Tennessee Basketball: Bye Bye Cuonzo?

Tennessee Volunteers

The Tennessee Vols’ season came to an abrupt end on Friday night when they lost a heart breaker to Michigan in the Sweet 16.

Most thought the biggest question facing the Vols’ offseason was if junior forward Jarnell Stokes would return for his senior season. However, the Vols may have to replace much more than a powerful post player in their rotation.

Just a day removed from their elimination from the NCAA tournament, Marquette officials announced they would show serious interest in pursuing Tennessee’s basketball coach, Cuonzo Martin.

The Golden Eagles season ended in the first round of the Big East tournament with a record of 17-15. Shortly afterward head coach Buzz Williams announced that after six seasons with Marquette, he would depart to take over the head coaching vacancy at Virginia Tech.

In his first five seasons with Marquette, Williams’ led the Golden Eagles to NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite 8 appearance a season ago. His final year was the first year they failed to make the big dance while he ran the show.

Williams finished with a 139-69 record at Marquette, including five 20-plus win seasons, and a share of the Big East regular season title in 2013.

It’s easy to see Marquette will greatly miss having him at the helm. However, on the other side of the spectrum, one of the coaches they’re looking at had an online petition that received over 36,000 signatures to have him removed.

Even with a 63-41 record with the Vols, many fans felt Martin just wasn’t getting the job done. Their tune changed a little once he led his squad to the Sweet 16 after a lackluster regular season, but the fact remains there was a petition to have him removed, and he’s one of the lowest paid coaches in the SEC despite back-to-back-to-back top five finishes in the SEC.

Even though he’s only made one NCAA tournament appearance as a coach, Martin has had a great impact on his players on the court, but mostly off the court. He’s posted one of the higher graduation rates as head coach, and has been a big part of the maturation of all the players that have come through his program.

Tennessee basketball players our among the top of the list in community service hours put in, and have also been crime-free since Martin took over, which is something that could not be said for teams in the past (i.e. the 2010 New Year’s Day joy ride).

A report was released early Monday morning claiming Martin did indeed meet with Marquette officials on the coaching vacancy, but no official word as to whether he has accepted or declined the position has been made.

One thing’s for certain, though. If Martin were to take the job, Stokes would most likely forego his senior season and declare for the NBA draft. Stokes has a very solid relationship with Martin, so losing him as head coach would likely be enough to persuade him to leave early.

In other words, Vol fans may want to be a little more cautious in what they wish for.

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