Tennessee Basketball: The Cuonzo Martin Saga Played Out as Expected

The Cuonzo Martin Saga Played Out as Expected at Tennessee

4/18/14 in NCAABB   |   BlakeLovell   |   86 respect

Mar 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin talks with his players in the first half in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament against the Michigan Wolverines at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY SportsThe Tennessee Volunteers were in a very odd place not too long ago.

The team had struggled to find its way late in the season, but eventually turned things around to secure its first NCAA tournament berth under Cuonzo Martin.

However, on the eve of Tennessee's play-in game against Iowa, Vol fans were greeted with a fabulous piece of news:

Former head coach Bruce Pearl was heading to coach the Auburn Tigers.

What did it matter, right? Martin had locked up a tournament appearance for his team, and all was well again. Then came the excellent run all the way to the Sweet 16, where the Vols were a play away from beating second-seeded Michigan to make it to a regional final.

At that point, you would have thought that the Tennessee basketball program had found some stability.

But now, as we sit here in mid-May, Pearl is still at Auburn, Martin is off to California, and the Volunteers are without a coach.

Honestly though, it was easy to see this coming.

Aside from perhaps a Final Four appearance, nothing was going to help solve the problems that had already been created in Knoxville.

Petitions were signed asking for the return of Pearl during Tennessee's late-season struggles. Martin was allegedly barred from using the private planes of boosters to recruit. And due to the NCAA tournament drought and a less exciting brand of basketball than what Pearl brought to the school, Martin was never truly accepted by a majority of the fans.

Throw in the less than ideal relationship with athletic director Dave Hart, and it was a situation that wasn't getting better anytime soon.

So, could anyone in their reasonable mind blame Martin for bolting?

You can talk about a lack of post-season success all you want, but it was never a battle that he was going to win. That's why he chose a fresh start at Cal over returning for another year of the "Cuonzo should be fired" discussions.

Now that the Cuonzo detractors got their wish, all is well again, right? Not quite.

Tennessee is now in the position of finding a head coach for the third time in nine years, and its options are limited at this point.

Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart are the two main names being thrown around as potential candidates, but the amount of money involved doesn't make either a likely choice for Hart and company. 

The most important thing though is that it will indeed be Hart's choice. He didn't hire Martin, but he will hire the person that will determine Tennessee's basketball future.

The question is whether or not that person will be able to duplicate a post-season run like the one Martin orchestrated this past season.

If not, in what would be an ironic twist of fate, Hart may be the one that isn't wanted in Knoxville.

What are your thoughts on how the Cuonzo Martin situation unfolded at Tennessee? Let us know by commenting below! For more college basketball talk, follow FanIQ or myself on Twitter!
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