published Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

5-at-10: Cuonzo Martin leaves, NCAA being the NCAA and Braves new story

Cuonzo goes gone-zo

So did anything happen in Knoxville yesterday?

Sweet buckets of sidewinding and finger pointing.

Here's Weeds view on this that also includes some prospective replacements for Cuonzo Martin as the University of Tennessee basketball coach.

The national guys are banging on the UT program.

Some of it's deserved. Some of it is getting to be a bit much.

So it goes. The Vols athletic department is an easy target right now.

But rather than keep the self-flagellation going, let's review:

The petition was a poor choice. It was then, and it gets worse by the week, especially now that UT is going to try to hire a new coach to replace a guy that ultimately made the Sweet 16 and was run out of town.

Martin deserves some criticism too. He's completely getting away with a very Saban-esque "This is where I want to be" and turned down a 500K raise and two-year extension to leave at possibility the worst time for UT.

This is a black eye for Dave Hart, at least for, as Weeds accurately pointed out, sitting on his fiddle while Rome burned. The silence during the season about the petition was bush league.

And with that quick turn, the Martin chapter is closed.

Maybe the fan base will learn from this. So too may Martin.

As for Hart, well, AD's have the chance to rewrite their histories quicker than anyone this side of pre-modern dictators. Think about it. If Hart can money whip a Gregg Marshall or some like that or if he finds the next Bruce Pearl — the clean, radio-edited version, mind you — then he turns the black eye of this morning into a testament that he can take a punch.

This much we do know — and Downtown Patrick Brown can attest — there's never a dull moment on the UT Vols beat.

————

The NCAA

Is there a more tone deaf organization than the NCAA. Seriously, Helen Keller would call Mark Emmert and Co. obtuse.

Egad. Among the many flaws the NCAA has, the PR department of the governing branch of college sports is a debacle.

How else could we explain that amid all the turmoil and hubbub and issues and possibilities that at least will completely change the face of college sports, that the first move of the NCAA under the spotlight of scrutiny is to give scholarship athletes free snacks? Who runs the NCAA planning committee, a former Delta executive?

Did the conversation go like this:

Mark Emmert: "We have to do something. We have to make a splash that we care about the kids."

Board member A: "Who's having a kid?"

Emmert: "No the student athletes. The KIDS."

Board member A: "Oh yeah. Where's my gold-plated chalice. I need some more Cinnamon Dolce Latte."

PR Chief: "Mark's right. I know what we can do. Let them eat cake."

Board member B: "We have cake. Awesome."

Emmert: "Go on PR."

PR Chief: "What is there big arguement? They're hungry. Shabazz Napier says there are hungry nights. We have no answer to the "Buy a pizza..." argument. So, let them have a 24-hour kitchen. Free snacks. Like the airlines did when everything was going bad, they gave us peanuts. Let's give them peanuts. Literally."

Board member B: "We have peanuts. Awesome."

With a union vote on tap later this month, the NCAA's effort of good will is to open the refrigerator rather than their check book.

————

Braves new issue

  • photo
    Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla, right celebrates with his teammates after he hit a grand slam against the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 14, 2014, in Philadelphia. Atlanta won 9-6.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Braves were rained out. We'll continue the Good, Bad and Uggla tomorrow.

That said, the Atlanta Braves remain in the news.

After being celebrated on the 40-year anniversary of hitting home run No. 715, Hank Aaron made some sweeping, stereotypical evaluations about people against President Obama and specifically his health care plan. It was in bad timing at best, and was his comments did not go unnoticed.

Now, the Braves have received 'hundreds' of racially charged letters than are calling for Aaron — a senior VP with the team — to be fired. Some of these letters are protesting Aaron's comments; other range clear to hatred and offensive language that changes the discourse because of their offensiveness.

Sitting here — and knowing that Aaron's comments offended some and the response has of course been over the top in some instances — we can't help but wonder, where did all the hate come from? Some of the letters that the Braves received according to USA Today were foul and filled with racially slurs.

This story became public on the day that baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson's anniversary. Oh boy.

————

This and that

— The Freedom from Religion Foundation — the group that has badgered some of the high school coaches in the Chattanooga area — is now looking at college coaches and their role in religious influence on their teams. Clemson has received a letter from the FFRF that questions the "constitutional concerns about how the public university's football program is entangled with religion," as reported by the Greenville News. Oh buckets. Some of the moves suggested by the FFRF interlopers: eliminate the position of team chaplain, quit giving out Bibles and stop organizing devotional meetings.

— The NBA regular season ends today. This is like Navin R. Johnson screaming, "The new phone books are here. The new phone books are here." It's a big deal. And it's not. There are still some possible movements in the playoff seedings, and there could be some teams lose on purpose tonight to affect their seeds. NBA action — it's fantastic.

— Chris Johnson, the former Titans running back, visited the Jets. He did not agree to a deal. It will be very interesting to see what kind of offer CJ2K gets. We think there will be a slew of one-year offers but very few multi-year deals on the table. Thoughts?

————

Today's question

Gang, feel free to rap on any of the above, and remember, it's good to be the king.

If you need a talking point, well, here's one:

Peter Billingsley is 43 today. Yep, 43. Peter Billingsley is the kid that played Ralphie in Christmas Story.

What's your Rushmore of one-and-done child actors — kids that had one monster role and then never did anything of note again — of all-time?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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jomo11 said...

Its interesting that in the 2 high profile programs ( Men's BBall and Football ) UTK , with the exception of Jonny Majors 40 years ago, have never hired a high profile coach, always a coach from Mid-Major or an assistant i.e. Dooley from La Tech, Butchy from Cincy, Buzz from Appy, Cuonzo from Missouri St., Pearl from Wisc-Milwaukee, Jerry Green assistant, Kiffin assistant, Fulmer assistant . . .wonder if Hart will break that trend ?. . . .and also knowing Rick Hart and how he and Dave Hart operate, anyone who says " i heard from a booster that Dave Hart is going to hire so-and-so" is lying, Dave Hart keeps things VERY private in what he decides or does. Sometimes thats good , sometimes bad. . . . Also UTK might be a little surprised in where they are viewed from the outside , , ,Alot of National articles i.e. Pat Forde and Dana O'Neill are RIPPING the fan base and athletic department at UTK . . .

April 16, 2014 at 10:27 a.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring,

Re: Yesterday's Vol assessment. All I did was read Mr. Brown's article on the Spring Game and opinionized (my word) it.

Conz to Cal: Here goes Tennessee again scrambling to uncover and entice a quality coach with a serious sense of urgency.

Child Stars never heard from again.

Two never to be heard from again, Dana Plato and Annisa (Buffy) Jones.

Two still available for strip mall grand openings: Jerry Mathers and Butch Patrick.

April 16, 2014 at 10:40 a.m.
chas9 said...

So long, been good to know you.

I rarely find myself in the position of expressing sympathy for The Big Orange Nation, but I have to say you 5@10 posters yesterday afternoon were totally brutal. How far down is Johnnyvolsfan if he needs a Cat to defend him?

This I like: Weeds' take on the rotten situation in today's fish wrapper. Downtown's Vol quotes are telling, too.

This I shake my head at: Hart's press statement. Hard to know what to say when the egg's smeared all over your face, but his pablum was unconvincing. He needs to hit a home run in a stadium with deep, high fences.

Maine's Ted Woodward's available.

And at least this eventuality changes the conversation from how terrible the football team's defense will be next year.

April 16, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.
Stewwie said...

I think the criticism on Dave Hart is a bit unfair. Hindsight is 20/20 and I don't think that anyone anticipated the Vols finishing their season as well as they did. So when the b-ball team was underachieving and the fans were complaining and signing petitions, what was Hart supposed to do? Give a strong vote of confidence to a guy that he was probably going to fire at the end of the season? Then Hart would look like slime later on. Seems like Hart was in a darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don't situation. Again, if the Vols didn't unexpectedly finish strong, we wouldn't be having this discussion right now.

Hank Aaron made ignorant, racist statements to USA Today last week and showed that he is still bitter and full of hate and yet there is no outcry in the liberal media about that (of course there isn't). I have sympathy for the way he was unfairly treated in the 60s and 70s, but I have no sympathy for the criticism he's getting from the fans for his most recent comments.

Our 1st Amendment gives limitations to the types of laws that our federal Congress can pass. But over the years, that same amendment has been used by groups such as the FFRF to say that individual taxpaying citizens who happen to work for the government can't freely exercise their religion. And that's sad. And something doesn't seem right that a little group in Wisconsin can sit back and send letters to bully institutions in other states. Let each city and state take care of their own institutions.

April 16, 2014 at 11:08 a.m.
BWill8 said...

I made myself read Weidmer’s column, though I knew what he was going to say before I even clicked on it. He’s as predictable as a clock. He’s become the Roy Exum of the TFP Sports Department.

I never signed the Bruce Pearl petition. And, frankly, didn’t want him back. I also thought Cuonzo was a bad fit for UT from the beginning. This is not a character attack. He seemed like a perfectly fine guy. He said all the right things. But in the end he felt unwanted, disrespected, and whatever else so he left for a seemingly better job. Best of luck to him and his family. Truly.

Dana O’Neil at ESPN is writing about the enormous level of dysfunction at UT. Things are far from great. But 68,000 at a Spring game with an incoming Top 5-10 recruiting class? An NBA-quality arena with average crowds of over 15k showing up to watch some woeful basketball for a long stretch of the 2013-2014 season? A baseball program on the road to recovery? I don’t believe UT is quite the easy target that O’Neil or Pat Forde over at Yahoo Sports have made it out to be.

At the of the day, I believe this was a win-win for everyone. Cuonzo got to save face. [Most] UT fans won’t have him to kick around anymore. Dave Hart can hire his own guy. And before you think Dave Hart spent last night crying into his pillow of this hopeless situation, think again. Martin leaving is good for business and Hart doesn’t give a damn what O’Neil, Forde or any other writer thinks. Hart will enjoy cashing the check from Berkeley, all $1 million-plus of it. I bet the only thing Hart is P.O.’d about is the timing (can’t control everything).

April 16, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.
WilliamRscott said...

From my astute friend George N Harrison...[see what I did there]:

"I believe the reason Hart didn’t respond to the petition is the fact that no one at UT was in Cuonzo’s corner. Had the Vols not made the tournament, there would have been significant heat on Hart to fire Cuonzo. Or maybe Dave didn’t want to dignify the petition issue by even acknowledging it. Either way, Cuonzo being gone is good thing. Good for him; good for UT. He was not a good fit at UT. He would have been right back in the frying pan next year, which is why I believe he bolted. He knew that."

Billy-In-Brainerd

April 16, 2014 at 11:43 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

Peter Billingsley was techincally not a one and done child actor. He did two other "kid" films post Christmas Story. One was "The Dirt Bike Kid" which was pretty good for it's time. Had Annie Potts playing his mother and the creepy fat guy from "Not Necessarily The News" or NNTN for short playing this evil bank president trying to do land acquisition. The other one I recall was "Beverly Hills Brat" which went straight to video. He also is known, and you can find this on YouTube, a spot he use to do for Hershey's chocolate syrup (aka the one regarding the cans in the garage). It aired back when Saturday Supercade aired on CBS and Pac-Man on ABC. ^^

What I didn't know that he was turning 43. I thought he was my age.

At least he went on to greater things (he's actually a working producer now). As suppose to the kid who played Sharwtz(the frozen pole kid). Apparently 1) it's that big and 2) yeah, he uses the tongue for that now.

I know everyone else is talking about the cows, the chickens, and the hogs regarding Cozgate (Don't care and don't blame him) but I wanted to give Stephen Universe credit for the five questions regarding the Mocs preseason. In the meantime, ugly, UGLY game Monday in this series against Seattle. The good news was of course the bats were a little hotter last night. Prince Fielder keeps reminding me too much of a black Babe Ruth (shape-wise). But it was nice to see him finally hit his first single homer.

April 16, 2014 at 12:20 p.m.
titanic said...

I have to agree with B-I-B and Stewie with regards to Hart. Is he supposed to come out publicly and defend every coach when they get lit up on social media. In this day and age that would be a full time job. Fans get irate when the team is not producing, some times a little to the extreme. Tennessee does not own a patent on the practice of bill boards, petitions, fire Coach X websites, and the like.

Media folks like Dana O'Neal love to pick low hanging fruit. It is not like they lost a Cal. or Donovan. I believe that during the time of the petition, Hart fully intended to get rid of him. They went on that run and made things difficult for him. Funny how things work out sometimes. Best of luck to Conzo. I think he is a fine man.

April 16, 2014 at 12:42 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Do fans not realize that having a petition with over 36,000 signees urging that a coach be fired ( and not a coach involved in some criminal case) does no good for a school? If fans really believe a coach should be let go, write sensible well thought out letters or email without rants or racial slurs. All an online peition does is undermine the program and possibly impede future hires who would look at a school like that and be very wary.

April 16, 2014 at 12:52 p.m.
Astropig said...

A little bit different take on the UT situation...

I think CM leaving could actually turn out to be a win-win for both sides. I thing The Conz had taken the Vols about as far as they're going to go as a roundball program at a pointy ball school,given his style of play and the competition. I would just speculate that he sensed that also and knew that with a lot of holes to fill next season,the same boo-birds that were calling for his 'ol punkin head this year would be in full throat by ,oh,this Thanksgiving.He gets a fresh start at Cal and has more job security there than he had in KnoxVegas.

For the UTAD, they can now make a fresh start and buy some time for a new head man to build...whatever you can build in the shadow of Neyland Stadium. Now that Bruce Pearl's shadow is not looming over the program anymore,there's a chance for a true new beginning without the baggage of the knuckleheads that wanted to bring him back. Now,he's the enemy and I believe UT can finally move on.

As for the FFRF- These kids participation in matters of their faith is voluntary. To eliminate a chaplain or voluntary meetings or events tied to their religion would deprive them of their freedom to worship or not worship as they saw fit. UTC would do well to tell those people to mind their own business.

April 16, 2014 at 1:15 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Great discourse today. Well-played all around.

We concur that this could be a win-win for UT and for Martin, because in truth the Vols were going to struggle regardless who was on the bench next year, and the heat on Martin would have been high.

Think of it this way — if Martin had stayed and the Vols had floundered next year, the rallying cry — rightly or wrongly — would have been he had a good month in four years and he's still the coach.

That said, Dave Hart's rep takes a hit here because of the silence in my mind. There may not have been much support in the room for the Conz, but address the petition and get in front of the issue.

Say, "We have a basketball coach and we'd hope that true UT fans would support who we are rather than who we are not." Happens all the time, and it's amazing folks let the story overcome them.

One thing that Dave Hart did get blessed by in all this is that Auburn has already scooped up Pearl. Hart had ZERO intention of hiring Pearl, but if Pearl was still out there and this situation played out — sweet buckets of melted internets.

It is a +$1.3 million (Martin's buyout) chance at a do-over. Sure there is some national egg on the face, but whomever said the national guys pick at the low-hanging fruit is spot on. Save the moral indignation for something else.

Astropig —

Thanks for swinging by, and yes, the FFRF folks can take a long walk off a short Bible.

MT —

No doubt. Just like those bozos that boo their college teams at home games. Do they not realize that it hurts the program in matters of recruiting and in perception, and in this case perception is reality.

Titanic —

There's a difference in picking Twitter battles and chat room wars with every dissenter compared to 30K-plus signatures on a petition.

JMC —

Billingsley is actually very successful as a producer/director. He's done a lot of Jason Bateman's recent stuff and he and Vince Vaughn are tight and have worked together a bunch.

As for the one-and-done, we are talking about the forever identifiable role. Yes, he may have done a few others, but he will always be Ralphie, you know?

And we did not know that about Schwartz, who was also the Master Bates in The Toy with Richard Pryor.

BWill & BiB —

Concur. The only real downside here is the perception of the fan base, which does hurt, and the pain in the rear for UT beat writers like Downtown PBrown.

This is a chance to reset, and the next coach will get the chance to fill a strained void rather than the hurdle The Conz had in filling the void of a coach that was loved by the fan base.

So it goes.

Jomo —

Fair point about Hart. There will be few leaks about this search, but we expect him to move heaven and Earth to try to land a big name here. That would help a lot.

Not unlike what Jay Jacobs has done in Auburn, you can rebuild an image pretty quickly with a home run hire.

April 16, 2014 at 1:34 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Well the first leak FROM a contacted coach, Nebraska Coach Tim Miles, comes out and says He has been conatcted by Tennessee and has politely turned them down . . . . not exactly the "Splash" Name the fans were hoping for . .

April 16, 2014 at 2:24 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I guess Marquette really is out of the running for the Cuonz. Not good times in Knoxvegas. So the Vols weren't great in the regular season (they weren't particularly bad, say, like Auburn was this year) but they reached the Sweet 16. Kentucky, an eyelash from winning it all, was in double digits for losses and had some particularly galling defeats. UConn, which did win it all, got taken out behind the woodshed and left there in its conference championship game by nearly 40 points. Maybe Vols hoops fans need to grab a dose of sanity and reality.

And of Pearl's six seasons in orange, the Vols were bounced in the first or second round three times. They made the Sweet 16 the other three times and got to the Elite Eight once before he set fire to those things called rules, the still hot ashes of which Martin inherited.

As for Hammerin' Hank, he got a ton of hate mail and death threats from the time he hit 713 late in 1973 season through bashing No. 714 off Jack Billingham at Riverfront Stadium and 715 off Al Downing at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Plus, he had to put up with Craig Sager's wardrobe as soon as he touched home plate. I'll give him a pass.

And don't knock the cinnamon dolce latte. It goes great with not watching another bland, inconsequential bowl to which the Sun Belt has a tie. Seriously - now that FBS is about to get a playoff system, who's gonna watch the second-, third- and fourth-tier bowls, other than fans of those teams and hardcore gamblers?

I better hurry before the monthly meter window slams down on my fing

April 16, 2014 at 4:44 p.m.
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