The University of Tennessee announced Sunday the hiring of Missouri State University head coach Cuonzo Martin as the Vols’ 18th head men’s basketball coach. He will be introduced at 2:30 p.m. ET Monday at the Ray Mears Room at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Martin, 39, is a graduate of Purdue University. He posted a 61-41 record in three seasons at Missouri State from 2008-11. This season’s Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Martin’s 2010-11 Bears team finished 26-9 and won the school’s first Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship. The team’s 15-3 mark in MVC games set a school-record for conference wins in one season.
“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,” said Mike Hamilton, Tennessee’s director of athletics. “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 also is a finalist for two national coaching awards this season: the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award, presented annually to the top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball, and the Ben Jobe Award, presented annually to the top minority head coach in Division I. Both awards are to be presented during Final Four weekend.
On March 26, 2008, Martin was introduced as the Missouri State head coach after spending eight years as an assistant coach at his alma mater under head coaches Gene Keady and Matt Painter. After finishing 11-20 in his first season with the Bears in 2008-09, the team improved 13 wins to a 24-12 finish and the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament title in 2009-10, tying Kansas for the national lead in home wins with 19.
Martin’s Missouri State teams were a combined 36-3 at home during the past two seasons, and the three home losses were by a combined total of five points.
A two-win improvement this season (26-9) means Martin’s last two Missouri State squads averaged 25 wins, posting a combined record of 50-21. In addition, after a 3-15 finish in the MVC in 2008-09, the Bears improved to 8-10 in 2009-10 and 15-3 in 2010-11.
Through March 25, the 2010-11 Missouri State squad ranked seventh nationally in turnovers per game at 10.3 and also led the MVC in 3-point shooting (.376, 39th nationally) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.28, 27th nationally) while ranking second in winning percentage (.745, 30th nationally), scoring offense (69.8 ppg, 140th nationally), and scoring margin (6.7, 60th nationally).
Missouri State played in the MVC Tournament as the No. 1 seed and fell to Indiana State in the MVC Tournament championship game. The Bears played in the NIT this year, defeating Murray State in the first round before losing in the second round at Miami (Fla.).
The 2009-10 MSU team led the MVC in scoring and assist-to-turnover ratio and ranked in the top 25 nationally in turnovers per game (11.3).
Martin was a standout player for the Boilermakers as a collegian, scoring 1,666 points in 127 career games. During his four playing seasons, Purdue posted a 90-37 record, including a 54-12 mark in his last two seasons and two Big 10 titles in 1994 and 1995. He made 45.9 percent of his 3-point attempts (179-for-390) during his junior and senior seasons and was an 80 percent free-throw shooter.
During his senior season of 1994-95, he averaged 18.4 points per game while leading Purdue to the second of three consecutive Big 10 championships, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors.
Martin set the Purdue school record for 3-pointers made in a single game, draining eight in an NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen contest against Kansas on March 24, 1994, a game hosted at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Boilermakers won that game to advance to the Elite Eight. Martin’s record still stands and was subsequently equaled by Robbie Hummel against Ohio State on Jan. 12, 2010.
Martin was selected with the 57th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks and played professional basketball for four years, including NBA stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Vancouver Grizzlies. He also was the team captain and leading scorer with the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Hoops of the Continental Basketball Association for three seasons and was the leading scorer for the Felize Scandone team in Avellino, Italy in 1997.
In November of 1997, Martin was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and returned to the United States for treatment of a malignant tumor between his heart and lungs. He received his last treatment on April 20, 1998, and is now in full remission. He has used his courage and experience with the disease to promote awareness of cancer research and support cancer charities.
In 2008, Martin served as a spokesman for the inaugural Purdue Center for Cancer Research Challenge for cancer research, which attracted more than 1,000 runners and walkers to Ross-Ade Stadium and raised more than $30,000 for cancer research at Purdue. In his honor, the Cuonzo Martin Challenge Award was established.