The man with the task of replacing Bruce Pearl has been hired.
Tennessee announced Sunday night that Cuonzo Martin has been hired as the 18th head coach in the men’s basketball program’s history.
“Cuonzo is among the most promising young coaches in the game, and we are excited about the coaching ability, toughness and energy that he brings to our program,” men’s athletics director Mike Hamilton said in a press release. “He has a proven track record of success as a head coach at Missouri State and an assistant at Purdue as well as an outstanding career as a college basketball player. His Missouri State program improved from 11 wins to 26 in just two seasons, and they won the regular-season conference championship this year.
“Cuonzo has an inspiring personal story, and we look forward to his impact on Tennessee basketball. We welcome Cuonzo, his wife Roberta, their sons Joshua and Chase and their daughter, Addison, to the Tennessee family.”
Martin leaves Missouri State after three seasons, during which he compiled a record of 61-41 (.598). He was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year this season after guiding the Bears to a 26-9 record and the conference regular-season championship for the first time in the program’s history.
He is also a finalist for two national basketball coaching awards: the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award, given to the top mid-major coach in Division I, and the Ben Jobe Award, given to the top minority head coach in Division I.
Missouri State won the 2010 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament and finished the year 24-12.
The Bears compiled a home-record of 36-3 during Martin’s last two seasons.
Martin even coached against the Volunteers this season on Nov. 17 in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.
Tennessee defeated Missouri State 60-56 in Knoxville to advance to the semifinals of the tournament in New York, where the Vols would eventually win the tournament.
“As long as you’re part of the program, we expect you to be ready to play,” Martin said following the loss on what the benefits of playing UT were. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman and are 160 pounds and 5-(foot)-5-(inches). You’ve got to be ready to compete. We don’t recruit guys to sit on the bench and just joy ride and watch the show.
“As far as taking something away from this game, it’s what our young guys learn about the atmosphere, the level of competition, the level of toughness needed to compete. It’s like I said to the young guys before we left the gym. I asked, ‘What year is (UT freshman) Tobias Harris?’ If you can play, it doesn’t matter what year you are, where you come from, who coached you. A ballplayer is a ballplayer.”
The 39-year-old Martin graduated from Purdue University in 2000.
He spent seven seasons as an assistant coach and one season as the associate head coach at his alma mater before he was hired by Missouri State on March 26, 2008.
Martin scored 1,666 career points during his Boilermaker career. He earned First-team All-Big Ten honors during his senior season, during which he averaged 18.4 points per game.
Purdue won consecutive Big Ten titles in his junior and senior years.
He hit eight 3-pointers, a Purdue record, in a 1994 NCAA Tournament game that was in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Martin was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks 57th overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.
He played professionally for four seasons, including with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Vancouver Grizzlies and in Italy.
Martin was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in November 1997 for a malignant tumor between his heart and lungs. His cancer is now in full remission.
He has since been active in promoting and supporting cancer awareness and varies charities.
Purdue established the Cuonzo Martin Challenge Award after he was a spokesman for the inaugural Purdue University Center for Cancer Research Challenge for Cancer, which raised more than $30,000 for cancer research at Purdue.
Tennessee will hold a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. to introduce Martin.