Category Archives: Sports

Vol Watch: Vols hire Cuonzo Martin

Reports are in that the University of Tennessee has hired Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin to replace Bruce Pearl. Martin had been the head coach of the Missouri State Bears for 3 years. He played for Gene Keady at Purdue in the early to mid 1990s and had a very brief NBA career in Milwaukee and Vancouver. After that he played in the CBA and overseas until the year 2000.

In 2000 broke into coaching, joining Gene Keady’s staff at Purdue as an assistant. In 2005 Matt Painter was hired as Purdue head coach and retained Martin as an associate head coach where he stayed until 2008. In March 2008 Missouri State came calling. His first Bears team was injury plagued and struggled to an 11-20 record on the season. He showed marked improvement the following season by posting a 24-12 record, winning the CIT title. This past season the Bears had 25 regular season wins and an RPI rating of #44 and won the MVC regular season championship with a 15-3 mark. Many thought they should have made the NCAA tournament but instead landed in the NIT, winning their first round game before bowing out on the road at Miami in their second game. They finished the season with a 26-9 record.

On the personal front Martin doesn’t have the flashy personality of Bruce Pearl. But he has the heart of a lion. As a child he grew up in a very tough neighborhood in St Louis know as “the Hole”. Gangs, drugs, violence and murder surrounded him as a child. He overcame all that to become a successful student and basketball player. But things got even tougher for Martin as an adult.

At age 26 he was playing professional basketball in Italy. He started losing weight a a rapid pace and having trouble breathing. Italian doctors informed him that he had bronchitis and need to return home. He returned to the United States and was checked by a doctor. He got the worst news possible. He had cancer, and a particularly dangerous form of cancer at that. Non-Hodgkins’s Lymphoma, with the tumor mass growing between his heart and his lungs.

He began an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy which left him near death and barely able to move. His one prayer, his reason for fighting was to see his then 4 month old son Joshua live to be 18. Martin beat his cancer but watched many who became his friends during treatment fall to the disease. To this day he works with several organizations to raise money for a cure to that dreaded disease. His son is 13 now and Martin has had a clean bill of health for the past decade.

Martin has several things going in his favor as a head coach for the Volunteers. He is known as a great recruiter. He actually played professional basketball and that means a great deal to many recruits. He landed several of Purdue’s best players during his tenure there.

He comes from the highly successful coaching tree of Gene Keady. Other coaches from there have had great success. Matt Painter has Purdue in the top 20 every year. Steve Lavin won the NCAA title at UCLA and resurrected St John’s this season. Bruce Weber has Illinois in NCAA form every season. Kevin Stallings turned Vanderbilt from an also ran to a yearly NCAA tournament team.

He is a young coach, only turning 40 this year. So hopefully the Vols have him for a long time. Gene Keady had this to say about him. “In my 50 years as head coach he is the best leader I ever had.” That’s a big statement from a Hall of Fame head coach with all the players Keady has saw in his long career.

Martin was also selected in January for the coaching staff of the USA World University Games Men’s team by Syracuse legend Jim Boeheim. He is on the staff with Matt Painter and Brad Stevens from Butler. Boeheim had this to say about Martin “Brad Stevens and Cuonzo Martin are two of the best young coaches in NCAA basketball. The players in the USA basketball program will certainly benefit from their coaching.“ So he is highly regarded by many of his fellow coaches.

Another indication of Martin’s coaching prospects, there is great panic in Boilermaker country tonight. Many rumors have been floated that they may lose Matt Painter to Missouri this year. They were counting on hiring Martin and bringing him back to Purdue. Now they are fit to be tied that Tennessee has hired him, leaving them with no plan for the future.

As is the case in pretty much anything coaching related, time will tell how this hire is viewed. Some important things are currently afoot. Martin will need to win over the current players to hopefully keep transfers at nil. Martin will need to speak with Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris to try and convince them to give it one more year before they are NBA bound. And he will need to re-recruit current signees Kevin Ware and Chris Jones, who have said they were waiting on the new hire to see if they would honor their letter of intent.

All in all I do feel better about the hire than I did when it was first announced. Martin has huge shoes to fill by following Bruce Pearl. The NCAA penalties are a big unknown. But like with his upbringing in rough and tumble East St Louis, to his successful battle with cancer, expect UT and its fans to get the best fight Cuonzo Martin can bring to the table.

Norris Fishing Report March 23 2011

The water elevation is 1,009.33-feet, which is 3.34-feet lower than it was last week. The water level is expected to fall 10-inches over the next two days. Feeder streams and the river arms have considerable floating debris which has lifted from the shoreline. The falling water level and windy days have helped clear some of the debris from the upper end channels. Still, boaters need to exercise caution in all locations.
The temperature of the main channel water, where it is not so muddy, is 54 degrees, but is 57 degrees in areas where there is more color to the water. The muddy headwaters of the creek embayments have reached 60 degrees on sunny days. The headwaters of the Clinch and Powell river arms, above points 33 and 17, are 56 degrees with about 18-inches of visibility.
The main channels are seeing some clearing of the mud stain which it had last week, but the clearing process is slow. In a few protected main channel and creek embayment locations, a plankton bloom has caused the water to turn an oily brown color. This is harmless and is often mistaken for a turnover condition.

The upriver walleye and striped bass fishing benefited with the improvement in water conditions. Crappie and largemouth bass fishing continues to improve, but these fish are tight to cover, be it rock or wood structure, especially in the rear of the coves and in the headwaters of the large creeks where the water temperature is warmer.
CRAPPIE: Good: Best in the headwaters of the larger creek embayments. Where there is stained water and shallow brush, crappie have been caught as shallow as two feet. In clearer locations, crappie have been caught 8 to 15 feet deep in brush and sunken trees.
LARGEMOUTH BASS: Good. Medium running crankbaits are taking largemouth in the stained water, close to shoreline structure of any kind.
SMALLMOUTH BASS: Moderate, improving rapidly. Crankbait or pig’n jig’s are catching some close to the shoreline in stained areas. In the clearer water off the channels, smallmouth are being caught near large boulders and increasingly on the pea gravel areas.
SPOTTED BASS: Moderate. They’re hitting small crankbaits or doll flies tipped with minnows or plastic grubs, on the gravel shorelines near rock outcroppings at 15 to 25 feet deep during the daylight, much shallower at night.
STRIPED BASS: Fair, improving. Headwater fishing on both river arms has seen an improvement since the muddy, flood waters subsided. They’re moving up the larger creek embayments with their spring run. They’ve also become more active on the main channels from Island F to Lakeview hollow, and above Point 11 to Point 14.
WALLEYE: Fair: The Powell and Clinch headwaters are seeing increased catches near Beech Grove on the Clinch, and from Russell Shoals to above Earl’s Hollow on the Powell. Lower end walleye are on the steeper rocky banks near wood structure, at 15 to 20 feet, rising only a bit shallower at night. Lower end walleye are experiencing almost no fishing pressure.

Shallow in stained sections, very close to cover.
Medium to deep running crankbaits. Willow leaf spinners.
Same pattern but with increased catches: Crankbait action improved on rocky shorelines in the back of the hollows and creeks. Norman and Bandit medium runner crankbaits are working well in stained sections, close to cover and worked parallel to the shoreline where the water is stained. Large, willow leaf spinners in yellow, black, or orange shades worked for some in the back of the hollows, but were a distant second to the crankbaits. Jig pole fishermen should try the muddy sections, very close to rocky shorelines and where there is wood structure. Small plastic worms, rigged whacky style or on Carolina rigs, or cast with very little weight, are catching some very close to wood structure on the channels and in the back of the hollows.
Spotted bass are hitting small doll flies tipped with tuffy minnows or plastic grubs, when fished slowly along the bottom to about 25 feet. Some hit shallow, in the rocks.

Crankbaits, pig’n jigs, jerk baits.
¼-ounce hair or feather jigs tipped with medium tuffy minnows, 3/8 oz leadhead jigs tipped with 4 inch smoke grubs. Moderate to deep running crankbaits with a tight action. Flukes and similar jerk baits near large wood structure which is on steep banks where there are larger broken rocks.
Large rock on main channels, or wood structure on main channel steep banks are good. As the month progresses: fish adjacent to, and on pea gravel areas where they will be spawning. Try medium running crankbaits in red or orange where the water is moderately muddy, fished parallel to the rocky shorelines.

20 to 35 feet, deeper on sunny days. Shallow in the headwater shoals of the Powell and Clinch rivers.
Shad or alewife tightlined to the depth of the forage fish schools on the main channels of the lower end, or umbrella rigged jigs/trailers trolled through schools of forage fish in the main channels and in the larger creek embayments. Planer boards trolled slowly along the deeper shorelines with shad, alewife, or bucktail jigs on the lower end and in the center of the channel, upriver.

2 to 10-feet deep in brush, or along the bottom in creek channels to 20-feet. Warming water in the creek embayments, and the progression of the season have seen crappie move nearer to shallow shoreline brush.
Fish the brush on the edges of the main channel, especially near the headwaters of the larger creeks. Tightline vertically into the brush with small doll flies, mini tube jigs (red/white, blue/white) and 1/32 ounce hair or feather jigs tipped with minnows. In the larger creek hollows, troll along the bottom with mini tube jigs or doll flies tipped with minnows. Davis Creek, Lost Creek near the campground, Big Ridge Hollow, Mill Creek, and the head of Cove Creek have produced crappie.

Fair upriver, slow on the lower end.
10 to 20-feet on the bottom in the headwaters, or suspended off steep, rocky banks to 20-feet on the lower end.
Lower end fish are as deep as 20-feet, a bit shallower at night, on moderately sloped rocky banks where wood structure is nearby. These fish are notoriously hard to catch at this time of year, but some luck could be had with trolling Model A’s, Rebels, Thundersticks, or 911 Redfin plugs along the rocky banks, close to the wood structure at 15 to 20-feet.
Headwater catches are improving with the water conditions. Fish the bottom with brightly colored hair or feather jigs tipped with minnows or plastic grubs, or troll RedFins, Model-A Bombers, Thundersticks, and similar lures along the bottom. Walleye catches have improved above points 33 and 17, and upstream into the shoals above Indian Creek on the Clinch and to Lonesome Valley on the Powell.

Pat’s Place: The Bruce is loose and so is Coach Jones

Well it has been a tough week to be a basketball coach in East Tennessee. First much beloved UT Men’s Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl gets the boot. On the heels of that Cougar Boy’s Basketball Coach Barry Jones resigns after a difficult season.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a basketball fan above the high school level. What you folks call basketball season I call hockey season. One man changed that and his name is Bruce Pearl. His passion for UT and his exciting coaching style glued me to the TV whenever the Vols were on TV. Previously only football did that for me.
Now he is gone and so is my interest in basketball. Don’t get me wrong I am still a fan of UT and I wish the players well because they had nothing to do with the loss of Coach Pearl. I just do not see myself planning my schedule around UT basketball any time in the near future.
I fear our team may fall to the levels that I would like to say are previously unheard of but I can’t because prior to Bruce Pearl we played some dismal basketball. Outside of Allan Houston we have not had many stars come out of UT since I can remember. Yes I know we had the Ernie and Bernie show but that was before my time. In fact outside of Houston, Ernie, and Bernie I think it is safe to say our next most famous basketball alumni is WWE Legend Kevin Nash and he isn’t famous for basketball.
With Pearl we had players like Chris Lofton and Dane Bradshaw that won our hearts both on the court and off. Without Pearl we may have a team that features Tyler Summit. Nothing against Pat Summit’s son but he walked on to learn how to coach. With the rate of attrition the team will likely see he may be starting next season.
I hope Vol Basketball can recover but I fear the process will take years. John pretty much covered everything about the situation in this week’s Vol Watch column so I refer you to that for more info.
The Coach Jones situation is similar to Pearl’s except that he had no violations, just a school board member on a witch-hunt for him. Jones took over the program after the one of the lowest incidents in the history of local sports, and that is saying a lot. He was willing to come in and take over a squad where the previous coach was ousted after a conspiracy between players, parents, and the director of schools at the time led to a player walk out and the team having to have tryouts for midseason replacements.
Jones did a passable job with what he had. He may not have had the best record but his teams did often play competitively. It may have been time for him to step down if next season went poorly but I feel like he was pressured out by certain elements in the hierarchy.
I have not always been the biggest supporter of Jones mostly due to his stance of if you played basketball then you could play no other sport. I had a former player that I coached at Jacksboro, who is both a good football and basketball player, who was forced into a choice by Jones. He chose football and I feel the basketball team was poorer for that choice. I know he was not the only one to have to make such a choice.
I will say this about Jones, I talked to Bo Vinsant about his firing yesterday and Bo had very positive things to say about him. There is not a single person in this county that I respect their opinion about basketball more than Bo. If he said Jones was doing a good job that is good enough for me.
Hopefully both programs will get good coaches to replace the ones they lost. I don’t think it matters who UT gets at this point because they will not last more than a couple of years. CCHS can hopefully bring in a good coach to propel the program back to the level it was in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Jones Out as CCHS Basketball Coach

The Cougar Boy’s Basketball team will have a new coach next season. Barry Jones resigned earlier this week. This year’s Cougar basketball squad bowed out of the season during the first round of the district tournament.
Jones was unable to be reached for comment but in a statement he released he said, “My wife and I decided together it was in the best interest of our family for me to step down and pursue other opportunities. We both desire a positive, rigorous and challenging environment for each of our four children and believe that would best be accomplished if we begin to move forward with our lives.I appreciate the opportunity (principal) Gary Seale and (athletic director) Jim Pierce gave me to coach at Campbell County and have been blessed to work with many fine young people in this community. I wish them all the best.”
More details will follow on and on the inaugural episode of Sports Chat.

Vol Watch: Goodbye Bruce, We’re Gonna Miss You

Bruce Pearl, arguably the most successful and popular men’s basketball coach in University of Tennessee history has been fired. The firing has sparked outrage in the fan base in Big Orange Country. Angry fans called into local sports programs and posted their feelings on many social sites, leaving little doubt about their opinions towards the current UT Athletics Director Mike Hamilton as well as Chancellor Jimmy Cheek.

The firing of Pearl is possibly one of the largest blunders made by a consistently bumbling athletic department under Mike Hamilton’s leadership. Perhaps only eclipsed by his hiring of Lane Kiffin and the subsequent fallout from that decision. Unlike any basketball coach since Ray Mears some 35 years ago, Bruce Pearl enamored himself to the general fans and student body at Tennessee.

He resurrected a moribund program that had suffered greatly over a 20 year period with 5 different head coaches who couldn‘t quite get it right at UT. His off the court personality and on court success brought UT basketball into the limelight. Back into the NCAA tournament. To a #1 national ranking. His energy made UT games a must watch. His players love him, the fans love him.

Sadly and admittedly Pearl made a mistake in 2010 by lying to NCAA investigators. The violation was secondary, essentially a speeding ticket, just mail in the fine and move on a little slower and a little safer. The lie compounded that violation. Still within approximately a week of it Pearl called Mike Hamilton and admitted to his incorrect actions. The NCAA was thus notified and UT famously voided Pearl’s contract, docked him around 1.5 million dollars in salary and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive took the unprecedented step of suspending Pearl for 8 conference games.

This all apparently wasn’t enough for the NCAA, who from reports have threatened UT with harsher penalties and a 2 year suspension of Bruce Pearl if he remained UT Head Coach. This should portend very ill for Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressell who not only lied to the NCAA, he did so about much more serious issues than hosting a barbeque for a few junior recruits. We will see how the NCAA applies it’s brand of justice in that case.

As for UT, the decision to allow Pearl to coach this entire season and then fire him is extremely baffling. Also, even assuming the reports are true about the NCAA giving Pearl a 2 year suspension will UT be any better off by firing him and taking a shot with what will likely be a very unproven coach? In my opinion the program will have a very hard time hiring a top level coach with impending NCAA sanctions and Bruce Pearl’s very popular and successful legacy to try and duplicate. Especially given that UT is losing several key seniors and very likely losing the top two scorers from this year’s team in Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris.

Those are just on the court considerations. Bruce Pearl also did something else for UT basketball and UT athletics in general. He made basketball a highly profitable sport. Literally bringing in millions and millions of extra dollars a year over previous basketball regimes. He spurred the skybox and seating upgrades in Thomson Bowling arena. Turning what many described as a “morgue” into one of college basketball’s best venues. Not to mention upgraded practice facilities and training rooms that current and future athletes will enjoy during their time at UT.

The other great Pearl trait was loyalty and love for the University of Tennessee. Pearl was highly successful here and with that success came the fear that he would bolt and leave UT for other job opportunities where Men’s basketball is more appreciated. But Pearl turned down offers from Iowa, where he learned coaching under Dr Tom Davis and from the University of Indiana, one of the top 5 programs in the history of college basketball. Each time Pearl would simply say he was flattered for the attention given, but that his heart was in Knoxville with the Volunteers. Sadly that same loyalty was not shown him. Instead when he needed loyalty the University of Tennessee administration showed him the door.