Mike Strange: Another Martin's arrival could impact Vols

Mike Strange

Football brought Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC. The basketball Tigers and Aggies got dragged along in the bargain.

Still, both are welcome additions, to hear the SEC basketball coaches tell it Monday in a teleconference.

In the penthouse, Kentucky's John Calipari is all open arms.

"They're gonna have a huge impact on what happens,'' Calipari said. "Now all of a sudden the strength of the league goes up.

"If the league expands again and adds two more teams, I'd be fine with that.''

All the better to prepare the Wildcats for the NCAA tournament. That's Calipari's reasoning.

At the other end of the totem pole, I'm not sure Tony Barbee at Auburn or Mississippi State's new guy, Rick Ray, are as enthusiastic at having two additional hurdles to clear in their rebuilding efforts.

Mizzou and Texas A&M have, of recent vintage, been consistent NCAA tournament teams. Both fan bases were accustomed to success in the Big 12 Conference.

But the Big 12 import that will have the biggest impact on the residents of Thompson-Boling Arena might be neither Tiger nor Aggie.

Consider the Frank Martin factor.

South Carolina hired Martin away from Kansas State in March, after yet another season deteriorated into irrelevancy.

Back in 2007 Martin was something of a surprise hire at Kansas State after his boss, Bob Huggins, bolted to West Virginia. But Martin went 117-54 in five years at K-State, including four NCAA tournament trips.

Nobody doubts him now.

"His record speaks for itself,'' said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. "I think he's one of the best coaches in college basketball.''

With Pat Summitt's retirement, the SEC needed a new "Stare" and the intense, 45-year-old Martin has a doozy.

"He imposes his will

from day one and I'm sure he's doing that right now,'' said Kennedy. "I don't have any doubts he'll have that program winning soon and winning big.''

If Kennedy is prophetic, South Carolina's winning will have to come at someone's expense. Might that someone be, in part, Tennessee?

Since Bruce Pearl arrived in 2005 to revive UT's fortunes, the Vols have absolutely owned the Gamecocks.

Cuonzo Martin took up where Pearl left off, sweeping Carolina last year to run the Vols' streak to 11-0 and 14-2 since the 2005-06 season.

As basketball programs go, South Carolina has its challenges. But it could be a sleeping giant, much like UT was when Pearl arrived. The Gamecocks have a fine arena, at least modest tradition and a fan base that is rabid about football and baseball.

Martin doesn't have much to work with initially, returning only one of the top four scorers from a 2-14 SEC club.

At least he has a head start, thanks to new NCAA legislation that allows limited summer instruction with his players.

"It's huge,'' Martin said. "It's the best rule that's been put out there.

"Everybody has to go win in the way they believe in how it should be done. This way is different than how the guys who are here played. Trust in a new system takes time.''

If Martin can approximate what he achieved at K-State, Columbia will no longer be a reliably safe port in the storm for visitors like Tennessee.

The presence of a new Martin means Cuonzo Martin's job has gotten tougher.

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 » 24

vollaw writes:

No question. As someone who has known Bob Huggins for many years, I have followed Frank Martin since he took over at K-State. He is an excellent coach and a great hire for USC. I cringed when I originally heard about it. Columbia will be a much tougher place to play in the future.

Razor784 writes:

No doubt Martin's an upgrade from Darren Horn, but South Carolina doesn't have near the tradition or the facilities of UT, they'll be improved, but not sure if they'll ever catch UT

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to vollaw:

No question. As someone who has known Bob Huggins for many years, I have followed Frank Martin since he took over at K-State. He is an excellent coach and a great hire for USC. I cringed when I originally heard about it. Columbia will be a much tougher place to play in the future.

So will Knoxville.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

I lived in an apartment complex about a hundred yards from the new Colonial Life Arena in Columbia for a while. I attended a few games there when Carolina was decent. It's a nice arena, but Colonial Life is nowhere as nice as the new Auburn Arena where I saw the Tigers beat Mississippi State this year. Colonial Life is dark, the scoreboard over the court is already dated, they do not have ribbon boards, and the concourse leaves a lot to be desired. The new Auburn Arena has an amazing open concourse that looks down over the court and it includes a museum with football and basketball trophies. It's much smaller also which makes you very close to the action. Both do not compare to Thompson Boling though.

vollaw writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

So will Knoxville.

I agree. UT still has the better talent, tradition, arena, fans, etc... Just saying that Martin is an upgrade over anything SC has had for the past several years.

thevoice writes:

Way off topic... anyone know if Mike Hamilton lives in Nashville now? I swear I saw him at the Green Hills Chipotle tonight and at West End Community Sunday morning.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

in response to thevoice:

Way off topic... anyone know if Mike Hamilton lives in Nashville now? I swear I saw him at the Green Hills Chipotle tonight and at West End Community Sunday morning.

From what I understand, when he's not on mission trips to Africa (as he was most of time he was employed by UTK) that he does work for a nonprofit in the Nashville area.

NashvillePreds writes:

Did John Adams write this hypothetical POS, and post it under Strange's name?

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to Razor784:

No doubt Martin's an upgrade from Darren Horn, but South Carolina doesn't have near the tradition or the facilities of UT, they'll be improved, but not sure if they'll ever catch UT

Tradition? What are you talking about? What tradition does ut Men's Basketball team have?

Someday you clowns will wake up and realize what ut really is.

Absolutely hilarious. But not surprising.

Keep it up. We love the laughs.

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to WetumpkaThumpa:

I lived in an apartment complex about a hundred yards from the new Colonial Life Arena in Columbia for a while. I attended a few games there when Carolina was decent. It's a nice arena, but Colonial Life is nowhere as nice as the new Auburn Arena where I saw the Tigers beat Mississippi State this year. Colonial Life is dark, the scoreboard over the court is already dated, they do not have ribbon boards, and the concourse leaves a lot to be desired. The new Auburn Arena has an amazing open concourse that looks down over the court and it includes a museum with football and basketball trophies. It's much smaller also which makes you very close to the action. Both do not compare to Thompson Boling though.

Correct. Nothing compares to a "men's" basketball team playing their home games on a court named after the girl's coach. Great work!

PS - the black curtains really add that finishing touch.

govolsn3 writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

Tradition? What are you talking about? What tradition does ut Men's Basketball team have?

Someday you clowns will wake up and realize what ut really is.

Absolutely hilarious. But not surprising.

Keep it up. We love the laughs.

STFU TROLL

HtownVol writes:

Go vola yall

Southland writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

Tradition? What are you talking about? What tradition does ut Men's Basketball team have?

Someday you clowns will wake up and realize what ut really is.

Absolutely hilarious. But not surprising.

Keep it up. We love the laughs.

when UK wins like UCLA did and have a coach like John Wooden (one with class and dignity and integrity) then boast but until you do you will always be second place. Christian Laettner was the best college player of all times

volinlouisvilleky writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

Correct. Nothing compares to a "men's" basketball team playing their home games on a court named after the girl's coach. Great work!

PS - the black curtains really add that finishing touch.

I guess naming a men's basketball court after a racist bigot is preferable? Adolf....give me a break!

PS-is the 2012 UK championship banner really held up with velcro?

FanNotSheep writes:

The best option is not to take the trollers' bait. That said…

South Carolina has accounted for two sure wins most every year. Even if they get better, under the new schedule we only play them once most years anyway.

Tennessee just needs to take care of Tennessee. Pearl put the program back on the map. We will see if Cuonzo Martin can recruit and coach well enough to keep it there. If he can get more players like Stokes, I ain't really that worried about the Gamecocks.

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to volinlouisvilleky:

I guess naming a men's basketball court after a racist bigot is preferable? Adolf....give me a break!

PS-is the 2012 UK championship banner really held up with velcro?

I have no idea. I'm not a fan of UK sports. Next question?

PS - is Derrek Fooley's contract written in pencil?

BAZINGA!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

I was shocked USC pulled Martin from the success he's had at KSU..He went to 4 tourneys in 5 years and made the elite 8..He most certainly will turn USC into a tourney team..Like Vollaw I cringed at the thought of Martin taking this job..The man can coach and I hate to say it but is a better hire than Martin coming to UT

notorange writes:

in response to Southland:

when UK wins like UCLA did and have a coach like John Wooden (one with class and dignity and integrity) then boast but until you do you will always be second place. Christian Laettner was the best college player of all times

He(Laettner) really was impressive in the nba (yeah right) and later in his shady business deals too........just sayin.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

The best option is not to take the trollers' bait. That said…

South Carolina has accounted for two sure wins most every year. Even if they get better, under the new schedule we only play them once most years anyway.

Tennessee just needs to take care of Tennessee. Pearl put the program back on the map. We will see if Cuonzo Martin can recruit and coach well enough to keep it there. If he can get more players like Stokes, I ain't really that worried about the Gamecocks.

Can Martin recruit is the million dollar question..Stokes was a gift laid in Martins lap due to groundwork Pearl did for 2 years before Martin became coach..So far outside of Stokes his commits are average at best..To stay competitive in the SEC it's important to land impact players like Kidd Gilchrist;Boynton and Teague..2 star and 3 star projects that he's signed isn't gonna cut it..Big difference between the #60 Guard in the country and the top #10 players Ky,Vandy and Fl are signing with ease

Colliervol writes:

Like Little Willie Neck Vein down in Gainesville, Frank is another candidate for a sideline aneurysm. Only difference is that Frank can coach. Fun to watch both of them lose it though.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Like Little Willie Neck Vein down in Gainesville, Frank is another candidate for a sideline aneurysm. Only difference is that Frank can coach. Fun to watch both of them lose it though.

No kidding! If he doesn't throttle it down just a touch, it's only a matter of time before his head explodes on the sideline. If he can stay upright long enough, he WILL make a difference at USCe. That said, we all know the Vols will have to get better to get back to where they were under Pearl. But what else is new? As the old saying goes, if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. I think C. Martin will be just fine, but there is no question the SEC just got a bit more, uh, colorful with the arrival of F. Martin.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Can Martin recruit is the million dollar question..Stokes was a gift laid in Martins lap due to groundwork Pearl did for 2 years before Martin became coach..So far outside of Stokes his commits are average at best..To stay competitive in the SEC it's important to land impact players like Kidd Gilchrist;Boynton and Teague..2 star and 3 star projects that he's signed isn't gonna cut it..Big difference between the #60 Guard in the country and the top #10 players Ky,Vandy and Fl are signing with ease

Doubt we will ever get the players Kentucky gets. But I don't want UT to be a 1-and-done school. I would rather be a contender that threatens to get to a Final Four once in a while than be like Calipari and Kentucky. Someday the truth will come out about how they get the players they get.

I credit Pearl for everything the Vols accomplished in basketball but Martin did a great job landing Stokes. Most players with his options do not sign with schools that fire the coach they wanted to play for. Martin deserves huge props -- but he does need to move up from here. Stokes can be the foundation player that Martin builds his recruiting cred on.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Southland:

when UK wins like UCLA did and have a coach like John Wooden (one with class and dignity and integrity) then boast but until you do you will always be second place. Christian Laettner was the best college player of all times

Sooooo, Laettner was the "best....of all times"? Really?

You're wrong of course but if you really want to induce a fusilade of profanity laced retorts, go post that on a UK site. Not many Vol fans give a damn about Laetner.

OwensboroVol writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

Tradition? What are you talking about? What tradition does ut Men's Basketball team have?

Someday you clowns will wake up and realize what ut really is.

Absolutely hilarious. But not surprising.

Keep it up. We love the laughs.

We don't have the tradition that we would like. However, during the 60's We were able to compete with just about anyone who showed up to play us. We were headed towards establishing a tradition when We got weak kneed and fired Bruce Pearl instead of handling it the way Southern Cal did with Kiffin. I'm hoping that Coach Martin can begin to establish a tradition in his own right over the next few seasons. We certainly don't have the tradition in Basketball to look down our noses at any other school.

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