-shirt, a educated looking stranger commented to us that we had stolen their coach. I asked if he was any good ? The stranger said he was great and he would take us to the next level. I say lets give him a shot !

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to rockytopwestone:

Who knows folks, The jury still has to be out on Coach Martin. Maybe he is somewhat of a politiction, I guess most coaches are. He seems to have a serious side though, just look at the picture. I don`t think he`ll gladly take a bunch of phooey from Mike Hamilton. Sunday I and a friend were in ST. Louis MO, on the sidewalk outside the entrance to Busch Stadium. My friend was wearing a Tennessee t-shirt, a educated looking stranger commented to us that we had stolen their coach. I asked if he was any good ? The stranger said he was great and he would take us to the next level. I say lets give him a shot !

LOL The jury is ALWAYS out on coaches or employees everywhere! Yes all coaches ARE "politictions". (politicians? whatever,hehe spellcheck likes my spelling) anyhow we have no choice in this matter. He's our coach like him or not. But I do like him so far. I think he's gonna be here a long time and be successful here.
We can always hope and support the best we can.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Great Job!! Thanks coach Martin. Look at the body language in to photo of Martin and Hammilton. HUMMM interesting. Good job Hamilton doing what you do best rasing money and P.R. work. We all are wondering what June will bring.
GO VOLS !!

easleychuck writes:

Job well done by all involved.

TheVolMan writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

Great Job!! Thanks coach Martin. Look at the body language in to photo of Martin and Hammilton. HUMMM interesting. Good job Hamilton doing what you do best rasing money and P.R. work. We all are wondering what June will bring.
GO VOLS !!

Body language? Lol. Man, you are really reaching on Hamilton. I'll tell you what their body language is communicating: Cuonzo and Mike are both out there investing time and energy into helping the community. Where were you? I'm proud of what these men have done. Oh, btw, Hamilton has done a great job in hiring coaches Martin and Dooley under difficult circumstances. He also make the toughest call an AD could make in firing a Tennessee coach who took us to the top. Tennessee has high expectations and even Fulmer was held accountable. I respect that Hamilton had the guts to follow through with that decision, a decision supported by many boosters and fans.

Pearl was an amazing hire--a miracle what Bruce did for our program. And, Hamilton didn't tell Bruce to lie to the NCAA. Kiffin? That was a roll of the dice which didn't work out -- except that he showed what good coaching could do with Phil's players. Crompton's turnaround was miraculous. And it was nice to compete with UF and UA on their home fields.

I could go on but will stop here. I'm just amazed how spineless it is to write pointed comments about MH in an article this positive. Hamilton has succeeded in raising money, PR, hiring and especially firing.

VOLliven2it writes:

It is great to see all out there helping even Hamilton, like him or not. Hopefully the same motivation of character to help people who have been victimized by violent storms will transfer onto the court. I feel these young men will eventually make a difference for UT basketball. I don't care about any politics of it, I am just glad so see them out there lending a hand.
Not to be too negaduckic but I do not see Mike Hamilton in the future of Vols sports success. I may be wrong, I may be right.

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