Tennessee Basketball: Hot Seat Madness

cuonzo martin

It’s been just over a year since a coach was fired at the University of Tennessee, and wouldn’t you know it the fan base is out for blood again.

After dropping their 11th game, while sitting squarely on the bubble on Saturday afternoon, third year head coach Cuonzo Martin didn’t do himself any favors with the way their loss to the Aggies went down.

Tennessee rallied back from an eight-point-deficit with just over a minute remaining in the game to tie the game and send it into overtime. Lost in this was the Vols could have won the game twice before heading into the extra minutes.

First, as they trailed by two and time dwindled down, Josh Richardson found Memphis transfer Antonio Barton for what would have been a game-winning three-point basket, but unbeknownst to Barton coach Martin had called a timeout not even a full second before the shot was launched.

This left the Vols with just over two seconds remaining as they needed to in-bound, and at least convert on a two-point attempt to send the game to overtime. Jarnell Stokes, who had yet another double-double in the first half alone, not only delivered the game-tying basket, but was fouled in the process.

It looked as if the Vols would still yet pull off the ‘W’ for only their third true road victory of the season, but Stokes’, who’s free throw percentage has improved dramatically this season, free throw clanged off the front of the rim sending both teams into overtime where Antwan Space drained yet another game-winning three-point-basket to hand Tennessee their third loss in four games, fourth loss in the last six games.

The expectations for Martin’s Vols this season were high. With arguably the most talented, and most deeply depthed team in recent Tennessee basketball history the Vols were picked to place third in a closely contested SEC race with Kentucky and Florida, and to easily make the NCAA tournament for the first time under Martin’s leadership. Most even had them tabbed to go as far as the Sweet 16 before the season even began.

Unfortunately for Martin that’s why we play the game, and the team’s performance this season is why several are calling for his job.

Instead of an illustrious season to this point, the Vols have one quality win over Virginia, a dismal road record, five bad losses, and find themselves in a seven way tie for fourth in the SEC with a 7-7 conference record, 16-11 overall.

Instead of a breakout season under the third-year head coach with one of the most experienced teams returning in the conference, the Vols are on pace to finish this season with nearly the same average record they’ve had the past two seasons (19-14 average in Martin’s first two seasons).

With slim choices out there for replacement coaches, Vol fans already know who they want. They’ve even gone as far as starting an online petition to bring back former coach Bruce Pearl.

While even Pearl and his son Steven Pearl have said themselves it is unlikely he will even so much as return to the coaching scene anytime soon, the Volunteer fan base is going to extreme length to bring back the man who made the basketball program relevant in the first place.

No decision has yet been made on Martin’s future at the University of Tennessee, and one likely won’t be made (if one is at all) until after the season finishes. All this team, and program can do for the moment is remain focused and salvage the best finish they can, and see where they land.