By Steve Williams
No question about it, it’s been an up-and-down basketball season for Tennessee.
What started with high expectations has been surprisingly frustrating.
Instead of looking forward to seeing where the Vols would land in the bracket on Sunday Selection Day, many of us are now wondering if their name will even be called.
And for Cuonzo Martin, who is in his third season as UT’s head coach, his job could be in jeopardy.
It’s a shame it has come to this.
Martin is a good man, a good person to be in charge of a college program, a good leader for young men, a good role model for boys and girls right here in our area.
But, yes, he gets paid to be a good basketball coach.
And, yes, three seasons will be long enough for us to get a good indication of how good of a coach he can be, and how far he can take this program.
I’m going to give Coach Martin three full seasons. He deserves that. And just as important, if not more so, the players deserve the fans’ support until the end of the season, which at least includes one more week of regular season play and the SEC tournament.
The players haven’t quit. I’m not going to quit on them. I’m going to remain hopeful and positive.
Besides, Coach Martin’s first two teams at Tennessee got it together and had late-season runs. Maybe these Vols still have that in them. They are capable. They could get hot. We’ve seen glimpses of that.
Based on what else we’ve seen, the Vols have a better chance at making the NCAA field as an at-large selection as they do getting the automatic bid that goes with winning the SEC tourney. I’m just trying to be realistic, not negative.
Many fans have already given up on Martin and want a coaching change to be made. They certainly are entitled to their opinion. I prefer to reserve judgment until the end of the season. I can’t support the team without supporting both the coach and players.
I’ve got to admit, there are some things I wish Martin the coach would do differently.
I’d like to see him run more of an entertaining, up-tempo style of offense and press with blue-collar mentality.
I would prefer that he not call a timeout after the Vols swish in a big 3-pointer, which often stifles our momentum and reduces the fans’ impact on the game.
I’d like to see him work the officials more and get a technical if a ref blows a call that hurts our team. Hey, it’s part of the game.
Can you imagine Cuonzo ripping his orange blazer off and throwing it on the court? Thompson-Boling would come unglued.
But all coaches are different. Martin is Martin and I respect that.
Winning most likely would overcome all the things we as fans may not prefer in a coach. At this point, however, it appears Martin is not winning enough to keep the majority of the fan base satisfied.
But this season is not over. There is still time on the clock. NCAA tourney brackets have yet to be filled out.
I still hope I can pencil in Tennessee.