Give new Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin credit for being self-aware regarding his propensity for defensive tunnel vision.
Perhaps it’s engrained from his playing career at Purdue, when he earned minutes early in his career primarily through physicality and rebounding.
It’s also impossible to ignore the influence of former Boilermakers coach Gene Keady, a tough cuss known for teaching hard-nosed defense.
Martin can’t help zeroing in on that side of the ball and those principles of the game.
“Even in practice, we could be doing an offensive drill and I get so consumed with the defensive side,” said Martin, who played four seasons for Keady and spent five more as an assistant on his Purdue staff. “I just see it in so many different forms.”
It’s a big reason Martin, who was hired March 15 as the 19th full-time men’s basketball coach in Tigers’ history, tapped former UMKC assistant coach Chris Hollender and former Oakland assistant Cornell Mann for his new staff.
Both have sterling reputations for offense.
“Those guys’ job is to specifically focus on (offensive) things, because when I get focused on the defensive side those things slip,” Martin said. “I want to have those guys lock in on it.”
Martin has coached six seasons at the high-major level, three at Tennessee from 2011-14 and three more at California from 2014-17.
During that span, Martin-coached teams have averaged a national rank of 94.7 in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency compared with an average national rank of 44.8 for adjusted defensive efficiency.
Martin’s last Volunteers team finished 15th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, but it’s the only team among those six to crack the top 50.
Meanwhile, three of Martin’s last four teams ranked in the top 20 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and none have finished worse than 101st overall based on that metric.
“Chris and I have already started talking about that,” Mann said of divvying up responsibility for Mizzou’s offense. “Coach had already kind of split what he wanted me to look at it and what he wanted Chris to look at, so we’ll combine all that together and come up with exactly what Coach Martin wants.”
Mann’s offensive chops were honed during four seasons at Iowa State from 2011-15.
“Working for (former Cyclones head) coach (Fred) Hoiberg, you get a jump on everybody in college basketball offensively,” Mann said. “Naturally, you get a jump, because Fred was not a defensive guy at all and he wouldn’t hide that.”
Martin wants Mann to help bring a breakneck style predicated on the secondary break and a high-velocity pace.
“We want to get up and down the floor,” Mann said. “We’re going to operate at what coach calls a level 10, which is the highest level.”
Hollender largely credits former Saint Louis coach Jim Crews for his bright offensive mind.
He soaked up Crews’ wisdom during three seasons as a player at Evansville and seven more as an assistant on his staff at Army.
“Jim Crews was way ahead of his time when he was at Evansville (1985-2002),” Hollender said. “His teams were very good offensively. Obviously, analytics weren’t around like they are now, but if they were I bet his teams were some of the most efficient teams in the country.”
Now, Hollender and Mann will try to put a few decades worth of accumulated knowledge to work in crafting an offense that makes use of 2017 commits Michael Porter Jr. and Blake Harris, 2017 signee C.J. Roberts and a trio of returning double-digit scorers — Jordan Barnett, Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips.
Mizzou’s other assistant coach, Michael Porter Sr., will focus primarily on defense along with Martin and already there’s buy-in amongst the staff.
“This group, just being here for the few days that we’ve been together, is very cohesive already,” Hollender said.