Following Pearl

Six years ago Tennessee fans embraced new head coach Bruce Pearl because of his zany personality and his frantic style of play. There is nothing zany about successor Cuonzo Martin and there is nothing frantic about his style of play.

So, what will the Vol Nation find embraceable about the new head man?

"No. 1, they're going to see his intensity," assistant coach Kent Williams said this week. "He's going to be very intense with the guys (players). I wouldn't say he's as animated as Coach Pearl but he's animated with our guys."

One attribute blue-collar East Tennessee loved about Pearl's early teams was that those Vol squads played with unsurpassed passion and energy. Williams says fans will note the same thing in Martin's 2011-12 team.

"What fans are going to see is that we're going to instill toughness into the players," the assistant coach said, "and when we take the court they're going to think this is the hardest a Tennessee team has ever played."

Like Williams, Jon Harris followed Martin from Missouri State's staff to Tennessee's staff. And, like Williams, Harris believes Big Orange fans will find the new head coach intense enough to wring maximum effort from the Vols each time they take the floor.

"What you see is what you get with him," Harris said of Martin. "He's got a great demeanor. He's approachable. He has a good personality. He's not as flamboyant as Coach Pearl was but he's a good person, and I think people will like that about him. But he's very intense. He'll work, and he'll make sure our guys work."

Because Missouri State averaged 69.8 points per game in 2010-11 under Martin's guidance, many Big Orange supporters assume Tennessee will be a relatively low-scoring half-court team in 2011-12. That may not be the case, however.

"We'd like to get it up and down a little bit," Williams said this week. "At Missouri State we didn't have much depth. We played five starters and a sixth guy 18 minutes. That was it. We didn't have much depth, so we had to slow it down a little bit, but we'd like to get up and down a little more."

To help speed up the pace, Williams said the 2011-12 Vols "may press a little bit," later qualifying that this will depend on the team's depth and the head man's willingness.

Assuming a Missouri State program that had just five scholarship players in 2008-09, Martin went 11-20 as a rookie head coach. He quickly turned things around, however, going 24-12 in 2009-10 and following with a 26-9 mark in 2010-11.

Asked how Martin accomplished this dramatic transformation, Harris replied: "He set the bar high and, as a staff, he helped make us reach that bar every day. That's the goal - just playing at a high level every day.

"He knows how to push the guys and how to build relationships with them, on and off the court. He holds them to a high standard, on and off the court."

Like Pearl before him, Cuonzo Martin and his staff must earn the respect of Tennessee's players, as well as Tennessee's fans.

"I think the biggest challenge is winning over the players, so they understand that we're here for them," Williams said. "We're all in this together. We want to get over to them our style of play and what we expect of them, not only as players but also as students."

The new staff put the Vols through some individual workouts on Monday. From all accounts, the pace was vigorous and the mood positive.

"I like what I saw from them," Williams said. "For the first day, I thought the energy was really good. They took coaching real well. They seem like they're ready to be coached.

"They went through a couple of weeks where they didn't know who was going to be their coach, and I think they're just looking for someone to help them take their game up a little higher."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories