Year 1 can be tough

Cuonzo Martin inherited just six scholarship returnees in Year 1 at Missouri State and went 11-20 in 2008-09. Given the fact he has inherited just seven scholarship returnees in Year 1 at Tennessee, you wonder if a losing season is forthcoming in 2011-12.

Not necessarily.

The situations may be the same but the man is not. Martin believes he's a much different person in his rookie year at Tennessee than he was in his rookie year at Missouri State.

"I think I'm a lot wiser as a head coach," he said recently. "This is my fourth year as a head coach, so you kind of get a feel for it and understand what's expected. My first year at Missouri State I didn't know what to expect. Not only are you coaching your team; you're coaching your staff and also trying to find your way.

"Now I think I've found my way as a head coach. Now it's just a matter of getting the personnel to be successful."

Of all the lessons Martin learned in Year 1 at Missouri State that should help him in Year 1 at Tennessee, he figures one stands above the rest.

"I think the biggest key is to slow down because everything is going so fast," he said. "You've got speaking engagements, alumni conventions, getting with your current players, recruiting, getting with your staff because your staff has to be saying the same thing you're saying in order to be successful. You also have a family - trying to find time to go to my sons' events.

"All those things are going on, and you've got live-game situations that never stop until the season does. There's never any time to (pauses and takes a deep breath). My second season I was able to delegate the right duties and continue to push forward."

Martin should feel quite comfortable delegating in 2011-12, since his staff includes long-time friend Tracy Webster and two aides who followed him to UT from Missouri State, Jon Harris and Kent Williams.

Because the Vols are riding a string of six consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, Martin has some momentum in Knoxville that he didn't have in Springfield three years ago. He also has a fantastic practice facility, an impressive arena and a strong fan base. The problem is his roster. Six of the top seven scorers from 2010-11 are gone. The top returning scorers - Cameron Tatum at 8.8, Trae Golden at 3.0 and Skylar McBee at 3.0 - combined for a paltry 14.8 points per game.

Martin readily concedes that his team may not light up the scoreboard in the season ahead.

"On the offensive side of the ball, with the current personnel, I think it's just a matter of wait and see," he said. "It's hard for me to say how we'll play until I really get a gauge for our personnel. I'd like to think we could score 75 points but I don't know. It could be 40 or 50.

"At the end of the day, you have to give yourself the best chance to win a ballgame - not to look pretty and lose by 20. I'd rather win ballgames. If it's 50-49, and we won the ballgame, we'll continue to push forward."

Even with most of last season's key players gone, Martin is convinced Tennessee will be a quality defensive team in 2011-12.

"I think we'll be pretty good defensively because it's just a matter of desire and doing it," he said. "But, offensively, you've got to figure out 'Who's your go-to guy? Who's your second option? Who's your third option? Can we score at a high level on the block? How do we score? Is it transition baskets? Is it getting steals?'

"Those are the things we have to find out. We have the necessary pieces to be successful but it's hard to say right now where we'll get our scoring from. Right now we've got one proven guy on the offensive side of the ball, and that's Cameron Tatum."

For what it's worth, that one "proven guy" shot just 37.5 percent from the field, 27.2 percent from 3 and 66.7 percent from the foul line last season.

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