Mike Strange: With efforts like this, Vols still worth watching

Mike Strange
Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52), center, backs Georgia guard J.J. Frazier (30) into the paint during the first half at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52), center, backs Georgia guard J.J. Frazier (30) into the paint during the first half at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Several factors contributed Tuesday night to a season-low SEC crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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Comments » 13

FWBVol writes:

Proud of the Vols, ticked off at ESPN for moving the game. I had to work and was recording the game on ESPNU only to have the game moved to ESPN at the first media timeout. I wish I could have seen the whole game.

magicbyswh#221420 writes:

I agree to have even a shot at the NCAA they MUST sin out and win one in the SEC tourney. I hope Martin is telling them that. He better make them understand what has to be done. He won't talk about it in the media because he know his job may be on the line. IF he is not telling his team they need to win out to get in, then he don;t care about his career,

TommyJack writes:

in response to magicbyswh#221420:

I agree to have even a shot at the NCAA they MUST sin out and win one in the SEC tourney. I hope Martin is telling them that. He better make them understand what has to be done. He won't talk about it in the media because he know his job may be on the line. IF he is not telling his team they need to win out to get in, then he don;t care about his career,

Thanks so much, Capt. Obvious.

johnlg00 writes:

Fine performance by the Vols. Stokes was a monster, nice boost from Barton, and some timely support from the bench. Perhaps most encouraging of all was that they won handily against a hot team with comparatively little from McRae. I do think McRae has to be at his best for the Vols to be at their best, but unlike some other games where he hasn't really gotten it going, he only took a couple of bad shots and was solid in all other aspects of the game. The defense and the ball handling, two sore points lately, were about as solid as they have been all year. Playing like this, they could not only make the Big Dance but also do some damage once they get there. As always, the question is, can they maintain that kind of focus the rest of the way?

johndavid writes:

in response to magicbyswh#221420:

I agree to have even a shot at the NCAA they MUST sin out and win one in the SEC tourney. I hope Martin is telling them that. He better make them understand what has to be done. He won't talk about it in the media because he know his job may be on the line. IF he is not telling his team they need to win out to get in, then he don;t care about his career,

We had a host of volunteer fans saying we had to win out 3 and 4 losses ago. Nobody that posted has agreed with my assessment of 20-21 total wins. 12-6 in conference and we are in period , 11-7 and we might need to win a game in the tournament. That's what I HAVE BEEN SAYING (for months) AND THAT IS WHY LUNARDI (99% ACCURATE) had them as an 11 seed ( 6-10 teams to the good) before beating Geogia last night.. RPI SOS RPI SOS ..... its done for everyone to look at, they use it every year, have the same # of teams etc - (prediction work - Lunardi's gig is pretty easy thus 99% accuracy rate)

It is starting to look like we could get in with maybe one less win than I earlier predicted. I predicted 6 weeks ago AND AGAIN 3 weeks ago 10-12 SEC wins (they would lose 3-5 more) and still get in( if they win one in tournament with less than 12 wins) and everyone else that posted predicted 12-13 or 14 wins and still left out. I posted and explained the math to help people feel better. YES MANY PEOPLE 3 WEEKS AGO PREDICTED Vols left out with 13 or 14 SEC wins because of "weak SEC" I challenged anyone to explain why we could not make it with 11/12 wins with a good RPI? I got laughed AT BY SOME posters and said I was wishful thinking , I responded I was just using basic math instead of emotion and that is why I keep reminding everyone of their prediction. Don't tell someone their opinion is way off and ridicule, especially when they might be right and enjoy reminding you of it.

But please don't give Conzo a contract extension if they make it!

gglardon50#417841 writes:

Well if you don't keep Conzo who are you going to get. Tenn is not going back to the lier and the cheater-he's done here. Guy is a low life there ARE other coaches,BUT remember Tenn is not that big of a deal basketball wise. Not a top 25 landing place but that doesn't mean there is not a good coach out there. Florida coach came from Providence,others have done as well-just get over Pearl as the only guy out there hes not.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to johndavid:

We had a host of volunteer fans saying we had to win out 3 and 4 losses ago. Nobody that posted has agreed with my assessment of 20-21 total wins. 12-6 in conference and we are in period , 11-7 and we might need to win a game in the tournament. That's what I HAVE BEEN SAYING (for months) AND THAT IS WHY LUNARDI (99% ACCURATE) had them as an 11 seed ( 6-10 teams to the good) before beating Geogia last night.. RPI SOS RPI SOS ..... its done for everyone to look at, they use it every year, have the same # of teams etc - (prediction work - Lunardi's gig is pretty easy thus 99% accuracy rate)

It is starting to look like we could get in with maybe one less win than I earlier predicted. I predicted 6 weeks ago AND AGAIN 3 weeks ago 10-12 SEC wins (they would lose 3-5 more) and still get in( if they win one in tournament with less than 12 wins) and everyone else that posted predicted 12-13 or 14 wins and still left out. I posted and explained the math to help people feel better. YES MANY PEOPLE 3 WEEKS AGO PREDICTED Vols left out with 13 or 14 SEC wins because of "weak SEC" I challenged anyone to explain why we could not make it with 11/12 wins with a good RPI? I got laughed AT BY SOME posters and said I was wishful thinking , I responded I was just using basic math instead of emotion and that is why I keep reminding everyone of their prediction. Don't tell someone their opinion is way off and ridicule, especially when they might be right and enjoy reminding you of it.

But please don't give Conzo a contract extension if they make it!

It is still a matter of FINISHING OUT on a streak. The announcers talking about the Vols being "in" according to the bracketologists always used lines like, "If the season ended today...if teams finish as projected..., etc." They aren't in until they are in, and if they think they can coast in any of the remaining games, they likely may NOT be in. I am not ridiculing you nor have I done so, but everyday garden-variety math only works when all the relevant factors are known and accounted for, and all the relevant figures aren't in yet.

Also, I don't see how anybody in charge of making decisions about Martin's future with the program would think it a good idea to fire him if he does in fact make it to the tournament. I hear and see all the gripes about him, and I have made a few myself, but firing Martin after making the tournament would almost ensure that nobody of any real stature--except perhaps for Pearl if there was enough administration interest in getting him--would take the job for less than twice what Martin is making now. Of course, you did say not to give him an extension, not to fire him immediately. I can go along with a bit of extra scrutiny, but it is just a fallacy to think that just ANYBODY would be better for the Vols right now than Martin.

bUTch__please writes:

I love to watch any Vol team that plays hard and wants to win the game. I can live with the results if you can see the desire and passion and teamwork as our teams band together to give their all.

With that said, I'll need Ritalin to make it through the next 5 games of team "clap-on, clap-off"

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

It is still a matter of FINISHING OUT on a streak. The announcers talking about the Vols being "in" according to the bracketologists always used lines like, "If the season ended today...if teams finish as projected..., etc." They aren't in until they are in, and if they think they can coast in any of the remaining games, they likely may NOT be in. I am not ridiculing you nor have I done so, but everyday garden-variety math only works when all the relevant factors are known and accounted for, and all the relevant figures aren't in yet.

Also, I don't see how anybody in charge of making decisions about Martin's future with the program would think it a good idea to fire him if he does in fact make it to the tournament. I hear and see all the gripes about him, and I have made a few myself, but firing Martin after making the tournament would almost ensure that nobody of any real stature--except perhaps for Pearl if there was enough administration interest in getting him--would take the job for less than twice what Martin is making now. Of course, you did say not to give him an extension, not to fire him immediately. I can go along with a bit of extra scrutiny, but it is just a fallacy to think that just ANYBODY would be better for the Vols right now than Martin.

It seems to be the feeling of talk shows in the area that Martin will get another year if the Vols make the big show and will get his buyout if they don't ..I talked with a season ticket holder last night who did not attend ..he said the fans around him can't believe what a poor game coach Martin is..and he gave examples of the differences in him and Pearl..this comparison is not good for Martin..I agree with those who are saying Martin appears to have a staff of buddies instead of someone who can help him coach ..this was magnified by the inability to in bounds the ball with the game on the line..so if the Vols do have to give him a buyout..it will be his own fault and a lack of attendance..

fannotsheep writes:

If Martin had a better incoming class I think he would have more support. He does not seem to be a top level sideline coach but it's not fair to judge a guy on three years. There have been injuries to key components of what was supposed to be a special team.

Now if Pearl is in play I thank Martin very much, cut him a check and say farewell. But if, as most everyone says, there's no hope of getting Pearl back I see no reason to fire Martin. Who you gonna get? Another mid major guy who may or may not get the job done. That will be after the silly season of dream candidates who will not be interested. Just another black eye for the program as they use the offer to get raises. In Martin you do have integrity and character.

Say all you want about Pearl and his character. On the court he was one of the top three or four coaches in the college game. He was the best coach UT basketball ever had. I give him the slightest edge over Mears because even though Ray had to beat Kentucky to get in the NCAA Tournament in those 16-team fields, Pearl owned Florida in their national title years.

Neither Mears nor Pearl backed down to anyone. They each made basketball matter again. As much as I loved Mears I have to say Pearl did a little more. Beating Texas, Kansas, Memphis, Florida and Kentucky in huge games on a national stage. And doing it with an exciting style of defensive and transition basketball that was unknown in Mears' day.

So to all you first-stone thrower out there, if merit badges are what you want in your trophy case why didn't we keep good ol' Buzz?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to fannotsheep:

If Martin had a better incoming class I think he would have more support. He does not seem to be a top level sideline coach but it's not fair to judge a guy on three years. There have been injuries to key components of what was supposed to be a special team.

Now if Pearl is in play I thank Martin very much, cut him a check and say farewell. But if, as most everyone says, there's no hope of getting Pearl back I see no reason to fire Martin. Who you gonna get? Another mid major guy who may or may not get the job done. That will be after the silly season of dream candidates who will not be interested. Just another black eye for the program as they use the offer to get raises. In Martin you do have integrity and character.

Say all you want about Pearl and his character. On the court he was one of the top three or four coaches in the college game. He was the best coach UT basketball ever had. I give him the slightest edge over Mears because even though Ray had to beat Kentucky to get in the NCAA Tournament in those 16-team fields, Pearl owned Florida in their national title years.

Neither Mears nor Pearl backed down to anyone. They each made basketball matter again. As much as I loved Mears I have to say Pearl did a little more. Beating Texas, Kansas, Memphis, Florida and Kentucky in huge games on a national stage. And doing it with an exciting style of defensive and transition basketball that was unknown in Mears' day.

So to all you first-stone thrower out there, if merit badges are what you want in your trophy case why didn't we keep good ol' Buzz?

Much worth considering here. I agree with the poster above who said that Martin seems to have a staff of "buddies" rather than one chosen strictly for their basketball acumen. As far as I can tell, they are very similar to each other in background and no doubt in character as well.

For one thing, they were all great players in their day. I read that they have scored more points in college ball than any other staff. Some of them may have come up the hard way, like Martin did. They overcame difficult initial circumstances to make themselves into, first, elite athletes, then college graduates, and then "comers" in the coaching profession. They no doubt set excellent examples of character for the players.

However, one gets the feeling that they all share the same possibly overly-rigid approach to the game. A philosophy of the game is great, but basketball is not a religion; there are many ways to visualize it and play it. The only restrictions should be the rules, the geometry and physics of the game, and the particular talents of a given group of players. EVERYTHING else should be on the table. Nobody has invented THE ideal way to play the game, and while it is true that there is nothing new under the sun, winning coaches have learned how to innovate and adapt while staying true to a few BASIC principles that can be applied in a multitude of ways.

Some of these guys have been with Martin since his first days at Mizzou St. Maybe they would benefit from broadening their own horizons. IMHO, Martin needs a more flexible staff, capable of providing insights from outside the "Keady box". There also needs to be somebody who has the stature to tell Martin on occasion, "This isn't working; why don't we try something else?"

Also, for three years now, the team has been deficient in crucial, repetitive late-game situations. Opponents have repeatedly out-excuted them on both offense and defense in out-of-bounds situations. They don't consistently take advantage of favorable mismatches or effectively counter those in the opponents' favor. Situations like these--that come up ALL THE TIME--likely cost the Vols a difference of 8-10 points a game. Imagine how much better their record would be if they could correct just that one single deficiency.

This is not about intelligence or desire, it's just that their "OODA loop" seems to cycle slower than that of some others. If you have not heard the term, "OODA" stands for Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action. Devised by a junior Air Force fighter pilot named John Boyd, it has become the basis for virtually all US military planning and warfighting and has countless applications in any area of life that requires strategic planning. I started trying to explain this, but I was taking too many words according to the "site nanny", so look it up on line. Maybe I will discuss it further some other time if anybody is interested.

fannotsheep writes:

You can admire a guy for his toughness and guts and all that, but you need an innovative mind to be able to scheme and adjust and give your team a winning edge. Mears, DeVoe and Pearl did that. I can't think of another basketball coach in my lifetime who gave the Vols a better chance of winning on a consistent basis than his coaching counterparts.

As someone said of General Neyland, he could beat you with his, and if you swapped teams he could beat you with yours. Pearl could do that, and that's a rare thing. That's why I'll want him back as long as there is one iota of a prayer. Someone in California won more than 300 million dollars Wednesday night. Surely the odds are better than that, if not by much.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to fannotsheep:

You can admire a guy for his toughness and guts and all that, but you need an innovative mind to be able to scheme and adjust and give your team a winning edge. Mears, DeVoe and Pearl did that. I can't think of another basketball coach in my lifetime who gave the Vols a better chance of winning on a consistent basis than his coaching counterparts.

As someone said of General Neyland, he could beat you with his, and if you swapped teams he could beat you with yours. Pearl could do that, and that's a rare thing. That's why I'll want him back as long as there is one iota of a prayer. Someone in California won more than 300 million dollars Wednesday night. Surely the odds are better than that, if not by much.

I love that example of the influence of coaching, which I have heard applied to many great coaches. There seem to be two main philosophies of how to put together a team that competes at a high level.

The first is to take whatever philosophy of the game one has and recruit and train players to play in that system. Eventually, experienced players form a nucleus that keeps the system going even as the personnel changes over time. The more players you have who are experienced in the system, the more consistent they will be and the easier it is to integrate new personnel into the system. It also may be easier to integrate new elements into the system as the basis of it becomes second nature to most of the players. If I have understood it correctly, this description pretty much fits Martin's philosophy.

The other way is to accept one of the main realities of modern ball, which is that it is very difficult to keep guys on the team for three or four years these days unless they are not pro-quality players. You don't always sign the players you want, they get hurt, get in academic or legal trouble, etc. So you can't count on having a steady stream of guys who you have enough time with to fully indoctrinate them into your system. The alternate approach, then, is to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of each particular team and devise a system that they can compete with. This requires a degree of flexibility in the minds of the coaches and the ability to devise systems on the fly, as it were, combined with the ability to quickly define appropriate roles for the players and present those roles in terms the players can understand. This is, on the whole, a more pragmatic system that is infinitely adjustable to suit any combination of players in any competitive situation.

Martin seems forthrightly committed to the first approach. This is fine as far as it goes and lots of successful coaches use it. However, the more precisely you expect a given group of players to conform to the expectations of an overly-rigid system, the more often you are going to encounter situations where you don't have the "right" personnel to run it and the less likely you are to be able to adjust to something unexpected. The flexibility of mind required to take this kind of approach also makes it easier to make in-game adjustments. The more mental tools you have at your disposal and the broader the range of experiences you can draw on, the more likely it is that you will come up with appropriate solutions to unexpected problems. This approach seems more like Pearl's, though I had my occasional gripes about some of the things his teams did not do especially well.

It is my hope for Martin that he expands his mind to encompass more variety in his methods if not in his bedrock philosophy. There have already been some tentative steps in that direction and I hope that process will continue.

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