Cuonzo Martin is reticent. Robert Golden is rebutting.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s abrupt announcement of point guard Trae Golden’s transfer from Tennessee, questions, reports and rumors hung like dense fog Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a UT athletic department source with knowledge of the situation told the News Sentinel that Golden’s departure is “based on academics” and a result of “repeated plagiarism.” Academics as the root of the transfer was widely reported by Knoxville and by national media outlets.
Martin, the UT coach, conducted a morning radio interview on the News Sentinel Sports Page, his first public comments since Tuesday’s news. As expected, he offered few details of the separation between Golden and Tennessee. Instead, he brushed broad strokes, saying, the move is “a key loss” and repeatedly adding, “Trae has to do what’s best for Trae Golden.”
Contacted Wednesday afternoon, Robert Golden, Trae’s father, initially declined comment. He then, however, called Tuesday’s reports “totally inaccurate.”
“No, no, no,” he said regarding Golden’s alleged academic issues. “It’s not that. My son, he’s fine in that area. He’s just going to pursue some other opportunities.”
Contacted in a text message from the News Sentinel, Trae Golden issued a no comment.
Robert Golden said the possibility of his son transferring is “something that we have talked about for at least three months,” and said Martin and Trae Golden “have an understanding about what’s going on and what’s happened.”
Martin would not address any issues or specifics regarding Golden’s transfer, including Tuesday’s widespread reports.
“I try to put an umbrella, so to speak, over my guys on anything in any shape or form so I’ll be the guy that takes the hits on anything — whatever goes on with my guys,” Martin said. “Trae Golden had to do what’s best for Trae Golden, but he’s a talented player, a guy that can score the basketball. He’ll bounce back fine. He’ll do what he needs to do to be successful, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Martin was then asked if the decision for Golden to transfer was out of his hands.
“The bottom line,” he responded, “this is the best decision for Trae Golden. Everything I do, I do what’s best for my players.”
Golden started 58 of his 96 career games over three seasons with the Vols, averaging 9.7 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Golden was the Vols’ second-leading scorer last season at 12.1 points per game and led UT with 13.7 points per game as a sophomore.
In Tuesday’s university release announcing the transfer, Golden said he intends to play his senior year “somewhere else this fall.” Unless he is granted a hardship waiver to earn immediate eligibility, Golden won’t be able to play Division I basketball without sitting out the 2013-14 season, per NCAA transfer rules.
According to UT director of compliance Todd Dooley, Golden does not qualify for the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule. Having spent three years at Tennessee, Golden is “nowhere close” to having enough credits to complete a degree at UT, Dooley said in a Wednesday afternoon interview with Josh Ward of The Sports Animal.
Asked if Golden is considering opportunities at another Division I program, Robert Golden said, “That’s a possibility, yes.”
“At this particular point, we’re looking at all options,” he added. “That’s about it.”
Now facing a hole in his backcourt and wielding an open scholarship to offer, Martin said the possibility exists of UT adding a point guard to its 2013-14 signing class.
“We have some pretty good leads and we’ll see,” he said.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.