Cuonzo Martin has reportedly agreed to leave his post as head coach of Tennessee to accept the same position at California.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN broke the news of Martin's decision to make the switch:
Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin has agreed to be head coach at California, sources told ESPN. Story coming.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 15, 2014
California's athletic director, Sandy Barbour confirmed the news on her Twitter account:
Cal's men's basketball Instagram account provided a picture of the new coach, and their Twitter account added a few quotes from Martin:
.@CuonzoMartin "It’s a wonderful place and I want to continue to build on the success of Coach Montgomery."— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) April 15, 2014
.@CuonzoMartin "You’re talking about going to the No. 1 public university in the world. I think it’s a great place to recruit..."— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) April 15, 2014
.@CuonzoMartin "I’m very humbled and I'm surely appreciative."— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) April 15, 2014
Tennessee's athletic director, Dave Hart, commented on the move, according to Tennessee basketball's official Twitter feed:
HART: I did not know Cuonzo was involved in the Cal job until this morning.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) April 15, 2014
HART: I and everyone I know wish him the best of luck at Cal.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) April 15, 2014
HART: He was very emotional, in his heart, he believed it was best for his family.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) April 15, 2014
Hart also spoke about the attempt the school made to keep Martin and how they will proceed going forward:
HART: Cuonzo knew beyond a shout of doubt, we wanted him here to stay. We offered Cuonzo close to 500K raise and 2 yr extension.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) April 15, 2014
HART: We will move forward, we will hire the very best person we can. What we offered Cuonzo would have made him a Top 30 coach in pay.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) April 15, 2014
Martin was a longtime assistant with Purdue, where he also played in college, before finally getting a chance to take over a program at Missouri State. He proceeded to turn the Bears program around in three years, which included a CIT championship in 2009-10.
He then moved to Tennessee in 2011-12, where the Volunteers made steady progress in each of his three seasons. This season he lead the Volunteers to a 24-13 record. It was highlighted by a trip to the NCAA tournament in which the Vols advanced to the Sweet 16.
That success makes his choice to leave for California an interesting one, as it seemed like he was starting to build a strong foundation at Tennessee.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports believes exiting Tennessee despite that progress shows he wanted a fresh start. Whether it will work out is very much up for debate:
Seems like Cuonzo clearly wanted out of a tough spot following Pearl at UT, but I'm not sure about the fit at Cal at first blush.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) April 15, 2014
Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News thinks a petition that supported the return of Bruce Pearl may have rubbed Martin the wrong way:
Cuonzo Martin clearly wanted out of Knoxville. Can't blame him after 36K fans signed petition wanting Pearl back.— Jon Solomon (@jonsol) April 15, 2014
Tennessee player Jordan McRae commented on Martin's exit and the treatment of his former head coach:
Can't treat people any kind of way and expect good in return.— Jordan McRae (@JordyMac52) April 15, 2014
Gary Parrish of CBS also commented on the players siding with Martin, and Volunteers player Jarnell Stokes agreed:
@GaryParrishCBS agreed— Jarnell Stokes (@JarnellStokes) April 15, 2014
Regardless, the decision comes just two weeks after Matt Scalici of AL.com passed along a statement from Martin following previous discussions with Marquette. He said at that time Tennessee was where he wanted to remain:
Tennessee is where I want to be. That has never changed. I have said many times over the past three years that I believe we have the resources and support to be the last team standing, and that belief has never been stronger. I appreciate the unrivaled passion of this fanbase and feel the responsibility to make those fans proud. I also appreciate the commitment that the university and athletic department leadership have shown to this staff. I am excited about the future and remain honored to be the head basketball coach at Tennessee. Go Vols!
Clearly, something changed in the weeks that followed to lead Martin to California. He finishes his run at Tennessee with a 63-41 record, which is very similar to the 61-41 record he posted at Missouri State. His teams have won slightly more than 60 percent of their games over six seasons as a head coach.
What's your opinion of Martin's choice to leave Tennessee for Cal?
Moving forward, he will try to build off the progress made by Mike Montgomery with the Golden Bears. Montgomery retired after six seasons with the program. The team won at least 20 games five times during that span and made the NCAA tournament four times.
Martin has shown the ability to rebuild programs. Now he must show that he can take a program that is already in solid shape and turn it into a serious contender.
Why he didn't opt to continue that journey at Tennessee is a question he'll have to answer as he heads west to coach the Golden Bears.