John Adams: Missed opportunities have Vols on NIT course

John Adams
Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) defends against Mercer point guard Langston Hall (21) in the second half during the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mercer won 75-67 over Tennessee. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) defends against Mercer point guard Langston Hall (21) in the second half during the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mercer won 75-67 over Tennessee. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Imagine if Tennessee’s football team had experienced an afternoon in Gainesville, Fla., comparable to what its basketball counterparts suffered through Saturday.

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Comments » 16

Snapshot writes:

The line that this team "jerks back and forth from promising to pathetic" sums it up pretty well. As much as I would like to see them do well, I just no longer have any confidence this staff will get it done.

johnlg00 writes:

Can't argue with any of this. As optimistic as I have been since the end of last season, I always had to caution myself that the rosy scenarios depended on players getting better, teamwork more refined, competitiveness better honed, and timely coaching adjustments made. I have seen these things, if at all, only in fits and starts. It's as if the team has ADD; they just can't keep in their heads what they are trying to do through a whole game, or have the unshakeable determination to push through difficulties.

No doubt some of that falls on the coaching staff. By now, most of the players in the program are Martin's even though some of the biggest producers are Pearl holdovers. It is just hard to see much overall "value-added" by the Martin regime, except for some improvements by some individual players, on the court or in the stands. From all I have been able to gather, the team is on solid ground academically and behaviorally. The coaches and players are all positively involved in the community. No hint of scandal, NCAA-related or otherwise, has ever been detected around the program. [I'm treating the Makanjuola and Golden affairs as the unique circumstances of those individuals, not an indicator of the kind of player he is trying to get.]

BUT! Since UT spent all that money for TBA and Pratt Pavilion and on reasonable if not overly-generous coaching salaries and operating budgets, making the NCAAs on a pretty regular basis is the only acceptable definition of long-term success. If this team can't make the tournament from a conference as wide-open--some would say weak--as the SEC is this year, I reluctantly conclude that Martin likely must go. If he turns out unable to find a winning style with a team with as much talent as this one, I have little hope that he will find a way to win next year with so much less returning firepower and experience.

And Martin's track record will provide no evidence to any top-ranked talent that he will benefit as a player or compete for championships at UT. Much of the off-court benefit of playing for UT will be lost on the multi-star recruits who are only marking time before going pro. Most of his recruits will thus have only limited present prospects as pro players. Eventually, Martin would assemble, on a recurring basis, an experienced, hard-nosed group that will often compensate for lack of explosive talent with relentless defense, rebounding, and ball-hawking. Next year's team won't be experienced enough or strong enough to win that way. A future team so constructed may well reach a high-enough level of sustained proficiency to be competitive against anybody. That may even be enough to make the NCAAs, say, every three years out of five, though those odds haven't manifested themselves yet.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Can't argue with any of this. As optimistic as I have been since the end of last season, I always had to caution myself that the rosy scenarios depended on players getting better, teamwork more refined, competitiveness better honed, and timely coaching adjustments made. I have seen these things, if at all, only in fits and starts. It's as if the team has ADD; they just can't keep in their heads what they are trying to do through a whole game, or have the unshakeable determination to push through difficulties.

No doubt some of that falls on the coaching staff. By now, most of the players in the program are Martin's even though some of the biggest producers are Pearl holdovers. It is just hard to see much overall "value-added" by the Martin regime, except for some improvements by some individual players, on the court or in the stands. From all I have been able to gather, the team is on solid ground academically and behaviorally. The coaches and players are all positively involved in the community. No hint of scandal, NCAA-related or otherwise, has ever been detected around the program. [I'm treating the Makanjuola and Golden affairs as the unique circumstances of those individuals, not an indicator of the kind of player he is trying to get.]

BUT! Since UT spent all that money for TBA and Pratt Pavilion and on reasonable if not overly-generous coaching salaries and operating budgets, making the NCAAs on a pretty regular basis is the only acceptable definition of long-term success. If this team can't make the tournament from a conference as wide-open--some would say weak--as the SEC is this year, I reluctantly conclude that Martin likely must go. If he turns out unable to find a winning style with a team with as much talent as this one, I have little hope that he will find a way to win next year with so much less returning firepower and experience.

And Martin's track record will provide no evidence to any top-ranked talent that he will benefit as a player or compete for championships at UT. Much of the off-court benefit of playing for UT will be lost on the multi-star recruits who are only marking time before going pro. Most of his recruits will thus have only limited present prospects as pro players. Eventually, Martin would assemble, on a recurring basis, an experienced, hard-nosed group that will often compensate for lack of explosive talent with relentless defense, rebounding, and ball-hawking. Next year's team won't be experienced enough or strong enough to win that way. A future team so constructed may well reach a high-enough level of sustained proficiency to be competitive against anybody. That may even be enough to make the NCAAs, say, every three years out of five, though those odds haven't manifested themselves yet.

I like football..I love basketball..and no UT fan was hoping the Martin hire would work more than me..but the writing is on the wall..unless Martin shows he can prepare and game coach to give his team the best chance to win..I still hope they win the SEC tourn and get to big show but it is not likely..I watched Ark beat Ky by full court man and zone pressure..it wore down the Harrison twins and they had turnovers and weak legs and did not shoot well..I thought UT would at least try the same..they did not..and even tho Stokes and Maymon whipped the Cats so bad even their own coach couldn't believe it..the Harrison's run wild and won the game..I watched LSU beat Ky with the same game plan Ark used..Cal put in another point guard and did not play both Harrison's as he had been..John ..some things just jump out at you don't matter how much you know or don't know about the game..today you have to have multiple defenses and be ready to change anytime the situation on the floor calls for it..just this morning I was asking a friend of mine what Fla was doing on defense..it looked to me like they had too many players on the floor..my friend said it was easy to see..Fla was dictating where they would let you pass the ball and changing defenses so many times the opponent had no way to adjust..I would like to think the Vols could do the same..but I don't...

wigmeister writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Can't argue with any of this. As optimistic as I have been since the end of last season, I always had to caution myself that the rosy scenarios depended on players getting better, teamwork more refined, competitiveness better honed, and timely coaching adjustments made. I have seen these things, if at all, only in fits and starts. It's as if the team has ADD; they just can't keep in their heads what they are trying to do through a whole game, or have the unshakeable determination to push through difficulties.

No doubt some of that falls on the coaching staff. By now, most of the players in the program are Martin's even though some of the biggest producers are Pearl holdovers. It is just hard to see much overall "value-added" by the Martin regime, except for some improvements by some individual players, on the court or in the stands. From all I have been able to gather, the team is on solid ground academically and behaviorally. The coaches and players are all positively involved in the community. No hint of scandal, NCAA-related or otherwise, has ever been detected around the program. [I'm treating the Makanjuola and Golden affairs as the unique circumstances of those individuals, not an indicator of the kind of player he is trying to get.]

BUT! Since UT spent all that money for TBA and Pratt Pavilion and on reasonable if not overly-generous coaching salaries and operating budgets, making the NCAAs on a pretty regular basis is the only acceptable definition of long-term success. If this team can't make the tournament from a conference as wide-open--some would say weak--as the SEC is this year, I reluctantly conclude that Martin likely must go. If he turns out unable to find a winning style with a team with as much talent as this one, I have little hope that he will find a way to win next year with so much less returning firepower and experience.

And Martin's track record will provide no evidence to any top-ranked talent that he will benefit as a player or compete for championships at UT. Much of the off-court benefit of playing for UT will be lost on the multi-star recruits who are only marking time before going pro. Most of his recruits will thus have only limited present prospects as pro players. Eventually, Martin would assemble, on a recurring basis, an experienced, hard-nosed group that will often compensate for lack of explosive talent with relentless defense, rebounding, and ball-hawking. Next year's team won't be experienced enough or strong enough to win that way. A future team so constructed may well reach a high-enough level of sustained proficiency to be competitive against anybody. That may even be enough to make the NCAAs, say, every three years out of five, though those odds haven't manifested themselves yet.

Excellent post. Only way to the big dance is winning the SEC tourney. Doubt they will. Game coaching, as I have said before, is awful. No ability to make changes on the fly. Martin had his chance. Didn't work out. Change is needed. It is that simple. Hard to watch major sports at UT going down the tubes. Hopefully, from what I have seen, CBJ is getting football turned around. Softball team is great!!!

fannotsheep writes:

The Texas A&M loss is likely the one the Vols will look back at from the NIT as the biggest nail in its coffin. Unless of course Ole Miss drives another one in tonight at TBA -- which I'd say is not unlikely.

I think Adams is right on target here and he could have pointed out that all the opportunities the SEC provides don't really help you much because no one expects you to lose to South Carolina or Auburn. And no one expected this Tennessee team to lose home games to supposedly inferior opponents. I'm not sure the Vols can lose two more regular season games and make it to the Dance, unless they win the SEC Tournament. Twenty wins, or 21 or 22, don't guarantee you anything.

murrayvol writes:

This team can take one (maybe two) more SEC losses to avoid a championship run in the SEC Tourney to qualify. That's it. Good luck.

To date this is among the most frustrating basketball seasons I've ever witnessed.

johnlg00 writes:

While I agree that Martin will be on the hot seat if they don't make the NCAAs this year, almost no matter why, I do disagree with the blanket statement that he can't coach. I have no better explanation than anybody else why they have looked as bad as they have at times this year, but I do know that their record varies almost entirely with their shooting percentages. When they shoot well, they usually win; when they shoot poorly, they often lose. And I still don't know what kind of coaching even COULD cause players to miss wide-open shots that the offense is designed and run to get.

Fans can nitpick any team to death if they see enough of them because there just aren't any perfect teams. In short, I am not saying and never have said that Martin was a great coach; I thought he was more than decent in some ways and limited in others, but that he had the potential to get better. He HAS gotten better--perhaps not better ENOUGH, SOON enough--but it is not rational to call for his immediate dismissal, as some on here seem all too ready to do, just because some college kids don't make all their shots. They don't make them all for Roy Williams, John Calapari, Coach K, Tom Izzo, et. al., either.

fannotsheep writes:

Pearl's teams didn't make all their shots either, but they stole the ball back and jammed it home, got the crowd off their butts and won lots of games when the "experts" said they had no chance to say within 10 points.

johndavid writes:

in response to murrayvol:

This team can take one (maybe two) more SEC losses to avoid a championship run in the SEC Tourney to qualify. That's it. Good luck.

To date this is among the most frustrating basketball seasons I've ever witnessed.

How can you not know much about Henderson as a person and know so much about how many wins AND losses TN NEEDS to make NCAAA?

TN can lose 4 more SEC games and make tournament. That is 11-7 and 20 wins. Might need to look decent in SEC TOURNAMENT. That is 8-4 the rest of the way.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to johndavid:

How can you not know much about Henderson as a person and know so much about how many wins AND losses TN NEEDS to make NCAAA?

TN can lose 4 more SEC games and make tournament. That is 11-7 and 20 wins. Might need to look decent in SEC TOURNAMENT. That is 8-4 the rest of the way.

I dunno, jd. I just think that taking the Vols' lack of big out-of-conference wins together with the weak national image of the SEC, 11-7 won't cut it for them. If they had beaten even half of their quality out-of-conference foes, 11-7 might do it for them, but I'm thinking 13-5 is rock bottom for an invitation to the Dance. They might still need to win a game or two in the SEC tourney. All that is doable in the sense that it is not physically impossible, but unlikely in terms of stats and trends and such. Championships are often stitched from unlikely cloth.

fannotsheep writes:

in response to johndavid:

How can you not know much about Henderson as a person and know so much about how many wins AND losses TN NEEDS to make NCAAA?

TN can lose 4 more SEC games and make tournament. That is 11-7 and 20 wins. Might need to look decent in SEC TOURNAMENT. That is 8-4 the rest of the way.

Don't think UT has the strength of schedule or would have the RPI to get in with only 20 wins. If they also won two SEC Tourney games that might be enough but you are probably looking at a low seed and likely a one-and-done showing. Nothing less than a 5 or 6 seed should have been expected from this team in pre-season. Some were predicting an Elite 8 run. Here we sit wondering if they can even get in.

Plasticman85 writes:

in response to johndavid:

How can you not know much about Henderson as a person and know so much about how many wins AND losses TN NEEDS to make NCAAA?

TN can lose 4 more SEC games and make tournament. That is 11-7 and 20 wins. Might need to look decent in SEC TOURNAMENT. That is 8-4 the rest of the way.

Sorry but the only thing 20 wins gets this team is a possible first round NIT game. Anything short of 22 wins and this team, outside of an SEC tourney run, will be watching March Madness from their big screen TV's. The only home loss they might be able to afford is to FL. They are basically fighting Mizzou, LSU and ole Miss for the SEC's 3 rd team in the tourney

UT4prez writes:

in response to johnlg00:

While I agree that Martin will be on the hot seat if they don't make the NCAAs this year, almost no matter why, I do disagree with the blanket statement that he can't coach. I have no better explanation than anybody else why they have looked as bad as they have at times this year, but I do know that their record varies almost entirely with their shooting percentages. When they shoot well, they usually win; when they shoot poorly, they often lose. And I still don't know what kind of coaching even COULD cause players to miss wide-open shots that the offense is designed and run to get.

Fans can nitpick any team to death if they see enough of them because there just aren't any perfect teams. In short, I am not saying and never have said that Martin was a great coach; I thought he was more than decent in some ways and limited in others, but that he had the potential to get better. He HAS gotten better--perhaps not better ENOUGH, SOON enough--but it is not rational to call for his immediate dismissal, as some on here seem all too ready to do, just because some college kids don't make all their shots. They don't make them all for Roy Williams, John Calapari, Coach K, Tom Izzo, et. al., either.

John, they shoot poorly when they take poor shots. Look at the game tonight. Go back and compare the shot selection this game to the shot selection against Florida. UT was much more confident and aggressive moving the ball around the perimeter and regularly got the ball to the middle of the zone where it is supposed to go. It's not rocket science but when this team hesitates on moving the ball, stands around with no movement, has no zone penetration to the high post or even low post, and has poor spacing then they just pass the ball around the outside and take a jumper from 15+ feet. In the second half they did miss wide open shots against UF but the confidence was already gone and the game out of reach. In tonight's game the opposite happened. They had good confidence thanks to good offensive execution so that in the second half when the execution wasn't quite as sharp at times they still made shots, ones that really weren't great looks and ones they would typically miss. Their shooting percentage is a direct correlation to shot selection. That ties back to basketball IQ which at some level does come back to the coaching.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to UT4prez:

John, they shoot poorly when they take poor shots. Look at the game tonight. Go back and compare the shot selection this game to the shot selection against Florida. UT was much more confident and aggressive moving the ball around the perimeter and regularly got the ball to the middle of the zone where it is supposed to go. It's not rocket science but when this team hesitates on moving the ball, stands around with no movement, has no zone penetration to the high post or even low post, and has poor spacing then they just pass the ball around the outside and take a jumper from 15+ feet. In the second half they did miss wide open shots against UF but the confidence was already gone and the game out of reach. In tonight's game the opposite happened. They had good confidence thanks to good offensive execution so that in the second half when the execution wasn't quite as sharp at times they still made shots, ones that really weren't great looks and ones they would typically miss. Their shooting percentage is a direct correlation to shot selection. That ties back to basketball IQ which at some level does come back to the coaching.

So why do they seem so much smarter at home than they do on the road? Why does every team, no matter who the coach is, struggle likewise at times? Yes, we wish they would do more of the right things in the right way at the right time, and the converse, but you can't really say the players and coaches don't know what most of those things ARE! The fact that they can execute well on occasion shows that they are being properly taught; the fact that they don't execute well all the time just means that they are a college basketball team made up of human beings, just like every other one in the country.

rumaso writes:

The whole problem is that the administration at UT decided to get a coach good enough to make the NCAA rather than one who could win a National Championship. Pearl was a coach who could win it all plus he was cheap at the start. If it wasn't for the cheap part, UT would not have even hired Pearl. Coach Martin was not that kind of hire. There were plenty of 'Pearl' caliber coaches out there but UT made a conscious decision to not spend the money. They did it on purpose. Until Thompson Boling Arena is empty and UT is losing money, there will be no attempt to hire another Pearl cause its all about the money. If you can fill the seats without having to pay top dollar for the coach and people will accept mediocrity and show up anyway, this is what you can expect. Kentucky fans refused to show up for nobody coaching and average teams so when no one was buying tickets they spent the bucks and got Calipari. If you want good basketball at UT then quit drinking their fair weather fan cool aid. You have a right to expect UT to try to be the best in return for your support as a fan. If UT doesn't want to meet your expectation of seriously competing for championships then you have every right to be a fan of a program that does and not a UT fan. UT is not serious about competing for an NCAA Championship.

UT4prez writes:

in response to johnlg00:

So why do they seem so much smarter at home than they do on the road? Why does every team, no matter who the coach is, struggle likewise at times? Yes, we wish they would do more of the right things in the right way at the right time, and the converse, but you can't really say the players and coaches don't know what most of those things ARE! The fact that they can execute well on occasion shows that they are being properly taught; the fact that they don't execute well all the time just means that they are a college basketball team made up of human beings, just like every other one in the country.

I agree that every team has ups and downs. Every team has moments of inconsistency. With UT the downs are more frequent than top-25 caliber teams and thus they aren't one. Also, those types of teams, teams that make the tournament, find ways to tough out some games even when they aren't at their best. I do agree they have the knowledge in there so kudos to the coaches for ensuring it is there but it also the coaches' responsibility to get the best out of them. To get that consistency as much as possible. Leaders are there to get the best out of everyone. Now maybe this is their best. Perhaps they just aren't as talented as we thought. I do give the coaches credit for an excellent game plan against Ole Miss. You could see a clear offensive plan. And I credit the players for executing it superbly.

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