published Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

UT’s Martin makes lasting impressions

HOUSTON—Murray State coach Billy Kennedy's first encounter with new University of Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin wasn't a particularly pleasant one. The Racers were pounded 89-79 by Martin's Missouri State Bears last month.

But that doesn't mean Kennedy exited that defeat with a bad impression of Martin.

“No, it wasn't fun, but they were very impressive,” said Kennedy a few minutes before he accepted the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ “Barnabas” award, which annual goes to the basketball coach who best exhibits a commitment to Christ, integrity, encouragement to others and lives a balanced life.

“His team was just so disciplined on both the offensive and defensive ends. His players played so well together. I think Tennessee made a great choice.”

Former Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson — whom former coach Bruce Pearl replaced six seasons ago — also likes the hire.

“First of all, Cuonzo Martin’s a really good guy,” said Peterson. “I think he’s a perfect choice to get this program back in the shape it needs to be in.”

Unlike so many coaches who were filling the downtown Hilton lobby looking for work — including former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt — Martin was nowhere to be seen, however. Apparently preferring to interview for UT staff vacancies in private.

Tickets aplenty

Cinderella teams Virginia Commonwealth and Butler might be nice for the television audience — who posted 20-year high ratings for the regional finals — but it hasn't done much for Final Four ticket sales.

Though the event is an official sellout, most tickets were going below face value of the $280 lower level tickets more than two hours from tipoff of the Butler-VCU game.

Dancing Ram

After every VCU victory, CBS’s cameras have caught a Ram doing a particularly energetic dance in the middle of a huddle.

Asked about the significance of the dance and the player during Friday's press conference, VCU coach Shaka Smart explained the phenomenom.

“The dancer is a player by the name of Heath Houston,” said Smart. “None of you know this because he hasn't played a minute for us. He's redshirted. This is his first year. He'll have four more after this.”

So why Houston, other than the significance of his name as it pertains to this year's Final Four?

“Our players have just always gotten a kick out of the way he dances,” said Smart. “He did it a few times early in the year, but the last couple of weeks it's become an every-game thing. Now that's how we conclude every game. Heath dances and everybody goes nuts.”

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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