While many Tennessee fans continue to wonder how someone named Cuonzo Martin came from off-the-radar to Knoxville, it sounds like the coach’s players are giving him the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” center Kenny Hall said of the transition from Bruce Pearl to Martin. “We’ve all had our own individual meetings with the coaches and we’re all pretty confident what they have in store for us. It’s a brand new everything, a brand new slate. It could be beneficial to everybody.”
That’s one reason Vol players might be happy with Martin’s arrival. It’s no secret that last year’s team had chemistry issues. That much was admitted by Pearl. And some of those chemistry issues were tied to playing time. Therefore, guys who felt they should have been on the court last year may look at Martin’s hiring as an opportunity to grab the the minutes they were lacking.
Cameron Tatum says that Martin’s background is also aiding in the buy-in process. “With his personality, I think a lot of the players are optimistic and eager to see what we can do under his lead and the things that he brings to the table. He has that background of being where everybody on this team wants to go (the NBA). I think everybody’s excited and opportunistic about the opportunity to play for somebody that has been there and done that and willing to listen and see what he can teach us.”
Make no mistake, however, Martin’s ability to get his players — and Vol fans — to believe might be out of his control during his first year. If Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson return, UT should have a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament next season, which would do wonders for buy-in. If those two don’t return, well, then Martin will be trying to win folks over with a roster that might be one of the worst in the SEC.