The most surprising coaching change this offseason was also the least surprising.
When Cuonzo Martin made the decision to accept a job as Mike Montgomery’s replacement at Cal after a surprising run to the 2014 Sweet 16, it was completely expected in the sense that Martin and Tennessee were at a place where they needed to part ways but a total surprise given the fact that literally no one saw that particular move coming.
The issues that Martin had to deal with during his time with the Vols are no secret: despite the fact that he made Tennessee the best team in the SEC that wasn’t coached by a surefire hall of famer the fans wanted him gone for, really, no reason other than the fact that he wasn’t Bruce Pearl.
It got so bad that even his players supported his decision to up and leave in the middle of the night without telling anyone. They knew it was time for him to go and wholeheartedly supported him, which should give you a bit of an idea just how bad things had gotten there.
But here’s the craziest part: Martin holds no ill will towards his former school, as he described in this terrific column from Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com:
Was it hard? Yes, it was definitely hard; Martin won’t deny that. But he went out of his way to make sure I understood that there were “a lot of wonderful people in Knoxville,” and he insisted that he’s pulling for his successor, Donnie Tyndall, before explaining that he thinks the administration and fans will rally around their new coach because their new coach has two things going for him:
1. He’s not following Pearl.
2. He’s a lot more like Pearl than Martin could ever be.
“The fan base got used to Bruce, and then they brought in somebody opposite of Bruce, so it was hard,” Martin said. “But, I think, now Donnie can just be Donnie. The slate is clean.”
I can’t picture myself being so supportive after the way things ended for him.