Martin exits, Tyndall enters
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 3:33 pm
It’s pretty obvious former Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin saw the future.
No wonder he took the first job offer and didn’t waste any time getting out of Knoxville.
The Vols will lose four starters from a team that caught fire late in the season and made it to the Sweet 16. Martin hasn’t recruited adequate replacements.
A Tuesday afternoon a press conference was held introducing Donnie Tyndall of Southern Miss as the new coach of the Vols. Tyndall, a former assistant at Middle Tennessee, has been previous head coaching experience at Morehead State and St. Catharine's.
If Martin thought some of the Big Orange fan base was rough on him in the middle of the season when his team was under-achieving, he knew he didn’t want to hang around for a larger dose of disgruntled fans.
Athletics Director Dave Hart could also see where the program was headed, at least in the near future. Who knows how long the program will suffer until Martin’s replacement can make them a competitive SEC team?
When you look at the situation, it was probably best for both sides to part ways. Martin talked to Marquette, but there is no evidence he was ever offered the job.
That’s when he jumped on Cal’s offer. It is a program that has experienced some past success, but it is nowhere near being a national power in the near future.
Another SEC team that shares a similar basketball history is Missouri. They dumped Frank Haith, the former University of Miami coach who took a job with Tulsa.
Both Missouri and Tennessee have enjoyed good times on the court in the past. You can’t ignore what the late Ray Mears did for Vols basketball. He’s the reason it is Big Orange Country. Mears was part- coach, part-psychiatrist, part-showman.
He found a student who could ride a unicycle and made him a part of the Vols pre-game warm-up routine. The warm-ups were orange and white striped, visible from the top of old Smoky. The routine was no less entertaining than the Harlem Globetrotters.
Mears was at his best when the late Stu Aberdeen was scouring playgrounds in fertile recruiting areas of the country. That was where Aberdeen discovered Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King. They put Tennessee basketball on the map. He was 278-112 from 1962-77 and had a .713 winning percentage.
Mears’ successor, Don DeVoe, had an entirely different personality and program than Mears. Thanks to players such as Dale Ellis, the Vols were relevant. DeVoe coached from 1978-89 and won nearly 60 percent of his games.
It started going downhill under Wade Houston (five seasons .419 winning percentage), Kevin O’Neill (three seasons, .434 percentage). Jerry Green won 71 percent of his games in four seasons, but was let go. Buzz Peterson lasted four seasons, winning 50 percent of his games.
That’s when Pearl came to the rescue. He was the whole package, despite the NCAA trouble he encountered in his sixth season. Pearl won 70.4 percent of his games before being forced out in March, 2011.
So you see Tennessee basketball has gone through more ups and downs than an elevator repairman.
It’s all on Hart to pick a winner. Louisiana Tech’s Michael White is the flavor of the moment, but as of Sunday Hart was still searching.
Basketball has always been relegated to second fiddle behind football at Tennessee, but other SEC schools have been able to compete on the national level in both sports. Alabama used to do it under C.M. Newton and later Wimp Sanderson. Florida does it under Billy Donovan.
The Vols have an outstanding home court at Thompson-Boling Arena. They have good in-state players to recruit. Hart knows how much money basketball can bring in. Why not Tennessee?
Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.