published Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Greeson: Vols stumble in Martin mess

So did anything happen in Knoxville this week?

Sweet buckets of sidewinding and finger pointing, Cuonzo Martin packed his bag and left as the University of Tennessee basketball coach. The news generated a ton of consternation and national sportswriters 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 what got us to the point where Martin went from couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper pick-and-roll to being the next best thing to John Wooden.

The online petition from Tennessee fans asking for Bruce Pearl to return was a poor choice. It was a bad idea 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 also is a black eye for Dave Hart, at least for now, for sitting on his fiddle while Rome burned. The silence during the season about the petition was bush league.

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 reputation takes a hit here because of the silence. 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 the Vols leadership 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 the national guys picking at the low-hanging fruit is spot on. Save the moral indignation for something other than a guy who turns down a mid-six-figure raise and an extension.

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 there's never a dull moment on the UT Vols beat.

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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