There are some fans of the Tennessee Volunteers who think that the team should fire Cuonzo Martin and rehire Bruce Pearl. To these fans I say remember firing Phillip Fulmer? How did that work out for you?
In all seriousness, however, Martin has done a fantastic job with the team, and the Vols would make a huge mistake by getting rid of him. A perfect example of why it would be a mistake is how Tennessee has been playing to finish out the regular SEC season.
The Auburn Tigers‘ Chris Denson, who is averaging 19.2 points per game, and the Missouri Tigers‘ Jabari Brown, who is averaging 19.7 points per game, are the top two scorers in the SEC. In the final two games of the regular SEC season, Tennessee defeated both Missouri and Auburn. Not only did the Vols defeat both teams by a combined total of 55 points, but both Denson and Brown went just 1-for-10 from the floor and combined for a total of 11 points. That’s a 10 percent field goal percentage from the best two scorers in the SEC.
When you want to understand Martin’s coaching style, just look at junior Josh Richardson. He’s not flashy; he’s not going to give you multiple 20-point games like a Jordan McRae or 15-rebound games like a Jarnell Stokes, but he’s going to fight his hardest the entire game and defend harder than any player in the SEC (well, except Scottie Wilbekin). Martin’s style requires his team to give a 100 percent effort the entire game and when they don’t, they lose.
Look, I’m not saying that Martin is the best coach in the country or on the same level as Billy Donovan in the SEC, but when you don’t just look at stat sheets and win-loss records and focus on Tennessee’s play as a whole under Martin, it’s pretty good. The team loses when players make lackadaisical errors and don’t focus. When they do focus, they blow out teams like the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers. If you know anything about good coaching, watch Tennessee when they’re on. Stokes and Jeronne Maymon’s foot movement and positioning download didn’t miraculously appear overnight. You can see the improvement as a whole over Martin’s time with the team.
So, I get it. Martin isn’t as flashy as Pearl, but being one step away from crazy doesn’t win basketball games; good coaching does. Martin’s style is a winning one, and the Volunteers’ would be crazy to get rid of a coach like him before he had at least four or five years.