Cuonzo Martin has faith for more than basketball success

Martin, wife share at services

Cuonzo Martin's flat, becalmed voice was reserved for a different audience Sunday morning.

He wore a yellow and blue plaid tie. His umpteen orange ties sat in the closet. The Tennessee men's basketball coach was off the clock.

Sitting alongside Roberta Martin, his wife of 17 years and best friend of 20, Martin stitched together the swatches of his story for the First Baptist Church of Knoxville congregation.

"I don't have to be anybody special," he said during the day's first service. "I'm just blessed to be here."

When he said here, Martin didn't mean First Baptist.

Surviving a childhood in unsparing East St. Louis. Enduring a cancer diagnosis as a 26-year-old father of a newborn. Climbing the rungs of a coaching ladder that led to Knoxville. Maintaining a healthy marriage and raising three children.

Those were the themes.

Cuonzo and Roberta Martin said faith was the needle on their compass through it all.

"Our beliefs," Cuonzo Martin said, "made this possible."

A crowd of 100 or so faithful was on hand for the 8:42 a.m. service. A few hundred more and a local television audience watched the Martins' second presentation at 11 a.m. In both instances, the coach and wife team spoke with First Baptist's Dr. William D. Shiell for nearly 30 minutes.

"I know I don't have to do this," Cuonzo Martin said afterward, following half an hour of hand shakes. "But people listen when you're on a pedestal. Someone might have the same

story, but might not have the same platform or reputation. Because I'm on the stage that I'm on, I can deliver a message that people will identify with. They can say, 'Man, this guy is just like us.' "

Twenty-four hours beforehand, Martin was in his normal orange and white Adidas basketball gear. A horde of 197 high school basketball players, including some coveted recruits, were on-campus Saturday for UT's basketball elite camp.

Basketball coach one day. Public figure the next.

From teaching the game, to teaching life.

Martin said Sunday that dovetailing the two missions keeps him whole.

"My faith, my wife and my family help me stay grounded," he said. "I think what happens is sometimes we get to this level and we become someone different than the person we were on the journey. I pray that I remain the same.

"I think I've become better person as I've advanced in my career. I don't know if my career necessarily makes me or defines me. It gets me exposure, whether it's good thing or bad, but it doesn't make me the man I am."

Martin has shared his story with men's groups in the past. Sunday brought a larger audience.

The details of him and Roberta navigating his life-threatening bout with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the white blood cells) 14 years ago struck an undeniable chord.

"We had no control of the situation," Cuonzo Martin told the congregation.

"There was nothing we could do but surrender," Roberta added.

Building on that defenseless feeling, Cuonzo Martin said his lone goal back then was to see his four-month-old son, Josh, turn 18.

Josh, now 15, watched on from the front row of First Baptist.

"Believe in God and the path is paved, you just have to take the steps," Martin said.

Roberta Martin, spry and animated, recounted the story of how her mother, a preacher in her hometown of Hammond, Ind., used to pray that her daughter would meet "the perfect husband."

As Roberta picked, Cuonzo rolled. He smirked toward the crowd, shut his eyes and nodded his head approvingly.

Laughter filled First Baptist.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 44

dgcarter43 writes:

A class act all the way, and a pretty good basketball coach also.

underthehill writes:

UT and the Knoxville community are very fortunate to have Coach Martin. May God continue to bless him and those who are influenced by him.

FWBVol writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You might have eightletters, but you have no class. This is an inspiring story about a man who realizes that basketball is only a part of his life and not the defining part of his life.

Even if Cuonzo Martin never wins a championship at Tennessee, and I believe he will win SEC titles and maybe even a national championship, he has already won in the game of life.

Any team would be fortunate to have a coach of Cuonzo Martin's character on staff and I'm happy he is at Tennessee.

RoadTrip writes:

Proud you are here, Coach. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family. Your witness is needed.

fearthehound writes:

in response to DeaconBooze:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Every story has at least two posts of losers looking for attention. I suspect that 80% of them are the same guy using different screen names. I think whoever does this is looking for that little rush they get when they get a response--it sort of validates their pathetic existence. You just got yours--you can slide back under that rock.

miatatom writes:

Roberta picked the perfect husband and I think Mike Hamilton picked the perfect coach. Thanks Mike! We have a great man and a great coach. I hope he stays at our school for a long time.

thevoice writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

A case of one coach preparing players how to succeed in the NBA and another how to succeed in life. I think I'll take the latter please.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say dont forget to use that "Suggest Removal" button. Witch Doctor say he is just here because he "needs" attention..rather than give it, remove his whines. lol.
Bones never lie.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Vols,

Regardless of the subject, we can count on a sorry bunch like this guy to show his ugly head all too often. This "eight letters" and his troll-brother, "seven" are starving for attention and their best way to do it is to show their rear ends with anti-Vol comments.

We have a really nice article about a classy individual and his family, and along comes this loser "eight", proving that there are the decent people like Cuonzo in the world and then there are the trolls.

We'll go with the decent people , thank you.

Noogaorange writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Add this letters to your name. IDIOT!

MetroplexMojo writes:

Things a Kentucky fan won't say....

"I'll take Shakespeare for $800, Alex"

"Ewww, I'm not going to do that with my sister."

Pompey writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....I have eight letters for you...goto*ell..!

tovolny writes:

Coach Martin, a leader in life and in sports. Demonstrating a clean roadway for young men to reach their goals as people as well as athletes, makes Coach Martin and what he represents a great instrument in rectifying a degenerating society lured toward self destruction. Not submitting to basic instincts and resisting the urge to follow the path of least resistance are the messages associated with this man's portrayal of a great individual. I am very proud of our basketball coach.

CroKev writes:

in response to Pompey:

....I have eight letters for you...goto*ell..!

Maybe in keeping with the theme Coach Martin was trying to instill, we should choose the 8 letters: "IForgive"

underthehill writes:

in response to DeaconBooze:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The mockery you make here is of yourself..I suggest you don't let it distract you from becoming a human being.

voloffaith writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No! Hysterical is that ewe actually think people on here take you seriously.....sad lil existence(?) if all ya do all day long is strut around in kat blue and diss on all others....

FYI it said elite camp which is attended by prospects that are considering UT and wanted a quality bball camp....kat fans understand basketball and we thought this one would have been easy for you...must be you are so consumed with trashing UT that you lost touch with the reality of said camps....alas all in the day of a trollodyte....

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Coach Martin is a very respectable person in all walks. I'm glad he's coaching our boys. I feel the same about Dooley. It's not always about how well they coach though I know that's important. Sometimes it's about the example of life they lead.

GBO

PUL4VOLS writes:

When it's all said and done, when the lackluster of an athletic career is over, one has a life still to live. I will take Coach Martin's approach to helping with that over a host of "winners" who over the years have taught arrogance and narcissism in the name of winning without equipping young men for success in the real game. But I know some fans, Vols sadly too, would rather have one who won the SEC every other year etc. Well, let's give this man time to instill some solid values in his players and give players time to buy in and see where we go. I think we will be pleased and I for one am thankful he acknowledges his faith. For any who diss that, maybe if you had to face cancer at a young age you'd come to grips with the possibility there is something more out there which anyone just might grasp with a little faith.

Big_Orange_Aide writes:

We've got a classy coach in basketball; I hope CCM can deliever on the hardwood as much as he is delivering in life. Don't be too offended by the silly trolls on here; they're just looking for some attention. Hey troll, give HIM a chance in your life; things seem to get better once that happens.

voloffaith writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

When it's all said and done, when the lackluster of an athletic career is over, one has a life still to live. I will take Coach Martin's approach to helping with that over a host of "winners" who over the years have taught arrogance and narcissism in the name of winning without equipping young men for success in the real game. But I know some fans, Vols sadly too, would rather have one who won the SEC every other year etc. Well, let's give this man time to instill some solid values in his players and give players time to buy in and see where we go. I think we will be pleased and I for one am thankful he acknowledges his faith. For any who diss that, maybe if you had to face cancer at a young age you'd come to grips with the possibility there is something more out there which anyone just might grasp with a little faith.

I won't diss you on telling the good news.....THEO sandblasted me the other day when I asked a pointed question just trying to understand a situation and I touched a hot spot. Was told " religion and politics not shared in polite company". If that is taken to it's illogical extreme we would never share....even from the pulpit. "You shall be my witnesses...." I've sharing orders to obey...just do it it with compassion and care for the lost....Thanks Coach Martin for caring & sharing!

dlobh writes:

Faith, family, class, the Big Orange - Coach Martin has it in the correct order and perspective.

allvol32 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say dont forget to use that "Suggest Removal" button. Witch Doctor say he is just here because he "needs" attention..rather than give it, remove his whines. lol.
Bones never lie.

I'm not convinced that the "Suggest Removal" button does anything at all as evidenced by the longevity of some of the screen names on this site - I've lobbied KNS in the past to clean up their web site and enforce their own TOS but they responded back to me that "we value diversity - get over it" and I'm also a print subscriber.

I guess to them "diversity" means that it's OK to personally attack, ridicule and deride UT players and coaches as well as the fans who vainly attempt to have adult conversations with other fans.

UT and its fans are overwhelmingly classy - I'll never understand why KNS allows the trolls to ruin what should also be a classy UT oriented web site.

eprahm (Inactive) writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You missed the point pal. There is more to life than a round ball. Great article!

GerryOP writes:

We have a basketball coach who is not only a great coach, but also a great human being. We are blessed.

Navaloranges writes:

Coach Martin is all class, we haave a winner here. More than I can say for a news agency that puts all the more interesting football articles on the pay site. Good thing there are multiple outlets where you can get quality FREE Vols football news. We always have gvx for Troll comic relief. I guess everything has its place in the world.

SevenT writes:

Martin is a class act!

But we are talking Tennessee who hired and Bruce Pearl. UT will turn a blind eye to thuggishness and criminality from UT players as long as they win.

UT will talk nice now, then stab Martin in the back when he loses a few games. LOCK THAT UP

GerryOP writes:

in response to Navaloranges:

Coach Martin is all class, we haave a winner here. More than I can say for a news agency that puts all the more interesting football articles on the pay site. Good thing there are multiple outlets where you can get quality FREE Vols football news. We always have gvx for Troll comic relief. I guess everything has its place in the world.

Do you suppose that the reason that GVX is slow to act on the trolls is to "encourage" us to pay for 247? Naaaaw. Not posible.

As long as Rucker is around spewing his arrogant sillyness, I'll probably never pay for 247! Just my opinion.

Navaloranges writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Do you suppose that the reason that GVX is slow to act on the trolls is to "encourage" us to pay for 247? Naaaaw. Not posible.

As long as Rucker is around spewing his arrogant sillyness, I'll probably never pay for 247! Just my opinion.

"Just my opinion"

...mine as well.

The "trolling", and the pay site, are like peanut butter and jelly.

voloffaith writes:

in response to SevenT:

Martin is a class act!

But we are talking Tennessee who hired and Bruce Pearl. UT will turn a blind eye to thuggishness and criminality from UT players as long as they win.

UT will talk nice now, then stab Martin in the back when he loses a few games. LOCK THAT UP

Troll Troll your drivel gently on the screen...
merrily merrily a kats life is nothing more than a dream.

Some of youins can't let a nice article stay as such without throwing dirt where it doesn't belong....

Maybe you need a life changing faith like Coach Martin that will change an apparent, habitual discourager into an encourager of others. Finding delight in helping instead of tearing down....Jesus said,"I am the way,the truth, the life...no man comes to the Father but by Me." It is truth that will set a sinner like me free...and did....be thankful for a coach(even if not a kat) that cares about his players totally....fair enough? Good day...

MikeInTN writes:

Wishing coach the best. Hope we have championships coming on his watch!

SCVFL writes:

in response to allvol32:

I'm not convinced that the "Suggest Removal" button does anything at all as evidenced by the longevity of some of the screen names on this site - I've lobbied KNS in the past to clean up their web site and enforce their own TOS but they responded back to me that "we value diversity - get over it" and I'm also a print subscriber.

I guess to them "diversity" means that it's OK to personally attack, ridicule and deride UT players and coaches as well as the fans who vainly attempt to have adult conversations with other fans.

UT and its fans are overwhelmingly classy - I'll never understand why KNS allows the trolls to ruin what should also be a classy UT oriented web site.

AV32 and Doc,
If all of us would just "ignore" them, then they would not get their jollies.
Just skip on to the next comment as if it never existed. GIVE THEM NOTHING.
GO BIG RNG...VFL

SCVFL writes:

Start an "IGNORE THE TROLL CAMPAIGN" No response, No acknowledgement.
GO BIG RNG...VFL

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

On Thursday Night the SEC Tourney Champions, Vandy Commodores, will send three to the NBA on draft night. Ezeli, Jenkins and Taylor won with class with no troubles on or off the court. Great to be a Dore! Congrats to three great kids who represented the SEC well.

tnvolfan30 writes:

The "eight letters" he is referring to is "a**clown." That is all...

VictorKruger writes:

in response to SCVFL:

Start an "IGNORE THE TROLL CAMPAIGN" No response, No acknowledgement.
GO BIG RNG...VFL

Count me in.

I usually post one "ignore the trolls" appeal per year, but it falls on mostly deaf ears. New posters don't know who the trolls are, and some veterans seem to enjoy arguing with trolls. I guess I'll keep searching for some browser add-ons for filtering out specific users since KNS does not provide an ignore user feature.

I wish your campaign success!

tennrich1 writes:

What's silly is the trolls rarely every read your response....they're like terrorist, in a very unrealistic comparison here...they throw out an idiotic statement (even they know it is and meant it to be) and never look back to see who is harmed....CCM and Roberta have the "peace that passes understanding"...for sure and some on here get it...

underthehill writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

On Thursday Night the SEC Tourney Champions, Vandy Commodores, will send three to the NBA on draft night. Ezeli, Jenkins and Taylor won with class with no troubles on or off the court. Great to be a Dore! Congrats to three great kids who represented the SEC well.

If your hope is to irk UT fans with this comment..consider yourself a failure..I see no reason to disagree that these young men have represented their school and the SEC with class and a strong competitive spirit. To respect the efforts of your opponents is a vital part of sportsmanship..one that some never get the meaning of...and it's usually the ones who haven't been there...

voloffaith writes:

in response to underthehill:

If your hope is to irk UT fans with this comment..consider yourself a failure..I see no reason to disagree that these young men have represented their school and the SEC with class and a strong competitive spirit. To respect the efforts of your opponents is a vital part of sportsmanship..one that some never get the meaning of...and it's usually the ones who haven't been there...

Actually PH was off topic.....article on VOL coach and nothing about the dores minus Jim Morrison....c ya PH....

clvolfan writes:

in response to fearthehound:

Every story has at least two posts of losers looking for attention. I suspect that 80% of them are the same guy using different screen names. I think whoever does this is looking for that little rush they get when they get a response--it sort of validates their pathetic existence. You just got yours--you can slide back under that rock.

Well Said Brother!

dirislr#209355 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

You might have eightletters, but you have no class. This is an inspiring story about a man who realizes that basketball is only a part of his life and not the defining part of his life.

Even if Cuonzo Martin never wins a championship at Tennessee, and I believe he will win SEC titles and maybe even a national championship, he has already won in the game of life.

Any team would be fortunate to have a coach of Cuonzo Martin's character on staff and I'm happy he is at Tennessee.

I couldn't have said it better.

voloffaith writes:

in response to dirislr#209355:

I couldn't have said it better.

Do these eightletters fit? I-M-B-E-C-I-L-E....not defining the individual as they define themselves by his/her actions...E-S-O-T-E-R-I-C(difficult to understand).....are we getting some traction here folks? Y-K-C-U-T-N-E-K ,I-R-A-P-I-L-A-C, S-T-A-C-D-L-I-W.....OH so many kat eight letters that are to him/her P-U-R-R-F-E-C-T............ or the tv ad MEOW MEOW..that is eight also...

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to SevenT:

Martin is a class act!

But we are talking Tennessee who hired and Bruce Pearl. UT will turn a blind eye to thuggishness and criminality from UT players as long as they win.

UT will talk nice now, then stab Martin in the back when he loses a few games. LOCK THAT UP

Instead of stabbing CCM in the back; I'd rather stab ewe in the face..Just sayin'

txvolsfan writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You forgot that they match you up with a look-a-like that can take test for you!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

If your hope is to irk UT fans with this comment..consider yourself a failure..I see no reason to disagree that these young men have represented their school and the SEC with class and a strong competitive spirit. To respect the efforts of your opponents is a vital part of sportsmanship..one that some never get the meaning of...and it's usually the ones who haven't been there...

Amen to that. I do feel a bit sorry for them that they have to count such as PH among their fans. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure they have no idea who he is. Having seen them play long, productive careers in the SEC, I will be interested to see how they do in the big-time.

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