Mike Strange: Cuonzo Martin has warning for Vols

Mike Strange
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, center, watches from the bench along with Kenny Hall (20), Josh Richardson (1) and Trae Golden (11) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by AP Photo / Mark Humphrey, AP2012

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, center, watches from the bench along with Kenny Hall (20), Josh Richardson (1) and Trae Golden (11) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.

Martin on teaching his players to ignore negativity

The question came from the audience Wednesday when Cuonzo Martin had the unfortunate timing to make his scheduled appearance at the Big Orange Tipoff Club.

Were there any bright spots from the previous evening's 65-47 beatdown at Vanderbilt?

"When the bus started rolling out of there,'' Martin replied. "That was the bright spot.''

The room roared with laughter. Bruce Pearl couldn't have fired off a better one-liner.

What Vandy did to the Vols was ugly. The senior-laden Commodores exhibited a toughness that comes from experience and the guys in orange, caved. At least enough of them caved to end up with an 18-point deficit that could have been worse.

Maybe Tennessee's first-year coach got his bright spot Wednesday morning.

He said a downcast junior Kenny Hall showed up in his office early with a question:

What does it take for me to get to that level?

"For me as a coach, that was a beautiful thing,'' Martin said.

In Martin's eyes, it takes a commitment and sacrifice and mental toughness that he's not sure exists in all his players — players who have yet to win a road game this season.

Some guys embrace the challenge of playing in a hostile environment and some don't.

"It is what it is,'' Martin said. "That's why you have role players and you have stars.''

This season has been a journey of discovery as to who has it and who doesn't. Martin implied that the journey, as it continues into the future, might not be for everyone.

End-of-year assessments will be revealing, he said:

"I'll sit down with guys and say, 'Are you willing to accept this particular role in order for our team to be successful?'

"I'm not a guy who believes in getting rid of players and all that, but you have to be honest with 'em, to let 'em know where you stand as a coach and exactly what you're looking for.''

Martin's date with the Tipoff audience had been set well in advance. While it followed a miserable outing, at least the upset of Connecticut was still fresh in the audience's mind.

He envisions more days like UConn and fewer like Vandy as he moves the program forward. Martin likes certain pieces already in place and promised that recruiting is going well, especially since the arrival of blue-chipper Jarnell Stokes.

He described his two November signees, Derek Reese and D'Montre Edwards, as long, rangy shooters who can play more than one position. Cory Stanton, a walk-on transfer, is a natural point guard who can push the offense and pressure the ball.

Should more roster openings arise from attrition, a big man would be desirable.

Said Martin, "I tell the guys now, 'All I can do is warn you. I say this in all sincerity. Now we've got guys knocking on the door. They want to be part of Tennessee basketball.'

"It's real simple. You play at a high level all the time because guys are going to be a part of this program. They know where we're headed.''

Just where is Tennessee headed?

"One day,'' said Martin, "this team will be the last team standing. I really feel that.

"I don't say that jokingly, I don't say it, like, 'Oh, man, give him another year on his contract.' I say it because I truly believe it.''

There's a lot of work between here and there. For now, Martin is figuring out who will be standing with him.

And, just as important, who won't.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 92

born2ride writes:

Is Martin still predicting the NCAA?

That is funny!

ivyvol writes:

Good coach. Get behind the man.

GBOEngineer writes:

"One day,'' said Martin, "this team will be the last team standing. I really feel that."

Martin is the man. All you losers need to get your jabs in now. Tennessee will be a powerhouse soon. (and you'll still be in your Mom's basement eating Doritos)

TennesseeV3 writes:

in response to ivyvol:

Good coach. Get behind the man.

I agree 100%. Where is this hate coming from? It is absurd that these so called "fans" believe he should have this team ncaa tourney bound after the offseason we had and the departure of key players. Any b ball fan can see that he has gotten more out of this team than most could.

It is laughable that they would expect immediate success considering Vol nation should be used to the "next year" excuse that we have unfortunately come to use year in and year out. Give him time people, he is a good coach, and already has good wins under his belt.

I am a true Vol fan and understand how hard it is to not be at the top, and hear that we are the "bottom of the barrel of the SEC" from rival fans, but I see talent in this guy, and believe we got a good one.

Pullingguard writes:

This would have been an off-season for UT regardless of who was coach.. You could put his players in Lexington and they would be bad again, just not lot of talent...However, I firmly believe that he will build a winning program for the Vols.

VolMoment writes:

TennesseeV3 you are right on! The real fans feel the same with what you said! Some peoples kin folks let them out of the basement long enough to show their ignorance about college sports.

1vavolfan writes:

I think this has been better than expected. The schedule Pearl left CCM with was brutal, if he plays cupcakes like LSU and Ole Miss we are on the tournament bubble. Wins over UCONN and Florida, and being competitive it almost every game was much more than I expected. Vandy better get their licks in now (All 5 starters gone), the roles will be reversed next season.

clvolfan writes:

I hope he is doing some evaluating as the year progresses-please CCM,Don't wait till the end of the year,and how bout encouraging Washpun to drive to the basket ocassionally,think he could get above a few people and score.

underthehill writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

This would have been an off-season for UT regardless of who was coach.. You could put his players in Lexington and they would be bad again, just not lot of talent...However, I firmly believe that he will build a winning program for the Vols.

Me too. I believe Martin is the total package as a basketball coach and I have formed this belief based on what I have read of his background and his actions since coming to UT. I think Jarnell Stoke's parents felt this also and that is why their son is at UT..and I think he will get more like him...

RashaadSalabeb writes:

in response to TennesseeV3:

I agree 100%. Where is this hate coming from? It is absurd that these so called "fans" believe he should have this team ncaa tourney bound after the offseason we had and the departure of key players. Any b ball fan can see that he has gotten more out of this team than most could.

It is laughable that they would expect immediate success considering Vol nation should be used to the "next year" excuse that we have unfortunately come to use year in and year out. Give him time people, he is a good coach, and already has good wins under his belt.

I am a true Vol fan and understand how hard it is to not be at the top, and hear that we are the "bottom of the barrel of the SEC" from rival fans, but I see talent in this guy, and believe we got a good one.

No doubt. He is a good coach, he has high expectations and standards, he holds people accountable and he can recruit. Good things are coming our way.

Go Big Orange! Get on the Big Orange Train or get the f off!

Rookie2 writes:

I admit I was skeptical of the CCM hire, but I like what I see and believe he has this program going back in the right direction. He's getting the most out of his players and they will continue to improve under his leadership. There isn't a single player on this team that isn't better than they were last year. He's instilling confidence in his players and eventually that is going translate into W's. That's one thing I questioned about CBP.., was he getting the most out of his players and were they being developed and improving each year. That was questionable IMO.

tennrich1 writes:

Come on guys..if you read these responses on a daily basis SURELY you recognize these people and know they arent Vol fans....It's so incredibly easy to spot these clowns...glance and move on to something relevant...seriously...

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to born2ride:

Is Martin still predicting the NCAA?

That is funny!

Yea that would be funny. But he's not so your the funny one!

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

I think this has been better than expected. The schedule Pearl left CCM with was brutal, if he plays cupcakes like LSU and Ole Miss we are on the tournament bubble. Wins over UCONN and Florida, and being competitive it almost every game was much more than I expected. Vandy better get their licks in now (All 5 starters gone), the roles will be reversed next season.

I agree Va Vol. What goes around, comes around.

PHAT_VOL writes:

We are not that far away now. There are players on the team who maybe shouldn't be and coach Martin has given them chances I personally wouldn't. He is a very patient coach. We need a real point gurad. A general a quarter back on the floor. We don't have that and that makes one or maybe the best front court player play out of position. Martin didn't cause this Pearl did. That may hurt some Pearl lovers but he left us with nothing. One other thing D'Montre Edwards is the real thing. Its to bad he couldn't have enrolled with Stokes. Look for some real line up changes soon. Coach Martin said around the first of December that the team would look totally different in Febuary.
We'll see.

OwensboroVol writes:

Mental toughness comes first from the Coach. Instead of blaming his players, maybe he should acknowledge that he has not taught them the toughness required to win on the road in the SEC. He is not ready to be a Coach in this league. PERIOD

Dsidekick writes:

I call this Vol team sweet and sour, they well sock you in the gut, stomp on your toes, than turn around and take your breath away. can"t wait to see what happens next.

Got to love those VOLS.

LSG410EC83 writes:

in response to RashaadSalabeb:

No doubt. He is a good coach, he has high expectations and standards, he holds people accountable and he can recruit. Good things are coming our way.

Go Big Orange! Get on the Big Orange Train or get the f off!

Great to see many on here looking at the positives and not only the negatives. Young team learning as they go. Already pleasantly suprised with many of the games these guys have played. Good to see that the players believe in Coach Martin enough to ask for help in reaching that next level. Look forward to watching each game in the future. Realize there will be some losses, but believe these will be less and less as the team grows together. IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

GerryOP writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Mental toughness comes first from the Coach. Instead of blaming his players, maybe he should acknowledge that he has not taught them the toughness required to win on the road in the SEC. He is not ready to be a Coach in this league. PERIOD

Where was he blaming the players? He was simply saying "Play up to your ability or the next guy will."

We're seeing a UT basketball team actually being coached ... and the stars are the guys on the floor not the coach on the bench. No one, and I mean no one, should be unhappy with what Coach 'Zo has accomplished this year. And this is just the beginning.

thevoice writes:

in response to TennesseeV3:

I agree 100%. Where is this hate coming from? It is absurd that these so called "fans" believe he should have this team ncaa tourney bound after the offseason we had and the departure of key players. Any b ball fan can see that he has gotten more out of this team than most could.

It is laughable that they would expect immediate success considering Vol nation should be used to the "next year" excuse that we have unfortunately come to use year in and year out. Give him time people, he is a good coach, and already has good wins under his belt.

I am a true Vol fan and understand how hard it is to not be at the top, and hear that we are the "bottom of the barrel of the SEC" from rival fans, but I see talent in this guy, and believe we got a good one.

Sorry for the brevity, but +1.

Ttown writes:

in response to born2ride:

Is Martin still predicting the NCAA?

That is funny!

I think it is to no way we make it

Orangeblood13 writes:

BorntoRide is the pebble that just dont flush

This team might not get it, but the future is bright

volfanz writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Mental toughness comes first from the Coach. Instead of blaming his players, maybe he should acknowledge that he has not taught them the toughness required to win on the road in the SEC. He is not ready to be a Coach in this league. PERIOD

I was a doubter I have to admit, at first, but the coach has more than impressed me! Much better play from less talent than last year and a marked show of improvement on the toughness. Yes the Vandy game was ugly, but honestly, it is the one this season where we just didn't show up to play. Rest of the season to this point has been a pleasant surprise and I think our coach has much to do with it!

VolHunter writes:

Basketball is an up and down sport...I mean look at the number of games, you are going to lose some (especially with a first year coach). CCM has played a ton of close games and has gotten many of his players to try 110%...there is not a lot more we can ask of him.

Heck the man landed Stokes who as an 18yr old, early enrollee had to be guarded by Vandy's 5th year senior. Im glad as a whole people see that CCM has a lot to offer. As a student who was there when Pearl started, I still miss him...but we are headed in the right direction. Can't believe people are constantly so negative.

SATCHMOE writes:

in response to GBOEngineer:

"One day,'' said Martin, "this team will be the last team standing. I really feel that."

Martin is the man. All you losers need to get your jabs in now. Tennessee will be a powerhouse soon. (and you'll still be in your Mom's basement eating Doritos)

You got that right. Our time is close

MothershipChip writes:

After all the negativity about this teams future that we heard during the offseason anyone who is disappointed with how things have gone thus far amazes me.

MidTennVol writes:

I had written off Tennessee basketball after the Pearl fiasco. But the more I hear of what this guy has to say, the more I like him.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to born2ride:

Is Martin still predicting the NCAA?

That is funny!

you are the joke, where in the article did Coach Martin predict the NCAA? stirring the pot as usual troll

CaliVOL2 writes:

This coach has done an amazing job! Good years to come for our basketball team.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to VolMoment:

TennesseeV3 you are right on! The real fans feel the same with what you said! Some peoples kin folks let them out of the basement long enough to show their ignorance about college sports.

You're right, VM. Except that I think that these cockroaches ought to stay in the basement with the doors shut. None of these imbeciles seemed to understand the article anyway. Martin is simply saying that at some time in the future, UT will make a run for the big time. That remains to be seen, but I think he will eventually have a very good program in place. Oh, one other thing. These knuckle-draggers didn't have anything to say after the UConn game. They were probably throwing things in their basements after UConn missed that half-court shot at the buzzer. I hope they didn't hit their full-sized Bruce Pearl pictures while they cried in agony. My big question is, who are these Nobel-Prize winners pulling for anyway?

Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free writes:

Fooley and Quizno. The two funniest coaches in college sports. On AND off the court.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free:

Fooley and Quizno. The two funniest coaches in college sports. On AND off the court.

No............the 'funny one' is you...........obsessed with somebody's pants........troll

mlynn1 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Is Martin still predicting the NCAA?

That is funny!

Are you still posting stupid comments? Of course you are, your born2ride

mlynn1 writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It sure is easy to pick out the people who know absolutely nothing about basketball!

Southland writes:

the stupid and hypercritical comments come from people who are frustrated with the super negative events that has plagued UT for a while. Winning changes things. The gripers will always find something to gripe about but at least less of it. CM hasnt proved he can win on a consistent level yet but he is playing with a lack of talent. I am willing to get behind him and wish him well

fearthehound writes:

in response to mlynn1:

Are you still posting stupid comments? Of course you are, your born2ride

PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. Notice, they're the first to comment on about every article. They lead pathetic lives and need the attention to give them a boost every day.

Tennfan4075 writes:

While this team is certainly in a learning mode, the Vols do have some players. Vandy caught the Vols on a bad night and the Vols did not handle the environment well. A young team will just have nights like that, but with that said, this team is in need of a few more good players, lets hope CM can find them soon. Overall this team has played well against good teams and not well at times against weaker teams. I just wish the football team would show up against the good teams on their schedule.

hateNCloveTN writes:

in response to TennesseeV3:

I agree 100%. Where is this hate coming from? It is absurd that these so called "fans" believe he should have this team ncaa tourney bound after the offseason we had and the departure of key players. Any b ball fan can see that he has gotten more out of this team than most could.

It is laughable that they would expect immediate success considering Vol nation should be used to the "next year" excuse that we have unfortunately come to use year in and year out. Give him time people, he is a good coach, and already has good wins under his belt.

I am a true Vol fan and understand how hard it is to not be at the top, and hear that we are the "bottom of the barrel of the SEC" from rival fans, but I see talent in this guy, and believe we got a good one.

great post V3

ClemCash writes:

in response to ivyvol:

Good coach. Get behind the man.

Good coach? 11 losses, losing record, SEC cellar.... What's so good?

ClemCash writes:

in response to CaliVOL2:

This coach has done an amazing job! Good years to come for our basketball team.

Hard to believe how some of you people accept and enable utter mediocrity. Actually, not even mediocrity, just plain ol' sorry.

lomas98 writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't think anyone is happy with a losing record. I know I am disappointed we are not extending the longest streak in the SEC for NCAA tournament births. Heck, FL didn't make the NCAA tourney after winning back to back titles one year. I think unlike football, a real objective fan can see the direction Martin is trying to take this program and there have been signs it can be done. Two solid wins so far and the players are buying into the coaching. Yes we have lost 2 games we shouldn't have lost in Peay and at GA. The mid majors that beat us also beat us last year in Knoxville. Losing to a mid major isn't unusual anymore. Would have been nice to have a better showing at Vandy but better TN teams have lost to much worse Vandy teams at that place over the years. Get over it. By the way, it may happen again next week at KY so be prepared.

RunningWithTheVols writes:

I team reflects its coach's values. I like this more than all of Pearl's, except for the Lofon-Bradshaw teams, due to their toughness. They are not talented enough, yet, but are on the way up, no doubt.

Toughness can win you 80% of your games in any sport.

BigBadVol writes:

in response to GBOEngineer:

"One day,'' said Martin, "this team will be the last team standing. I really feel that."

Martin is the man. All you losers need to get your jabs in now. Tennessee will be a powerhouse soon. (and you'll still be in your Mom's basement eating Doritos)

Exactly!

VolfanClinton writes:

in response to ClemCash:

Good coach? 11 losses, losing record, SEC cellar.... What's so good?

Your a fool !! Pearl could not win the early games with players like McBee and no point guard.. Wait till Martin gets his own players such as Stokes.. The future is bright with a good coach like Martin !!

RoadTrip writes:

Coach Zo knows things. Coach Pearl left the cupboard pretty bare, so Zo is mixing the ingredients the best way he can for now. The holdovers need to buy in 100% or go away. Maymon has done that. Skyler has done that, but is limited in ability. The rest have some more work ahead, or else they will be seated throughout the games.

MemphisVOLALum writes:

If the VOLS win anynore games this year it will be on toughness. I can't believe any of you could have watched them play and then questioned this. I say that because we have no offensive firepower. We now have a nice inside combo with Stokes and Maymon, but a good team needs some outside presence. We have no serious threats from the outside. I'm not hating, it is what it is. I think these VOLS play with a lot of heart just to stay in games that match them against teams with vastly superior offensive talent. I too was skectical about the CCM hire. The reason was my ignorance about him, not his ability. He is saying the right things, let's see if he can bring in the right players. It is all about recuiting in today's game.

clvolfan writes:

in response to VolfanClinton:

Your a fool !! Pearl could not win the early games with players like McBee and no point guard.. Wait till Martin gets his own players such as Stokes.. The future is bright with a good coach like Martin !!

Agree,and I guess a lot of these people who are so hateful,would like to give coach Cal from Ky 10 mill(which would not happen)bring him in with his recruits,and in 2 years he probably would join Pearl in his show cause,and the program would farther doomed.

martinvol34 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Is Martin still predicting the NCAA?

That is funny!

Wouldn't your dumb arse have a comment like that. Go back in your hole.

westknoxrepub writes:

We won't be the last team standing this year. . .that's clear. Next year, we'll have Stokes, but we're losing two players off this team and replacing them with players who don't belong on an SEC roster, in addition to the ones we already have (Richardson, Washpun, Chievous). We NEED a solid point guard, but we have no scholarships left to give, so we'll go without and Stokes will be gone after the next year, as will Maymon, and then what will we be left with?

ACWLY writes:

The more I understand Coach Martin's plan for Tennessee Basketball the more I respect him. And you know he's more or less playing with the guys that were here when he got here, except for Stokes who MAY turn into the best player ever to be here, time will tell on both of them.

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