Cuonzo Martin has resigned as Cal’s head basketball coach and is reportedly in the process of finalizing a seven-year deal to take the same position at Missouri. This is an absolute home run hire by Missouri and athletic director Jim Sterk deserves a ton of credit for going out and getting him.
Martin is just 45 but already has a ton of experience rebuilding and reloading programs. He was a star in college at Purdue, played in the NBA and can relate well to players. That has borne itself out on the recruiting trail, where he’s beaten much more established coaches for top recruits consistently.
Missouri will be Martin’s fourth job as a head coach in pretty quick succession. He started out at Missouri State in 2008 and after three seasons and a 61-41 record, he took over the Tennessee job in 2011. After two NIT berths, he took the Volunteers to the Sweet 16 in 2014, and quickly bolted for Cal after compiling a 63-41 record. Martin just finished his third year at Cal with a disappointing first-round NIT exit. While leading the Golden Bears he posted a 62-39 record.
Martin’s first three stops all lasted just three seasons, but he has put up a 186-121 record and has recruited incredibly well. At Missouri he should have the resources to build a really good program in the perennially weak SEC. Kentucky is the only consistently elite program in the conference, while schools like Florida, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee occasionally have solid stretches. The conference is ripe for a second power to emerge.
Look, Missouri isn’t a classic “destination program,” so guys like Archie Miller, Gregg Marshall and other top-level candidates weren’t going there. Martin is right in the region of the kind of guys the Tigers should have been looking at. He’s a talented up and comer who can do big things with the right kind of support.
Martin is young, energetic and passionate, which are all qualities that help him on the recruiting trail and the sidelines. His ability to bring in top-level players will give Missouri something it hasn’t had in a while.
The program is set up for success, Martin just has to put his stamp on it and get the talent in place. It won’t happen overnight, but don’t be shocked when the Tigers do finally turn things around. Martin is a perfect fit for what the program needs right now.
UPDATE: Martin reportedly turned down a hefty offer from Illinois: