Cuonzo Martin replaces Bruce Pearl as UT men's basketball coach
"This is a Top 25 job. The goal is to win a national championship," Cuonzo Martin said at his press conference.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Cuonzo Martin has taken over as head coach of the University of Tennessee men's basketball team.
Martin, 39, who comes to Tennessee after three years as head coach at Missouri State, was officially introduced in a news conference Monday afternoon.
He replaces Bruce Pearl, who was fired March 21 after six seasons as Tennessee's head men's basketball coach. Pearl was accused of breaking NCAA recruiting rules, then lying to investigators about those violations.
"Cuonzo Martin will win at Tennessee, and he will do it the right way," UT Athletics Director Mike Hamilton said as he introduced Martin.
"This is a final destination for me. Not a pit stop," Martin said. "This is a Top 25 job. The goal is to win a national championship."
When asked about the NCAA investigation, Martin said, "Whatever happens with the NCAA, I'm here to coach a ball team."
Martin said he met with the UT players at 11:30 Sunday night, calling them "wonderful young men."
"I'm a players' coach," Martin said when asked to describe his approach. "I allow the players to play."
He said his Missouri State team led the Valley last season in fewest turnovers.
"Our (Tennessee's) goal is to continue playing the best teams in the country," Martin said. He also said the Vols won't be playing zone defense.
"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," Hamilton said in a statement released Sunday.
Martin, 39, owned a 61-41 (.598) record in three seasons at Missouri State and was the 2011 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year.
He is also a finalist this season for two national coaching awards: the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award, presented to the top mid-major coach in Division I basketball, and the Ben Jobe Award, for the top minority head coach in Division I.
The honors come after the Missouri State Bears finished 2010-11 with a 26-9 and the school's first-ever Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship.
The Bears went 3-15 in the MVC in Martin's first season as head coach, then improved to 8-10 in 2009-10 and 15-3 this season.
Missouri State entered the MVC tournament as the No. 1 seed, but lost to Indiana State in the championship game.
Following the loss, the Bears played in the NIT tournament. They defeated Murray State in the first round, then lost in the second round to Miami (Fla.).
Martin took the head coaching job at Missouri State after eight seasons as an assistant coach at Purdue, his alma mater.
Before becoming a coach, Martin played professional basketball for four years. He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, and played with the Milwaukee Bucks Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Hoops of the Continental Basketball Association, the Felize Scandone in Avellino, Italy.
While playing in Italy in 1997, Martin was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He returned to the U.S., where he was treated for a malignant tumor between his heart and lungs.
Cuonzo and his wife, Roberta, have two sons, Joshua and Chase, and a daughter, Addison.