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