Tennessee Volunteers: What Butch Jones Could Learn from Cuonzo Martin

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Tennessee Volunteers: What Butch Jones Could Learn from Cuonzo Martin
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

It’s easy for fans to get starry eyed when anything is possible. We have arguments like, “If Jordan and Wilt played one-on-one, who would get the most girls after?” or “Do you think Jon Gruden would leave his $4.3 million MNF job to work 100 hours a week at Tennessee?”

After astronomically high expectations, to say Tennessee didn’t exactly win the press conference by hiring Butch Jones is a major understatement. Unless you are a college football junkie or are some kind of masochist that enjoys watching Big East football, you'd probably never heard of him. It also doesn’t help that Arkansas dwarfed all other SEC hires by snatching away Bret Bielema or that Jones was the third choice by AD Dave Hart after two very public rejections (three if you count Gruden).

But this is what Jones has signed up for. The job has crushed bigger men than he, but the Vols new man would do well to gain some insight from his new colleague in Knoxville.

Cuonzo Martin also came from relative obscurity when he replaced uber-popular Bruce Pearl. He inherited possible NCAA sanctions, recruits backing out of their commitments and fans leery of Tennessee basketball returning to mediocrity.

But rather than bristle at his detractors or talk a big game months before coaching an actual game (i.e. Lane Kiffin), Martin, as I wrote in a Nov. 28 article, chose instead to let his performance do the talking.

(If you want to make a sub 40-point performance joke, remember how impressive it is defensively to hold #15 Georgetown and Virginia to 37 and 46 points, respectively, or that Martin’s team beat Florida, UConn and Vanderbilt last season. Just sayin’...)

Celebrity can go a long way in college coaching, but winning the press conference means nothing on the field. There are no style points, only substance. Butch Jones might succeed or he might not, but he need not let his mouth add more pressure to the weight he carries already. Like Martin, he needs only to bring a winning team to Knoxville.

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