Mizzou basketball certainly didn’t waste much time in anointing Cuonzo Martin as the 19th head coach in team history. Of course, Martin had been rumored as a frontrunner following Kim Anderson’s departure after the SEC Tournament last week.
All that remained was for Cuonzo Martin, a top candidate in the Tigers’ head coaching search, to finish up the season with the California Golden Bears before moving on. He did just that with a loss in the NIT Tournament to Cal State Bakersfield. He then tendered his resignation at Cal and accepted the head coaching job at Mizzou. All of this in less than 24 hours!
Now that the ink is dry on Martin’s seven-year contract worth $21 million (linked above), Martin can begin laying the groundwork for the job ahead of him. While fans should likely temper their initial expectations, I believe that Cuonzo Martin (pronounced KAHN-zo) is the right man at the right time for the Missouri Tigers.
Can Martin Provide Coaching Stability for Mizzou?
Judging by the seven-year deal, it seems that Martin is taking this job for the long haul. This will undoubtedly provide much needed stability for the program.
If Martin is genuine in his desire to return to the Midwest, there’s no reason to expect him to leave Missouri anytime soon.
The legendary Norm Stewart spent 38 years coaching the Tigers. In the 18 years since his retirement, the Tigers have had four coaches with Quin Snyder’s seven-year tenure being the longest of the four.
Per USA Today, Martin, a native of East St. Louis, had the desire to be closer to home as noted by Cal athletic director Mike Williams when announcing Martin’s resignation.
"“Cuonzo Martin informed me this morning that he is resigning to accept a position at another school,” said Williams. “We put forth our best effort to retain him, but he told me it wasn’t about Cal, rather a strong desire to move closer to home.”"
If Martin is genuine in his desire to return to the Midwest, there’s no reason to expect him to leave Missouri anytime soon. In fact, the only job that could potentially lure Martin away would be at his alma mater, Purdue. I don’t expect that to occur as Purdue’s current head coach, Matt Painter, shows no inkling of leaving anytime soon.
Mizzou basketball fans have reason to believe in Cuonzo Martin’s ability to recruit.
In addition to Martin’s Midwestern ties, Missouri’s status as a member of the SEC cannot be ignored. Prior to his employment at Cal, Martin spent three seasons as head coach at Tennessee.
During that time, Martin would finish no worse than sixth in the conference and made the Sweet 16 once. Since he is familiar with other schools in the conference, Martin can hit the ground from a coaching and game planning point.
Martin’s Success on the Recruiting Trail is Key
It’s good that Cuonzo Martin wants to be at Mizzou, but his tenure will be judged upon his coaching and recruiting.
First and foremost, Martin’s most important job will be to “close the borders”. In other words, keep the most impressive in-state talent in Missouri rather than letting them head to Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, or anywhere else they may otherwise go.
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In less than two days on the job, Mizzou basketball fans have reason to believe in Cuonzo Martin’s ability to recruit.
Per USA Today, Martin has already offered Michael Porter Sr. a position on his staff. Porter, who was working as an assistant for the Washington Huskies, is a former assistant for the Missouri women’s team. There is now talk that Michael Porter Jr. could be following his father to Missouri.
Porter Jr. is highly regarded as one of the top college prospects in the game, per the article linked above. Even as a likely one-and-done player, his presence on the Missouri roster would immediate elevate perceptions of the Tigers program. Remember that Porter’s younger brother, Jontay, will be a highly coveted recruit as well.
With Cuonzo Martin at the helm, it is certainly a great time to be a fan of Mizzou basketball. Time will tell if he is successful or not, but there’s no reason for Missouri fans not to be optimistic.
Mizzou fans, do you believe that the Tigers are about to take a leap forward with the hiring of Martin? Discuss below!