Cuonzo Martin with California AD Sandy Barbour (Twitter)
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The search is on for a new Tennessee men's head basketball coach after Cuonzo Martin was hired by the University of California Tuesday afternoon. UT Athletics Director Dave Hart saying during a press conference Tuesday that he was informed of Martin's intention to leave Tennessee just hours before and that it was an "emotional" conversation.
Martin went 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee, including a 24-13 mark and an appearance in the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this season. It was also a season filled with distractions for Martin and his team. After early struggles, a portion of the Tennessee fan base started an online petition to replace Martin with former UT coach Bruce Pearl. Nearly 36,000 signatures were collected before the petition was taken down after Pearl was hired at Auburn.
According to Hart, Martin was offered a raise and contract extension shortly after the season. Hart saying Martin's new deal would have included a $500,000 raise to $1.8 million annually and two more years on the end of the contract.
Hart would not put a timetable on making a new hire but did talk about the criteria. "I am looking for somebody who is a winner. Somebody who has won where they have been," Hart said. "I think fit is important, I have always felt that in my entire career. I think fit is critically important and we will look for someone who we deem to be very good fit."