Dave Hart pleased with progress of men's basketball

No plans right now to give Martin extension

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts in the closing seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State at the Southeastern Conference tournament, Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee won 69-53. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts in the closing seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State at the Southeastern Conference tournament, Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee won 69-53. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, right, watches the game against Memphis at Thompson-Boling Arena, Friday, Jan. 4, 2012. UT lost 85-80. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, right, watches the game against Memphis at Thompson-Boling Arena, Friday, Jan. 4, 2012. UT lost 85-80. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Whether 2013-14 is a pivot point in the Tennessee tenure of men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin or not, the coach and program have the tenable approval of the head man in charge.

UT athletic director Dave Hart used a lengthy offseason interview with the News Sentinel to reinforce exactly that. There were no surprises or fresh vantages. He’s pleased with Martin. He’s pleased with the progress.

“I feel good about where we are and where we’re moving,” Hart said. “Cuonzo Martin is going to do the right thing. There’s never a doubt there.”

But a de-facto objective still persists for Tennessee and its second-year coach.

“In the big picture, basketball is a tournament sport,” Hart said. “Let’s make no doubt about it, the goal for everybody in the country — every coach and AD in the country — is to make the tournament. And there is only one tournament.”

And that is the NCAA tournament.

The Vols are coming off back-to-back NIT appearances.

Martin inherited a threadbare program two years ago — pulled and ripped by an NCAA scandal, a publicized and criticized coaching change and an exodus of talent. Today, Hart says, the holes are patched and the shirt fits.

Martin is 39-28 overall in two years and 21-13 in SEC play. He’s notched three top-25 wins and is the only coach other than Kentucky’s John Calipari to have beaten every league team over the last two-year span.

Conversely, two early exits from the SEC tournament still burn. Both left UT short of reaching the NCAA tournament and sent the Vols to the NIT.

And both times, Tennessee lost at home in the NIT.

Hart noted that second- and fifth-place finishes in the SEC in 2011-12 and 2012-13 are “a far better measuring stick” of overall progress. He said they now need to capitalize.

“I think it takes time to establish a program — your own program with your expectations and your standards,” Hart said. “I think we’ve made a lot of ground in that regard.”

Fair or not, Martin operates in a vast shadow wearing orange suspenders. Before being dismissed, former coach Bruce Pearl set the bar high, averaging 24 wins per year and making the NCAA tournament in all six of his seasons. He propped up that bar with barnstorming salesmanship.

Martin was not hired by Hart. The 41-year-old coach came to Knoxville from Missouri State, plucked by former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton in March 2011. Hart came to campus five months later.

Three years remain on the original five-year contract worth $1.3 million annually that Martin signed upon his hiring. That salary ranks 11th among the SEC’s 14 coaches.

Asked if any renegotiation or extension has been considered this offseason, Hart responded, “When we think we’re at a point where we have something to say about any of that, we’ll do so at the appropriate time.”

Hart added that he doesn’t believe a coach having less than four years remaining on a contract can impact recruiting.

“I think it’s overstated, I do,” he said. “I’ve never spent a lot of time focused on how many years this person or that person has left. We evaluate coaches the same.”

So with that, interest turns to how Martin will be judged in 2013-14 compared to his first two seasons. The Vols return a chunk of talent in Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes and Josh Richardson, welcome back Jeronne Maymon from injury and greet high-profile newcomers Robert Hubbs, a five-star recruit, and Antonio Barton, a transfer from Memphis.

“We evaluate (coaches) on an annual basis — and that’s every coach we have,” Hart said. “And I’ll go back to where I started — I think Cuonzo Martin has done a terrific job managing and leading these players and our program. You look for progress. That’s what everybody looks for.”

The Vols’ current offseason has been marred by some unforeseen roster turnover. Point guard Trae Golden left the program amid a dustup of academic misdoings. Incoming freshman Travon Landry was asked to request a release from his National Letter of Intent because of what Martin called a “missevaluation” of his talent.

Hart pointed to heavy roster fluctuation across the college basketball landscape.

“There is some roster transition in virtually every program,” Hart said. “We monitor it very closely in all of our sports. If you see trends that go beyond the norm, then you have those conversations. I think we’re fine right now where we are with our roster.”

Hart also gives little credence to a slight drop in attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols averaged 19,895 fans per game from 2007 through 2010, ranking fourth nationally in attendance each year. Since then, that figure dropped to 18,952 (fifth) in 2011 and 16,543 (seventh) in 2012.

UT averaged 17,395 in 2013, ranking sixth.

“I think anybody who questions our attendance is — that’s silliness,” Hart said. “I really do think that. I’ve said this many times, we have the most passionate fan base in the country. I applaud our fans. When you’re in the top half-dozen in attendance, we don’t have any concern there.”

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 36

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say one route or another Martin has found a way to keep the talent level as high, if not higher than Pearls. Witch Doctor say now match the wins and get team deep into NCAA and the "Pearl returning"talk stops Bones say...
Bones never lie.

FWBVol writes:

in response to bullybattle#1417981:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually, I would guess that Hart knows more about basketball than he does football as he played basketball in college.

OwensboroVol writes:

WHAT PROGRESS??????? Since Bruce Pearl left we have declined into absolute irrelevance. We haven't been to an NCAA Tournament, We haven't challenged for a SEC Championship, We haven't finished the Pre-SEC schedule with anything like a major victory. NO, Dave Hart, open your eyes. The basketball program is on a spiral down and You are probably not going to do anything about it until a High School Coach with a losing record wouldn't risk his reputation by taking the job. The firing of Bruce Pearl was the most inept thing that Mike Hamilton did, and he did everything he could to destroy the UT Athletic Department.

volfan2002 writes:

This year is key for CCM and Hart knows that if he can't make the NCAA with the talent that we have on this years team he never will make it. I think he will and I expect 25 wins. I'm also beginning to believe were gonna have a great class in 2014 in basketball and we'll have to because we lose most of that talent after this season.

crmcm44#321757 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say one route or another Martin has found a way to keep the talent level as high, if not higher than Pearls. Witch Doctor say now match the wins and get team deep into NCAA and the "Pearl returning"talk stops Bones say...
Bones never lie.

If you are correct about the talent level being as high or higher then you should acknowledge that coaching is nowhere near the same level.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Yeh Pearl was handled badly I think. so get over it.

Martin's doing fine so far with the mess he had getting here and the bad press to boot. Leave it alone.

We are gonna rock this year!!! Well in basketball we will.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to crmcm44#321757:

If you are correct about the talent level being as high or higher then you should acknowledge that coaching is nowhere near the same level.

Witch Doctor agree and Pearl a better salesman of the program..kinda like Butch is doing. Witch Doctor say with that said, we all hate it but its gone so might as well get on the future train my friend as we all on it.(Witch Doctor say download "Yesterdays gone" by the Fleet Mac, pop own a cold drink and let it ride. lol
Bones never lie.
*cant judge Martin by Pearl..not fair to him, Witch Doctor say if he can get consistent winning and taking us somewhere in the tourney year in and out..Im all aboard.

TheEffect writes:

“I think anybody who questions our attendance is — that’s silliness,” Hart said. “I really do think that. I’ve said this many times, we have the most passionate fan base in the country. I applaud our fans. When you’re in the top half-dozen in attendance, we don’t have any concern there.”

The fact is that the attendance figures do not reflect ACTUAL attendance. When they announce 15,000...it's more like 9,500. So calling Tennessee an attendance leader is a LIE!

beartn#223846 writes:

A few comments:

1. I think blaming Hart for hiring Sunseri is ridiculous. He asked the head coach what he needed to succeed. He gave it to him, and he failed. If the AD prevents coaches from hiring the assistants they want, then it would be harder to hire another coach.

2. Hamilton firing Pearl was the right decision, but it should have been immediate instead of after the season. I loved Pearl, but lying to the NCAA is an unpardonable sin. I'm not sure why some fans think that trying to keep a coach in the NCAA doghouse is remotely close to a good idea. I'm only aware of one head coach that was hired after his show cause was over. It took many years, but the guy at UCal many years ago is at some really small program now. You just don't do it.

3. The basketball program is not spiraling downwards. Attendance is still good, and we are mediocre. Next year will be key. Martin did not walk into a good situation after the NCAA investigation. Anyone that thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. I think Martin can be successful, though his teams probably won't be as fun to watch as Pearl's.

bobe4544 writes:

He may think so but I do not. Martin should have a good year this year, but after that I think it is all over for him. Keep Martin if u like going to the big dance every three or four years.

Snapshot writes:

in response to WhoseMessNow:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stay on topic, it's basketball, not Dooley, Sunseri or lawsuits. Same tired drivel as usual. Hart is the AD and isn't going anywhere, get over it, deal with it.

eduardo writes:

Its now or never! He doesnt win at least 24-26 this yr and make a deep run...get him outta of here!!!!

dragon18 writes:

in response to beartn#223846:

A few comments:

1. I think blaming Hart for hiring Sunseri is ridiculous. He asked the head coach what he needed to succeed. He gave it to him, and he failed. If the AD prevents coaches from hiring the assistants they want, then it would be harder to hire another coach.

2. Hamilton firing Pearl was the right decision, but it should have been immediate instead of after the season. I loved Pearl, but lying to the NCAA is an unpardonable sin. I'm not sure why some fans think that trying to keep a coach in the NCAA doghouse is remotely close to a good idea. I'm only aware of one head coach that was hired after his show cause was over. It took many years, but the guy at UCal many years ago is at some really small program now. You just don't do it.

3. The basketball program is not spiraling downwards. Attendance is still good, and we are mediocre. Next year will be key. Martin did not walk into a good situation after the NCAA investigation. Anyone that thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. I think Martin can be successful, though his teams probably won't be as fun to watch as Pearl's.

Great Post! May I add;

4. The thought that Hart and Cheek are conspiring to bring down the UT AD for the sake of their Alma Mater is beyond ridiculous! Hart also stepped into a very bad situation with a newly hired basketball coach, a lame duck football coach, NCAA penalties and a disappearing bottom line for the Department in general. I think Hart has actually done well and except for baseball there is optimism and forward progress in ALL sports. I credit a person when they are willing to step in and make necessary changes that will create short term turmoil but will create a better system long term.

I think UT has the best fan base in the country, but when things are good it is very resistant to any type of change at all. The wheels usually fall off before changes are made by the administration and allowed by this fan base.

SevenT writes:

It is time to bring out the upper deck curtains and close off TB because this team is going downhill fast.

volforeverandever writes:

in response to SevenT:

It is time to bring out the upper deck curtains and close off TB because this team is going downhill fast.

Wow you must have low expectations for your ky team if they would do that in rupp.Everybody saw they were bad and got worse.Your right ky. Is going down fast.They made Tennessee look like national champions.

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to WhoseMessNow:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

why don't you supply a link to what Hart said about Dooley? Dooley hired Sunseri. Hart didn't

CoverOrange writes:

in response to beartn#223846:

A few comments:

1. I think blaming Hart for hiring Sunseri is ridiculous. He asked the head coach what he needed to succeed. He gave it to him, and he failed. If the AD prevents coaches from hiring the assistants they want, then it would be harder to hire another coach.

2. Hamilton firing Pearl was the right decision, but it should have been immediate instead of after the season. I loved Pearl, but lying to the NCAA is an unpardonable sin. I'm not sure why some fans think that trying to keep a coach in the NCAA doghouse is remotely close to a good idea. I'm only aware of one head coach that was hired after his show cause was over. It took many years, but the guy at UCal many years ago is at some really small program now. You just don't do it.

3. The basketball program is not spiraling downwards. Attendance is still good, and we are mediocre. Next year will be key. Martin did not walk into a good situation after the NCAA investigation. Anyone that thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. I think Martin can be successful, though his teams probably won't be as fun to watch as Pearl's.

1. Agree. If someone has evidence beyond hearsay or circumstantial that Hart forced Sunseri on Dooley, please provide or shut up about it.
2. Pearl knew he was finished in the December before he was publicly fired, waiting till after the season wouldn't have made a difference. Hamilton should have fired or suspended him as soon as he found out about the lying.
3. Agree. Not a spiral down but a step back from where it was before (team wise and attendance wise). With an experienced and talented squad this year, expectations are high to make that step back up.

hikerdude writes:

20-10 and first round NIT loss.

ric1958 writes:

I guess Hart loves attending the NIT.

seniordrill writes:

Martin is a great coach and anyone who thinks the Vols will not compete for the SEC title, a top ten ranking, and a run in the NCAA tournament is not a true Vol fan to speak of. I doubt if any SEC team has ever had 3 ALL SEC players, excluding the all freshman team, in the starting lineup. Not only that but they are a junior and senior team. Does anyone not think the Vols would have been in the tournament last year if Jeronne Maymon was in the mix? Didn't think so! Here is the Vols weakness under Martin. As much havoc as zone defenses created for the Vols last year, surely Martin sees the need to use one at times instead of relying solely on the man-to-man. They disrupt the entire flow of a team that is blitzing your man-to-man defense.

rbwtn writes:

I'm not pleased I'm tired of waiting for decades once again after Hamilton fired Pearl one of the best college coaches at that time that put UT basketball on the map, instead of putting him on leave but I still support Martin he has the talent but not the SEC experience. So we'll just keep waiting until he learns.

rbwtn writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

WHAT PROGRESS??????? Since Bruce Pearl left we have declined into absolute irrelevance. We haven't been to an NCAA Tournament, We haven't challenged for a SEC Championship, We haven't finished the Pre-SEC schedule with anything like a major victory. NO, Dave Hart, open your eyes. The basketball program is on a spiral down and You are probably not going to do anything about it until a High School Coach with a losing record wouldn't risk his reputation by taking the job. The firing of Bruce Pearl was the most inept thing that Mike Hamilton did, and he did everything he could to destroy the UT Athletic Department.

I'm not pleased either. I'm tired of waiting for decades once again after Hamilton fired Pearl one of the best college coaches at that time that put UT basketball on the map, instead of putting him on leave but I still support Martin he has the talent but not the SEC experience. So we'll just keep waiting until he learns.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to TheEffect:

“I think anybody who questions our attendance is — that’s silliness,” Hart said. “I really do think that. I’ve said this many times, we have the most passionate fan base in the country. I applaud our fans. When you’re in the top half-dozen in attendance, we don’t have any concern there.”

The fact is that the attendance figures do not reflect ACTUAL attendance. When they announce 15,000...it's more like 9,500. So calling Tennessee an attendance leader is a LIE!

All schools calculate "official" attendance in the same way: tickets sold plus official parties. No one claims to keep an accurate turnstile count that the NCAA accepts for ranking purposes. Some schools have fans who come early, fill the place, and stay to the end; others have some fans who come in late, don't snap up every ticket to cupcake games, and leave early. UT is probably in the latter group these days, but still doing well enough to keep the lights on. If this team lives up to its potential, tickets will be scarce in TBA this year. That will raise expectations for next year, even though the majority of the talent who put together whatever record they get this year will be gone. If Martin wins 25+ games in 2013-14 and 20+ in 2014-15, he might be here awhile, and I don't see how anyone could begrudge that.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Baloney! Decades?? We'll rock this year in the NCAAs. WE SHOULD win the SEC regular season and tourney.(should)

It's up to the players now to produce. It's up to the coaches to keep them motivated.

It'll be great! Go Vols (and goooo Mocs in the Southern)

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to vts1965:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Toddy at this rate you are going to go through a bunch of email addresses. Hart may have approved the money but Dooley did the hiring

johnlg00 writes:

in response to seniordrill:

Martin is a great coach and anyone who thinks the Vols will not compete for the SEC title, a top ten ranking, and a run in the NCAA tournament is not a true Vol fan to speak of. I doubt if any SEC team has ever had 3 ALL SEC players, excluding the all freshman team, in the starting lineup. Not only that but they are a junior and senior team. Does anyone not think the Vols would have been in the tournament last year if Jeronne Maymon was in the mix? Didn't think so! Here is the Vols weakness under Martin. As much havoc as zone defenses created for the Vols last year, surely Martin sees the need to use one at times instead of relying solely on the man-to-man. They disrupt the entire flow of a team that is blitzing your man-to-man defense.

It is my hope that with as much experience and talent as this team has, Martin will be able to show a bit more tactical flexibility. The team should not only be physically capable of playing with anybody, they should show vast improvement in decision-making, which should greatly improve their efficiency. If they don't show some signs of that kind of development, I would consider it a bad sign going forward, and I say that as a Martin fan.

GerryOP writes:

in response to vts1965:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah. So what? That's what Dooley wanted and that's what Hart did. So what?

Maybe when you grow up and get a real job you'll understand.

murrayvol writes:

in response to SevenT:

It is time to bring out the upper deck curtains and close off TB because this team is going downhill fast.

It's also time to clean the KNS latrines so get to it.

John_10065 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

It's also time to clean the KNS latrines so get to it.

I found this exclusive video of SevenT in action!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZfEAc...

D60 writes:

If progress is getting worse and more boring then I guess Dave's right

dcap8424 writes:

Anyone who thinks the fans at TBA are great, hasn't seen a game anywhere else. A lot of fans in the lower levels are big boosters that don't care what's happening in the games. It's just a social event for them. Some schools have students all over the lower section, but we struggle to fill up the one baseline devoted to students. And everybody leaves with 5 mins left regardless of the score. I can't stand it when they do this.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to D60:

If progress is getting worse and more boring then I guess Dave's right

I'm just guessing but I get the feeling UT beat your team.

OwensboroVol writes:

in response to beartn#223846:

A few comments:

1. I think blaming Hart for hiring Sunseri is ridiculous. He asked the head coach what he needed to succeed. He gave it to him, and he failed. If the AD prevents coaches from hiring the assistants they want, then it would be harder to hire another coach.

2. Hamilton firing Pearl was the right decision, but it should have been immediate instead of after the season. I loved Pearl, but lying to the NCAA is an unpardonable sin. I'm not sure why some fans think that trying to keep a coach in the NCAA doghouse is remotely close to a good idea. I'm only aware of one head coach that was hired after his show cause was over. It took many years, but the guy at UCal many years ago is at some really small program now. You just don't do it.

3. The basketball program is not spiraling downwards. Attendance is still good, and we are mediocre. Next year will be key. Martin did not walk into a good situation after the NCAA investigation. Anyone that thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. I think Martin can be successful, though his teams probably won't be as fun to watch as Pearl's.

Firing Pearl was stupid. If the University had given their FULL support the NCAA would have never given anywhere close to the penalties they did. What if We had been banned from the Tournament for a couple of years? What is different than what actually happened. Pearl was stupid for lying to the NCAA. He corrected that error within days by calling another meeting and sitting the story straight without any pressure from anyone. He did that on his own. I think it took a lot of courage to do that. Courage which should have been supported by the Tennessee Athletic Department. What happened should have been anticipated when you had a weak AD which allowed outside influence to make determinations on the path the program would take.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I know I was for keeping Pearl when he was still here.

HINDSIGHT? I don't know now. He did lie and I never took up for that. I was willing to forgive him and I should forgive him.

BUT HE'S NOT HERE NOW!!!

Martin IS here and he's doing a good job so far. I'd like to see him show more "tactical flexibility"(as JohnOO said). But why even bring up firing coaches before they're given time to prove themsleves. It's ridiculous and it's always been so. It always will be. When ADs start hiring and firing because of what's said on a blog or in a newspaper then ...well that AD ought to be fired.lol and hehe (I'm not saying Hart should be fired!!)(AND Hammy's gone)

OwensboroVol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Yeh Pearl was handled badly I think. so get over it.

Martin's doing fine so far with the mess he had getting here and the bad press to boot. Leave it alone.

We are gonna rock this year!!! Well in basketball we will.

Martin is doing fine????????????Sixty five (65) teams get into the NCAA Tournament. I don't know the exact count but I believe that is about half of the Division 1 teams in the NCAA. How can you say fine when our Basketball Program is considered in the bottom half of the NCAA??

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Martin is doing fine????????????Sixty five (65) teams get into the NCAA Tournament. I don't know the exact count but I believe that is about half of the Division 1 teams in the NCAA. How can you say fine when our Basketball Program is considered in the bottom half of the NCAA??

Well if you put it like that!

Are you serious? Were you one of those that wanted to fire him the day he was hired?

We'll win a lot this year his third. If not then I won't argue anymore.

He's done well "with what he had". I didn't say he's been perfect. I too prefer the NCAAs but injuries didn't help. We still had nice years with depleted resources. I'd say this next year will be the proof.

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