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The Leadership of Cuonzo Martin

Updated on March 4, 2018


Cuonzo Martin defines what it means to be a leader not only as a basketball coach, but as a public role model. Whether it be his never give up attitude, always calm and controlled demeanor, or his incredible sense of discipline, his character traits are to be respected. It is easy for a man in such a position to allow praise from others or adversity to influence decisions, but in the case of Coach Martin he is completely his own man. Through statements from his players, Coach Martin’s own statements to the media, and through observing the way Coach Martin carries himself it can be seen that he certainly has a positive effect on those who are around him.

Cuonzo Martin



In judging the quality of a leader in one’s community, a lot can be learned from examining how they handle success and how they manage failure. Coach Martin handles these two things in a very similar way, with humility and respect for his opponent and his own players. He always addresses the areas in which we need to improve, always gives credit to the opposing players and coaches, and always speaks of his own team in a respectful, yet realistic way. Martin always shows complete self-control, hardly ever raising his voice to a shout, and rarely speaking a derogatory word to a player or referee. Through comments from Coach Martin’s players, comments from Coach Martin, and through examining Martin himself it is evident that he shows the signs of a great leader.

Influence of a Leader

It is easy to identify a true leader by looking at the impact the leader has on the people around them. Coach Martin’s players and coaches believe in him and what he does, showing that he truly has an impact on them and that he is a true leader. Dwight Miller, a junior forward on our basketball team, had this to say in regards to Martin, “Coach Martin is there to make sure that we don't settle for less than we can be… He is a fighter and because of that we are going to be fighters. We will be a direct projection of our coach and that's why I feel we have an advantage” (Saloom 2011 7). Miller, being a high level recruit that does not start or receive much playing time, could easily have a negative opinion of Martin, but he obviously does not. This shows that he trusts Coach Martin’s judgment and that he believes in what Martin is doing for the team. For a player to claim an advantage because he has an opportunity to be a projection of his coach shows that he has confidence in the leadership ability and work ethic of his leader. It is a great sign of leadership for a Coach to be even gain the trust of his players in as quick a time as Martin has, but to have your players believe in your leadership to the point of claiming that it will bring success reflects a great leader. We are very fortunate to have a community leader like Martin in the media, showing examples of true character and leadership to whoever has an opportunity to hear him speak.

Handling All Results with True Character

Coach Martin’s leadership is clearly shown in how he handles defeat; never disrespecting anyone or moping over the results. Martin simply accepts the results, honors his opponent, and begins to learn from the mistakes he identifies. Even after a close loss to Pittsburgh at home Martin was even tempered in his interview and showed true signs of wisdom in his comments. Part of Martin’s opening statement included this, “In the first seven games to play teams of this caliber, obviously we want to win these ballgames, but it's good for our guys because you have to learn how to move forward. I thought our guys really battled and really defended for the most part, and that's what I'm used to seeing on the defensive side of the ball.” (UT 2011 5). Martin does not dwell on the negative aspects of the game or blame anyone for the loss. He shows respect for his opponent and is grateful for the tests he has received through playing against them. He shows respect for his own players and the effort they put in, complementing the way they defended and expressing his belief that they will grow from the loss. The way in which Martin handles failure shows his level of maturity and wisdom. He avoids negativity completely, and uses each experience to grow and learn; truly showing that he is a great leader and role model for our community

Influence On & Off The Court

Coach Martin is a great leader and worthy of the attention he receives because of the way he carries himself on and off the court. Coach Martin knows first-hand that nothing can be taken for granted, being himself a cancer survivor. Coach Martin always speaks to the people around him as if they were equals, maintaining eye contact and giving the impression that he has plenty of time to talk to you and that he cares about your opinion. I say this out of experience, being a former manager for the UT basketball team. Martin controls the volume of his voice when addressing his players whether it be to instruct them or correct their mistakes. You won’t see Martin getting any technical violations for yelling at referees, and you will see very few, if any, of his players get technical fouls. This is a great reflection of the influence he has already had on his players as human beings.

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Continuing his success at Cal



Coach Martin’s always calm demeanor, remarkable evidence of wisdom, and influence on those around him give more than enough evidence to the argument that he is a great leader and thus worthy to be in the focus of the media. There are few men that I have had the opportunity to observe that even come close to showing the level of character and maturity that Coach Martin possesses. Among all his great leadership qualities, influence, and status Martin still remains humble showing that no one is too important to abandon the responsibility of showing respect to the people around you. Coach Martin is not only a great coach, he is a great leader, not only to his basketball team or fans of UT athletics, but to anyone who wants to see what a true leader is. We would all do well to take a look at Coach Martin’s character and try to apply it to our own lives.

Coach Martin Mic'd Up


Saloom, Leslie. (2011, 12 3). University of Tennessee Athletics. Retrieved from

UT Sports. (2011, December 3). Postgame quotes:#17 Pitt 61, Vols 56. Retrieved from


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