Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cuonzo Martin, Perspective, and Why I Stopped Caring Who Our Coach Is

I have two ways of feeling about Cuonzo Martin.

Feeling 1: Cuonzo Martin is boring. His style is boring. The games are boring. The players are boring. I miss Bruce Pearl. I miss his sweaty orange jacket. I miss his veiled trash talk. I miss how badly I wanted to be his friend. I wish Dave Hart would make UT the rebellious school that told Mark Emmert to f*** off and hire back our coach that got screwed over because the NCAA wanted to make an example of him.

Feeling 2: We are delusional and acting entitled if we want Cuonzo gone. If not Martin, then who? Who are we, Tennessee, going to lure away to our mediocre basketball program? Some other mid-major guy looking for a pay raise? Are we really going to roll the dice on someone else, hoping for Bruce Pearl again? This really shouldn’t matter so much.

Fans are impossible to please. We come to sports as an unapologetic consumer, devouring everything our athletes and coaches throw out at us. The more wins, the more we gorge ourselves. When those wins don’t come, then the we’re up in arms because our plate is not quite as full as it once was.

Such is the state of Tennessee basketball. Bruce Pearl gave me something. I want it back.

I go back and forth on this like a teenage girl picking out clothes for a first date. Feeling number two, however, made a strong push Tuesday night against Florida. I sat in the 300 section with my 20-month-old daughter, Ayda, in my lap. This was her second game at Thompson-Boling, but her first men’s game with the arena at a near sell out. Normally, she’s firecracker who rarely stops moving, but the game action and crowd noise had her wide-eyed in stimulation overload. She barely made a sound, or even moved. She got restless only when someone in front of her stood up and she couldn’t see.

In that moment, I stopped caring who our coach was, and started caring that she would be entertained enough to make it at least through the first half. I started caring about laying the foundation that we’ll enjoy sports together as she grows older. That going to games will, at the very least, be something that we share together. Everything else about the game was extra.

A family of Florida fans were sitting behind us (I say it like they’re a species being observed in National Geographic), and their two boys, not older than seven or eight, kept telling their dad who their favorite players were. I’m pretty sure this changed as the game went on because they probably named off six different numbers. (They didn’t know their names.) They yelled basketball terms they didn’t understand, like, “Pressure! Pressure!” and asked questions about nearly every aspect of the game.

That kind of interaction is all I want from UT basketball. I want her to be that excited to tell me who her favorite player is as those little boys were about Scottie Wilbekin. Excuse me, I mean number five. If you want an argument for or against Cuonzo, has a great post comparing him to previous, non Pearl coaches at Tennessee. But for me, it just doesn't seem that important anymore.


  1. Awesome stuff Mark! I am going to have to take my 5 and 3 year olds now! (Chad G)

    1. Thank you for the read and your kind words! I hope you have a great time with your kids!