Other side of Cuonzo Martin slowly surfacing

Other side of coach slowly surfacing

Dave Martin/Associated Press
Tennessee men's basketball Cuonzo Martin talks with reporters during the 2012 SEC Media day on Thuesday in Hoover, Ala.

Photo by Dave Martin

Dave Martin/Associated Press Tennessee men's basketball Cuonzo Martin talks with reporters during the 2012 SEC Media day on Thuesday in Hoover, Ala.

Kevin Stallings on Cuonzo Martin at SEC Media Days

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HOOVER, Ala. — Cuonzo Martin isn't the guy in the Tennessee basketball commercials.

Well, he is, but he's more.

In recent UT advertising campaigns, the Vols' second-year coach is portrayed a glaring, towering heavyweight fighter.

His dark eyes hide under the shade of a furrowed brow. His already baritone voice dips down to a Vader-like timbre. Shoulders back, his arms cross his broad chest.

That's the Cuonzo Martin painted for the public. He admits to playing it up.

Slowly, though, the other side of Martin is finding room to surface.

He's allowing it to.

At SEC basketball Media Day on Thursday, Martin offered more smiles than scowls. He was softer than the man that sat upon the same stage last year. He was more Cuonzo Martin than coach Cuonzo Martin.

"The difference is when you know what (team) you have, you're able to speak about it," he said. "Last year was just a matter of me trying to prove that, not necessarily that I belonged, but I felt it was like, 'Who is this guy?' "

As Martin spoke, an awaiting escalator rolled next to him. The media day gauntlet was complete and his orange tie was ready to be loosened.

Before talking about what a difference a year makes, Martin saw LSU coach Johnny Jones emerge from the firing squad.

After a long stint as a mid-major coach at North Texas, Jones is entering his first season with the Tigers.

This time, he's the new guy.

Martin grabbed Jones' hand and offered a welcoming hug.

He did the same with new Mississippi State coach Ricky Ray, a longtime friend and fellow staff member with Martin back in his days as an assistant at Purdue.

Ray is heading into his first head-coaching gig after spending the past two years as an assistant at Clemson.

Martin's advice to Ray was the creed of his first year and a half in Knoxville.

"You have to be who you are," Martin said, relaying the tidings passed to Ray. "You can't all the sudden change in this environment with all these cameras in your face. You can't change. Then, all the sudden, you don't have an identity, and two years later you don't know who you are.

"You have to be who you are."

It took more than few new moons, but Martin now gives glimpses of who he is in its entirety.

He admits to being guarded last season. Coming from Missouri State to Tennessee is no small step. There was reason to be leery.

Now comfortable, Martin still feels there are times when he relies too heavily on the glowering alter ego. It's a tough shell to crack.

Don't get it twisted, though. That second self is very much part of who he is. It's who the Vols see at practice, when the 41-year-old tends to prowl instead of walk.

"He was a scary dude last year when I got here, but I guess I know him a lot better now," sophomore Josh Richardson said Wednesday. "He's not as intimidating, but you still better do what he says."

Throughout Thursday's media day, fellow SEC coaches were quick to mention how the UT players feed off Martin's hard-line, uncompromising nature.

"He's a steadying kind of personality," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "He brings it. He has a toughness to him, a resolve, and his players are taking on that personality.

"That's what (players) do. They'll follow the coach. You need to teach leadership and I think he's done that."

Regardless of personas and dispositions, Martin will never pull the curtain back entirely. He said he'll still be "protective" 20 years from now.

But he's getting there.

"I'm not the guy to just open up if I don't know you," he concluded. "I think you have to be familiar with your surroundings and area and vibe, and then you open up."

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

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Comments » 39

Rosie writes:

Very optimistic about this year. Loved the way they played last year, and think CM has us going places

gbirchfiel writes:

We got darned lucky......

BobKesling_is_overpaid writes:

in response to Rosie:

Very optimistic about this year. Loved the way they played last year, and think CM has us going places

You loved the way they played last year? So you like going to NIT's over NCAA's?

txvolsfan writes:

in response to BobKesling_is_overpaid:

You loved the way they played last year? So you like going to NIT's over NCAA's?

I do love being picked 11th in the league and finishing tied for second and seeing a team that constantly improved game after game last year!!! I think Coach Zo got the absolute most he could out of that team!!!
so shut your pie hole!!!
GO VOLS OR GO HOME!!!

TXVOLSFAN

6futurevols writes:

Bruce Pearl did incredible things for UT basketball, but I believe that we took a step up with Coach Martin. The man oozes character! He can coach, recruit, and he will make these young men follow the rules. I just hope that Purdue is never looking for a coach, because Martin would be their first choice. We will see the Final Four if he remains at the helm of Big Orange baseketball.

gillblog writes:

Effective use of personnel resources:
Have C Martin develop and teach a course in coaching to the UT football coaching staff.
Synergize. Grow Without Walls, etc..

martvol writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You should stick to the Dooley frenzy and leave our roundball coach alone. You have a problem with us being picked fourth out of fourteen? And with the recruits he's in on?

NOT an SEC coach? lol

laraccoon writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you are the epitome of a moron , while i dont necessarily disagree with you on Dooley you think Martin should have won it all in his first year is stupid , take away one year from the Pearl era and UT has never had much success in basketball but Martin was suppose to change that his first year , is that your point ? tell me , what band instrument did you play in high school ?

GreeneVol writes:

'The Prowler'...can't wait to see how these guys do this year...

Sir_Spanky writes:

Thanks Mike. Proof even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. I guess there's good reason why old sayings are old sayings.

UTVOL2001 writes:

So thankful we have him! Hope he is a fixture at UT until he hangs it up!

underthehill writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Name change ain't working..comment ain't either..

pcorange writes:

in response to BobKesling_is_overpaid:

You loved the way they played last year? So you like going to NIT's over NCAA's?

Unlike our football coach, Coach Zo's team actually made steady improvement throughout the season. He has also shown himself to be an excellent recruiter with an ability to reel in 5* recruits. He will get us back to the big dance.

underthehill writes:

Martin is building a reputation that will serve him well in recruiting..he is earning the respect of players, parents, fans, and opposing coaches...he knows what it takes to make better men and better players of the guys he recruits..I like it...

usafvol writes:

in response to laraccoon:

you are the epitome of a moron , while i dont necessarily disagree with you on Dooley you think Martin should have won it all in his first year is stupid , take away one year from the Pearl era and UT has never had much success in basketball but Martin was suppose to change that his first year , is that your point ? tell me , what band instrument did you play in high school ?

I think it was male organ..

keithgibson writes:

in response to laraccoon:

you are the epitome of a moron , while i dont necessarily disagree with you on Dooley you think Martin should have won it all in his first year is stupid , take away one year from the Pearl era and UT has never had much success in basketball but Martin was suppose to change that his first year , is that your point ? tell me , what band instrument did you play in high school ?

may be the funniest post ever!!!!!!!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Martin has certainly won the respect of his sec coaching peers and that bodes well..His recruiting has been better then expected..To compete it's a must that you sign one Top#50 player every year and he's pretty much done that...Now we wait to see if the 3 star guys are just utility back ups or diamonds in the rough..One of those being the Juco kid from Fla..Not having Maymon or Miller may cost us games..Hopefully this opens the door for Yemi to prove he can produce

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BobKesling_is_overpaid:

You loved the way they played last year? So you like going to NIT's over NCAA's?

We liked going to the NIT better than we liked the idea of not playing in the postseason, which is pretty much what all the preseason naysayers said would happen. This year we WILL go to the NCAA and kick some major butt. You are overpaid for what you write on here.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

They were picked next-to-last last year and finished SECOND, so what's your point, turkey! Besides, of the teams picked ahead of us, UK has a totally new team that hasn't played a college game, Florida lost a first-round draft choice and HOPES a freshman will replace him, and nobody knows anything about Missouri except they did fairly well in a conference that, top to bottom, is probably inferior to the SEC. So if I were you--which I am not, thank God!--I would look a little harder at the present and future and not pin all my hopes on what you thought has happened in the past.

hikerdude writes:

I am really looking forward to BB season. I think this team is going to be way better than the pundits are predicting, especially if Jeronne can play at 100%.I think the jury is still out on CCM's recruiting ability. Jarnell kind of fell into his lap, but I hope he can land some other 5* guys.

hueypilot writes:

I have met Coach Martin and he is a commanding presence and very much a no nonsense guy. Despite what others (actually only one other that I could read this morning) have said finishing next to first when picked next to last in this conference going against Calipari and Donovan was a great first year. I think we're lucky to have him and wish we had been this fortunate in elevating a mid-major coach in that other sport.

Volborn writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Troll...they improved greatly after he signed his first 5 star player. Guess what, he has another 5 star player committed and one more in the works. Are you Jerry Green?

usafvol writes:

in response to hueypilot:

I have met Coach Martin and he is a commanding presence and very much a no nonsense guy. Despite what others (actually only one other that I could read this morning) have said finishing next to first when picked next to last in this conference going against Calipari and Donovan was a great first year. I think we're lucky to have him and wish we had been this fortunate in elevating a mid-major coach in that other sport.

Agreed! Coach martin has done a great job so far and look forward to much success on the hardwood..

Volborn writes:

in response to hikerdude:

I am really looking forward to BB season. I think this team is going to be way better than the pundits are predicting, especially if Jeronne can play at 100%.I think the jury is still out on CCM's recruiting ability. Jarnell kind of fell into his lap, but I hope he can land some other 5* guys.

hikerdude..read the recruiting news. Stokes didn't just fall into his lap. Hubbs(another 5 star) didn't fall in his lap either. Nichols may choose UT as well(another 5 star). When I saw some of his signees early last year, I had the same questions. He has answered the bell in my opinion.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to laraccoon:

you are the epitome of a moron , while i dont necessarily disagree with you on Dooley you think Martin should have won it all in his first year is stupid , take away one year from the Pearl era and UT has never had much success in basketball but Martin was suppose to change that his first year , is that your point ? tell me , what band instrument did you play in high school ?

Hey, wait a minute! Don't be slamming HS band members. This one KNOWS college basketball.
I think we have a real winner in Coach Martin.
I hope he can make my life a little better from time to time living here in Lexington. The BBN get's on your nerves after a while.

Volborn writes:

in response to pcorange:

Unlike our football coach, Coach Zo's team actually made steady improvement throughout the season. He has also shown himself to be an excellent recruiter with an ability to reel in 5* recruits. He will get us back to the big dance.

I'm going to say that he gets us back to the elite 8 by 2014.

VOLFLIAM writes:

in response to BobKesling_is_overpaid:

You loved the way they played last year? So you like going to NIT's over NCAA's?

Another idiot !!!

VOLFLIAM writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OMG !!!! There is another Idiot on here after all !!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to laraccoon:

you are the epitome of a moron , while i dont necessarily disagree with you on Dooley you think Martin should have won it all in his first year is stupid , take away one year from the Pearl era and UT has never had much success in basketball but Martin was suppose to change that his first year , is that your point ? tell me , what band instrument did you play in high school ?

But Dooley was supposed to beat Bama, Florida, Georgia,??? All teams capable of top 10 play if not in the top 5???lol Our football team was in much worse shape than our basketblall. It wasn't even close to the bad shape the football team had shrunk to! But Dooley's supposed to beat these teams in record time. At least Martin had a team of four star recruits. I'm not saying Dooley's in his league. I just think "fans" aren't giving the guy a fair shot at building a 22 man squad. Plus you need backups on both sides of the ball too.

I'm glad you like Martin however. He's already shown much promise.

btw? It may not happen but football may still get 8 wins. What most of us said before the season.

brod writes:

he can be cuonzobot all he wants...all long as he keeps bringing in the good recruits and wins i don't care.

johnlg00 writes:

CCM reminds me of some advice I heard from an experienced teacher to a younger one: Don't let 'em see you smile until Christmas! If you start out with a no-nonsense approach, you can always lighten up a bit later if they deserve it. If you start out trying to be everybody's buddy, they'll run you out of the classroom by Halloween!

CCM seems to have followed this advice to the letter. Once a coach has proven to his team that he means what he says, with or without being an ogre about it, they will not only learn to take his criticism, they will know he means it when he compliments them.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

CCM reminds me of some advice I heard from an experienced teacher to a younger one: Don't let 'em see you smile until Christmas! If you start out with a no-nonsense approach, you can always lighten up a bit later if they deserve it. If you start out trying to be everybody's buddy, they'll run you out of the classroom by Halloween!

CCM seems to have followed this advice to the letter. Once a coach has proven to his team that he means what he says, with or without being an ogre about it, they will not only learn to take his criticism, they will know he means it when he compliments them.

Good point..Martin seems to be a player's coach in part because he has so much experience as a player...

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Martin does seem to be a genuinely nice person. He also seems to be a genuinely strict person. It's really a good coach's combo. "Say what you mean and mean what you say" and "without being mean"
When does basketball start? arrrrgh! I want bball.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

all that is fine and dandy but when is the coaching side going to kick in

mocsandvolsfan writes:

B. O. S.

lmao "...when is the coaching side going to kick in?" lmao. I suppose that was funny. a bit. well no but it was a good try kid.

OrangeMike writes:

in response to laraccoon:

you are the epitome of a moron , while i dont necessarily disagree with you on Dooley you think Martin should have won it all in his first year is stupid , take away one year from the Pearl era and UT has never had much success in basketball but Martin was suppose to change that his first year , is that your point ? tell me , what band instrument did you play in high school ?

No way dude. Band members are smarter thant that.

OrangeMike writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

all that is fine and dandy but when is the coaching side going to kick in

What were you smoking last season?

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to BobKesling_is_overpaid:

You loved the way they played last year? So you like going to NIT's over NCAA's?

I loved the way they played in BP's last season, BK. 9 home losses, including a beatdown by Indianapolis. Oh, and the NCAA appearance against the Wolverines was a classic performance. I'll take my chances as a UT fan with this coach. I think the Vols' next NCAA appearance will be more fight and muster than Maize and Blue Horn and Custer.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

all that is fine and dandy but when is the coaching side going to kick in

When are your thought processes going to kick in? Oh, shucks, too late now; your brain atrophied years ago. It must rattle around inside your skull like a BB in a bass drum.

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