Cuonzo Martin keeps his cool amid variety of questions from SEC press

Coach keeps his cool amid variety of questions

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference basketball media day Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in Hoover, Ala.

Photo by Dave Martin

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference basketball media day Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in Hoover, Ala.

Cuonzo Martin on his first SEC media day

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Cuonzo Martin appeared more comfortable answering questions at SEC Basketball Media Day than some of the media members who were asking them Thursday afternoon.

Even when the lines of questioning turned curious, which they invariably do when new coaches come to the league, the only SEC rookie coach in the room never broke a sweat.

A Kentucky media member said he heard Martin never met former UT coach Bruce Pearl.

"I know Coach Pearl,'' Martin said.

"Do you?'' the reporter replied skeptically.

"Oh yeah,'' Martin said.

The reporter kept fishing: "You look like I'm accusing you of something.''

Martin unleashed a hearty laugh to end the exchange.

It was the eighth and final time Pearl's name came up in the 43-minute interview, which was surpassed only by the 11 times Martin was asked about his Purdue mentor, former coach Gene Keady.

Martin didn't bat an eye or break a sentence in handling hundreds of questions from some 34 reporters who took a turn at his table.

If the Vols show as much poise as Martin did when pressed Thursday, they stand a chance of bettering the SEC preseason media projection of them finishing 11th in the league.

Martin later explained why he didn't take issue with any of the questions about Pearl.

"He was the coach at Tennessee, so you have to answer the questions,'' Martin said. "Anywhere you go, you're going to get asked about the last coach ... it's unfortunate what happened for him not to be here, and he (Pearl) isn't a bad guy.''

At least part of the issue for many interviewing Martin was they weren't sure what or who to ask about: UT returns only one starter, junior Cameron Tatum.

And, as Tatum told a group of reporters moments before Martin opened up his interview, the Vols' starting lineup "is still up for grabs, including myself.''

Martin said he liked how his team was competing, and he said he doesn't feel any pressure entering his first season at UT.

"Not at all,'' Martin said. "There are some very talented teams, but at the end of the day, it's when you play them, how you play them and how they're playing, and if you have a good plan you have a chance to win.''

And how does he expect his players to buy in to his system?

"I don't know if there are many options outside of buying in,'' Martin said.

Martin said defense will be a "mainstay" of his program, but he added that the Vols have three players he feels can score with or without a play call: Tatum, Jordan McRae and Trae Golden.

The questions teetered between the court and his personal life, and while Martin didn't turn the media day into a soap opera, he didn't shy away from self disclosure, even revealing he was named after a doctor.

After correcting a questioner who mispronounced his name — "You say it like it's spelled C-O-N-Z-O, even though there's a 'U' in it,'' — Martin told the story of how he got his name.

"My grandmother,'' Martin said. "The doctor that delivered my dad, he was an Italian, and that was his name. When I went to play (professionally) in Italy, there were a lot of people named Cuonzo.''

Martin also shared the story of how he would have likely signed with Illinois had the Fighting Illini not been under NCAA investigation for its recruitment of Deon Thomas.

Pearl, of course, played a role in that investigation; as an assistant at Iowa, he turned in Illinois.

The irony was not lost on anyone: twice, incidents involving Pearl have had a significant impact on Martin's basketball future.

"So I've got to thank him then, for this opportunity right here,'' Martin said. "I've never had a problem with Coach (Pearl); I think he's a good man.''

The consensus at SEC Media Day was that Martin is, too.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, like Martin a former Purdue player and assistant coach, said as much.

"He's an excellent coach, a very good person, a guy who is an extremely hard worker and very full of character,'' Stallings said. "I think the people of Tennessee and Knoxville will enjoy him.''

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 106

CoverOrange writes:

C-O-N-Z-O. Sounds like a cheer.

GerryOP writes:

I like what I hear coming out of Coach 'Zo's world. Refreshing....

CoverOrange writes:

Saw an article on John Blake, the guy the NCAA is crucifying at UNC. The article mention atty Mike Glazier who is the same atty that sat at the table with Pearl and basically made sure Pearl fell into his own trap. In the article Glazier is characterized as the guy universities hire to make sure they look good not defend the accused. Someone at UT knew what was coming down the pike.

Prostar writes:

I've been mispronouncing it too. Nobody ever told me the "u" was silent. I still like him, he just looks like a basketball player/coach. I'm eager to see how this team responds and plays and I'm eager to see Justin Worley saturday.

jumboliyah writes:

NEWSFLASH: No one cares what Kevin Stallings thinks! He is a perfect fit for vindy...nuff said.

jumboliyah writes:

Know how many Vandy students it takes to change a flat tire? 4...3 to mix the martinis and one to call Daddy.

bbfn writes:

in response to jumboliyah:

Know how many Vandy students it takes to change a flat tire? 4...3 to mix the martinis and one to call Daddy.

Jealousy is not attractive.

RomanRoomRedux (Inactive) writes:

Martin and Stallings both went to Purdue. That's their only simlarity. One can coach and recruit, the other we bought for peanuts.Out of desperation. Long season ahead.

TommyJack writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

Martin and Stallings both went to Purdue. That's their only simlarity. One can coach and recruit, the other we bought for peanuts.Out of desperation. Long season ahead.

The Cubicleist

RomanRoomRedux (Inactive) writes:

in response to TommyJack:

The Cubicleist

It can get boring sometimes.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

It can get boring sometimes.

So what is it you actually do at KNS?

TennVol01 writes:

Coach Martin may be the men.s Pat Summitt. He i calm but aggressive. Note that i think he will beat 99 percent of the competition.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

"I don't know if there are many options outside of buying in,'' Martin said.

Ok...that was a great answer.

And now, I need to rag on the idiot reporters who keep asking Martin about Pearl: you are idiots. All of you. Each one.

Who gives a flying whup if Martin knows Pearl?? I don't care if they shared a candlelit dinner together. It has absolutely no bearing on Martin's future at UT. Here are some questions that didn't get asked because some idiot journalist was trying to get Martin to diss on Pearl:

1) Your recruiting has been less than impressive since you've were named coach. How do you plan on attracting the type of players necessary to compete with and beat teams like UK and UF?

2) In your opinion, over the next three years, what should the fan base look for to measure whether or not you are making progress as the Head Coach?

3) It's no secret that UT is a school that has traditionally been more interested in football than basketball. How do you convince a kid that is considering a traditional basketball school, like Kansas, to take a shot at the UT program?

4) What do you think of the "one and done" NCAA rule?

And so on and so forth.

I absolutely HATE it when reporters repeatedly ask a dumb, nonsensical question just for the slim hope that the new guy will slip up and say something controversial. Coach Martin may not be the right guy for UT basketball, but he isn't going to insult Coach Pearl. SO STOP ASKING HIM ABOUT IT!

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Saw an article on John Blake, the guy the NCAA is crucifying at UNC. The article mention atty Mike Glazier who is the same atty that sat at the table with Pearl and basically made sure Pearl fell into his own trap. In the article Glazier is characterized as the guy universities hire to make sure they look good not defend the accused. Someone at UT knew what was coming down the pike.

I didn't pick up on that when I read the article. You're right. It sure is fishy.

The attorney's UT hired to advise Pearl were admittedly working only for UT and not in the best interest of Pearl. Pearl wasn't advised of new charges that he would be questioned about, he wasn't made aware of the existence of an incriminating pic. He basically got led by the nose into a trap.

If Mike Glazier had a hand in both the Pearl and Blake situations, then I would tend to agree with you that Pearl was intentionally set up to take the fall.

keepitreal4vols writes:

In that photo, who is that grumpy looking reporter that looks like he is about to fall asleep listenig to coach Martin?

allvol32 writes:

I thought Coach Martin was an excellent hire as soon as I looked into who he has been and what he has done in the sports world as well as the real world. His story is an inspiring one.

Reading his responses to some of the moronic "gotcha" questions from a few in the press core was rich. He zinged them pretty good.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to TennVol01:

Coach Martin may be the men.s Pat Summitt. He i calm but aggressive. Note that i think he will beat 99 percent of the competition.

First of all, if you're going to post from your phone, take the time to actually type things out correctly.

Second, really? The men's Pat Summitt? He made it through day one of the SEC Media Days without screwing up, you think maybe it's a bit premature to compare him to the winningest basketball coach in the history of the universe?

Of course, that's a rhetorical question. What you said was dumb.

FeelVol writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"I don't know if there are many options outside of buying in,'' Martin said.

Ok...that was a great answer.

And now, I need to rag on the idiot reporters who keep asking Martin about Pearl: you are idiots. All of you. Each one.

Who gives a flying whup if Martin knows Pearl?? I don't care if they shared a candlelit dinner together. It has absolutely no bearing on Martin's future at UT. Here are some questions that didn't get asked because some idiot journalist was trying to get Martin to diss on Pearl:

1) Your recruiting has been less than impressive since you've were named coach. How do you plan on attracting the type of players necessary to compete with and beat teams like UK and UF?

2) In your opinion, over the next three years, what should the fan base look for to measure whether or not you are making progress as the Head Coach?

3) It's no secret that UT is a school that has traditionally been more interested in football than basketball. How do you convince a kid that is considering a traditional basketball school, like Kansas, to take a shot at the UT program?

4) What do you think of the "one and done" NCAA rule?

And so on and so forth.

I absolutely HATE it when reporters repeatedly ask a dumb, nonsensical question just for the slim hope that the new guy will slip up and say something controversial. Coach Martin may not be the right guy for UT basketball, but he isn't going to insult Coach Pearl. SO STOP ASKING HIM ABOUT IT!

Agreed,seems so many reporters are more interested in controversity and some can't get over the fact that Pearl is gone.

atnvol#283282 writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

Martin and Stallings both went to Purdue. That's their only simlarity. One can coach and recruit, the other we bought for peanuts.Out of desperation. Long season ahead.

RRR we are paying Martin about TWICE what we payed Pearl when we hired him. Many of the same comments about Martin were also made about Pearl when he was hired. The roman room huh?

sunglaspro#374094 writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

First of all, if you're going to post from your phone, take the time to actually type things out correctly.

Second, really? The men's Pat Summitt? He made it through day one of the SEC Media Days without screwing up, you think maybe it's a bit premature to compare him to the winningest basketball coach in the history of the universe?

Of course, that's a rhetorical question. What you said was dumb.

While TennVol01's outlook seems extremely optimistic, whats the difference between his opinion and those who have already decided Martin is a failure before he has even coached a game

VolGrad writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

Martin and Stallings both went to Purdue. That's their only simlarity. One can coach and recruit, the other we bought for peanuts.Out of desperation. Long season ahead.

Same troll, different name, different coach, same dull subjective opinions.

I'll wait and see what kind of team he puts out there on the floor and how he manages the game. He certainly is no novice to battling adversity and the odds... successfully.

Go Vols!

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

All you martin supporters needs to realize this coach aint worth 15 cents,he aint no SEC coach...yeah he might of done good at the school he was at (a nobody school in a nobody league) but this is the SEC,he aint cut out for that.At the end of the season youns can say yeah bos was right he aint worth 15 cents

rootin4volz writes:

Idiot press guys. Always on the offensive, until they can't get the response they're digging for, then they get all defensive about it. Typical.

SIMSVOL writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

VolGrad writes:

in response to usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it:

So what is it you actually do at KNS?

He send the memos about TPS reports, no doubt.
"Did you get that memo?"
Yes, actually I-
"Well I'll just go ahead and send that to you-"
I got the memo.
"again just to make sure, you see, 'cause we're doing the report a little differently now, different font, format-"
No, it's okay. I got the-
"and stuff like that; I'll just go ahead and, uhh, get that to you now. Thanks."

BigBadVol writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

Martin and Stallings both went to Purdue. That's their only simlarity. One can coach and recruit, the other we bought for peanuts.Out of desperation. Long season ahead.

A troll posting before midnight. Please get a life!

VolGrad writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great imitation.
:D

How's this: "Doommmm, dispairrrr, and agnony on me. Ohhhh!" :p

hardtimecountyvol writes:

Love the guy. And no bullochi from him either

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

I watched Oliver Purnell when he was at Clemson basically take a weak team each year and made them better and better. Unfortunately he could only take them so far in the ACC. I get the feeling that Coach Martin is a lot like Coach Purnell. What I am hoping for is progress each game and each year. He seems to have a plan, he just needs talent to execute it.

UTVOL2001 writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"I don't know if there are many options outside of buying in,'' Martin said.

Ok...that was a great answer.

And now, I need to rag on the idiot reporters who keep asking Martin about Pearl: you are idiots. All of you. Each one.

Who gives a flying whup if Martin knows Pearl?? I don't care if they shared a candlelit dinner together. It has absolutely no bearing on Martin's future at UT. Here are some questions that didn't get asked because some idiot journalist was trying to get Martin to diss on Pearl:

1) Your recruiting has been less than impressive since you've were named coach. How do you plan on attracting the type of players necessary to compete with and beat teams like UK and UF?

2) In your opinion, over the next three years, what should the fan base look for to measure whether or not you are making progress as the Head Coach?

3) It's no secret that UT is a school that has traditionally been more interested in football than basketball. How do you convince a kid that is considering a traditional basketball school, like Kansas, to take a shot at the UT program?

4) What do you think of the "one and done" NCAA rule?

And so on and so forth.

I absolutely HATE it when reporters repeatedly ask a dumb, nonsensical question just for the slim hope that the new guy will slip up and say something controversial. Coach Martin may not be the right guy for UT basketball, but he isn't going to insult Coach Pearl. SO STOP ASKING HIM ABOUT IT!

that would make too much sense!

Chappy writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

Martin and Stallings both went to Purdue. That's their only simlarity. One can coach and recruit, the other we bought for peanuts.Out of desperation. Long season ahead.

Do you have anything nice to say about anyone?

RomanRoomRedux (Inactive) writes:

in response to Chappy:

Do you have anything nice to say about anyone?

Yes. I liked Coach Bussard and I like John Adams writing.

TheRealDragonSlayer writes:

in response to Chappy:

Do you have anything nice to say about anyone?

RomanRoomRedux only has good things to say about his mother and uncle. Or "dad," as he likes to call him.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to bricker865:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I could add a couple of commas if you think that will help you and your comprehension problems.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to TennVol01:

Coach Martin may be the men.s Pat Summitt. He i calm but aggressive. Note that i think he will beat 99 percent of the competition.

Pat Summitt can recruit big time players, thus far Martin's only landed guys who aren't getting any other offers from good teams.

dlobh writes:

in response to RomanRoomRedux:

Yes. I liked Coach Bussard and I like John Adams writing.

You do have one redeeming quality - the Roman Room. Pizza burger and fries, served by George. Memories . . .

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to sunglaspro#374094:

While TennVol01's outlook seems extremely optimistic, whats the difference between his opinion and those who have already decided Martin is a failure before he has even coached a game

We have his recruiting to judge him on, and so far it's a failure. Even if he manages to win with Pearl's players, the guys he recruited are not SEC calibur players. Last years guys, yeah you can say it was last minute, but if that's the case how come next year's class only consists of a two star player who didn't get offers from any other top teir programs? He needs to recruit players that can compete with Florida and Kentucky, otherwise he needs to be fired.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

All you martin supporters needs to realize this coach aint worth 15 cents,he aint no SEC coach...yeah he might of done good at the school he was at (a nobody school in a nobody league) but this is the SEC,he aint cut out for that.At the end of the season youns can say yeah bos was right he aint worth 15 cents

People said the same thing about Urban Meyer when he was hired from Utah. Same thing about Saban when LSU hired him from Mich St. If, at the end of the season, yous ain't righ, is youn gonna come on here and pologize? Just askin'.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"I don't know if there are many options outside of buying in,'' Martin said.

Ok...that was a great answer.

And now, I need to rag on the idiot reporters who keep asking Martin about Pearl: you are idiots. All of you. Each one.

Who gives a flying whup if Martin knows Pearl?? I don't care if they shared a candlelit dinner together. It has absolutely no bearing on Martin's future at UT. Here are some questions that didn't get asked because some idiot journalist was trying to get Martin to diss on Pearl:

1) Your recruiting has been less than impressive since you've were named coach. How do you plan on attracting the type of players necessary to compete with and beat teams like UK and UF?

2) In your opinion, over the next three years, what should the fan base look for to measure whether or not you are making progress as the Head Coach?

3) It's no secret that UT is a school that has traditionally been more interested in football than basketball. How do you convince a kid that is considering a traditional basketball school, like Kansas, to take a shot at the UT program?

4) What do you think of the "one and done" NCAA rule?

And so on and so forth.

I absolutely HATE it when reporters repeatedly ask a dumb, nonsensical question just for the slim hope that the new guy will slip up and say something controversial. Coach Martin may not be the right guy for UT basketball, but he isn't going to insult Coach Pearl. SO STOP ASKING HIM ABOUT IT!

D, remind us next year to pool money together to send you to this shindig. Valid questions that should have been asked. Next year they'll probably ask Coach Zo, Well how do you feel not having Coach Pearl on the bench or Did you call Coach Pearl during halftime of any games to get his opinion? Seriously the media needs to move on. Pearl is not relevant.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

People said the same thing about Urban Meyer when he was hired from Utah. Same thing about Saban when LSU hired him from Mich St. If, at the end of the season, yous ain't righ, is youn gonna come on here and pologize? Just askin'.

I don't understand how people can ignore his abysmal recruiting and have a positive outlook. Yeah, he's got some good players Pearl recruited, and thus far he's brought in a bunch of mid-major guys. Nobody of any consequence offered any of the players he brought in this year or next years committment. Even if he does have a good year this year, once Pearl's players are gone, thus far the bench is full of guys who got offers from Atlantic Sun level schools. That's not going to cut it in the SEC and anyone who thinks it will is delusional.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

I didn't pick up on that when I read the article. You're right. It sure is fishy.

The attorney's UT hired to advise Pearl were admittedly working only for UT and not in the best interest of Pearl. Pearl wasn't advised of new charges that he would be questioned about, he wasn't made aware of the existence of an incriminating pic. He basically got led by the nose into a trap.

If Mike Glazier had a hand in both the Pearl and Blake situations, then I would tend to agree with you that Pearl was intentionally set up to take the fall.

Thanks for getting my point, even if it was off topic. It seemed obvious to me from the text of the interrogation that Glazier wasn't there to help Pearl and that Pearl didn't know that. Is it fair to say that if Pearl had his own lawyer, he probably wouldn't have lied and probably would still be the coach. C'est la vie.

Ayres_Hall writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks Amy!

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So if he doesn't win, you're not going to call for his job?

Ayres_Hall writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

I don't understand how people can ignore his abysmal recruiting and have a positive outlook. Yeah, he's got some good players Pearl recruited, and thus far he's brought in a bunch of mid-major guys. Nobody of any consequence offered any of the players he brought in this year or next years committment. Even if he does have a good year this year, once Pearl's players are gone, thus far the bench is full of guys who got offers from Atlantic Sun level schools. That's not going to cut it in the SEC and anyone who thinks it will is delusional.

Somehow. If I try to explain how things are... I feel you won't undertand, anyway.

Misery loves company. And I'm not buying into the misery thing.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

I don't understand how people can ignore his abysmal recruiting and have a positive outlook. Yeah, he's got some good players Pearl recruited, and thus far he's brought in a bunch of mid-major guys. Nobody of any consequence offered any of the players he brought in this year or next years committment. Even if he does have a good year this year, once Pearl's players are gone, thus far the bench is full of guys who got offers from Atlantic Sun level schools. That's not going to cut it in the SEC and anyone who thinks it will is delusional.

I'm not ignoring it, and unfortunately, Martin doesn't have the same situation as Meyer or Saban had (deep recruiting base in their home state). I'm hoping that either 1) winning gets the attention of the 4-5 Stars 2) Martin's eye for abilities and player development skills outweighs the Stars. Unfortunately, I can't judge either case until at least season one is complete.

You (or I) may be right, but also, you (or I) may be wrong. We have no choice but to wait and see. The season will play out with Martin regardless of what fandom thinks.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks Amy.

born2ride writes:

Here are the questions they should have asked?

Q: Have you ever coached at team to the NCAA tourney?

Martin: No

Q: Have you ever recruited a player in the top 150?

Martin: No

Q: Was your team picked to finish 11th out 12 in the SEC?

Martin: Yes

Q: Will be the coach at UT next year?

Martin: Probably not

CoverOrange writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

In that photo, who is that grumpy looking reporter that looks like he is about to fall asleep listenig to coach Martin?

Kinda looks like Griff doesn't it?

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

Somehow. If I try to explain how things are... I feel you won't undertand, anyway.

Misery loves company. And I'm not buying into the misery thing.

So you won't try and make stupid excuses about "uncertianty" even though the NCAA stuff has passed us? The hole wasn't as deep as people thought it was, but when we decided to hire a coach who doesn't have an NCAA tournament appearance in his career it was like saying we just don't care that much about basketball. Facts are facts, his recruiting is suspect.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

I'm not ignoring it, and unfortunately, Martin doesn't have the same situation as Meyer or Saban had (deep recruiting base in their home state). I'm hoping that either 1) winning gets the attention of the 4-5 Stars 2) Martin's eye for abilities and player development skills outweighs the Stars. Unfortunately, I can't judge either case until at least season one is complete.

You (or I) may be right, but also, you (or I) may be wrong. We have no choice but to wait and see. The season will play out with Martin regardless of what fandom thinks.

If he wins with his recruits, then he's has the greatest eye for talent in human history because when you look at the offers these kids got, they're from losing programs. Unless he's planning on using Pearl's recruits to get committments from top level talent's attention, his recruiting is abysmal. We're coming off six straight trips to the NCAA tournament, and our fans seem to have fallen back into "if we go once every four years, we're fine" and that's not the mentality we need to have. Our expectation should be to make it into the NCAA tournament every year, and contend for the SEC Title every year.

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