Cuonzo Martin was not the only one who felt it was time for him to leave the University of Tennessee.
His players felt the same way.
Martin, now the coach at Cal, told CBSSports.com that the same guys he led to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in March helped point him to the door a few weeks later. The fact that the Volunteers finished on a high note was not enough for anyone inside the program to negate all the discontent that fans expressed throughout an up-and-down season.
“Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes, they were all like, 'Coach, you gotta get out of here,’” Martin said in the report. “The guys were like, 'It's time to roll.' And it was time. I think everybody knew that.”
Martin accepted the job at Cal on April 15 and left on his own terms, weeks after a significant number of fans tried to run him out town and restore his predecessor, Bruce Pearl.
As it turned out, those same issues that prompted him to make the move helped him and his team stick around in the NCAA Tournament as long as they did.
“Even during the NCAA Tournament, we had so much fun, but every time we won, they were like, 'Yeah, Coach, we showed them!'” Martin said. "But what I was trying to do as a coach was say, 'Guys, it's not us against our fans. We're all in the same family. There's just some dysfunction in the family.' But you know how young guys are. They were like, 'Ahh, coach. To hell with them! We riding!' They actually became closer because of that.
“… My heart was in Knoxville because of the players, but I knew my days were numbered. So this worked itself out the right way, and there really are no hard feelings.”
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