COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Cuonzo Martin is making something of a homecoming, and he’d be happy to stick around for a while this time.
Martin, a native of East St. Louis, Illinois, was introduced as men’s basketball coach for Missouri on Monday.
Following stints with Tennessee and California, Martin says he’s ready to put down roots about a two-hour drive from his hometown.
“If Mizzou keeps me for 20 years, then it’s my plan to be here 20 years,” Martin said. “This is it for me.”
Director of athletics Jim Sterk and university chancellor Hank Foley introduced Martin at Mizzou Arena.
“All of us want to see our programs compete for championships and consistently play for postseason and represent Mizzou in the right way on and off the court,” Sterk said. “Today, we’re able to check off all the boxes needed to develop a championship-level program with the hiring of Cuonzo Martin.”
Martin played at Purdue from 1991-95 under coach Gene Keady and was selected 57th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1995 NBA draft. He served as an assistant coach at Purdue from 2000-08 before accepting his first head-coaching position at Missouri State, where he posted a 61-41 record in three seasons. He then coached three seasons with the Volunteers before taking over at Cal in 2014.
Martin resigned as coach of the Golden Bears on March 15 after posting a 62-39 record in three seasons. He signed a $21 million, seven-year contract with Missouri, making him the highest paid basketball coach in school history. He’ll make $2.7 million in his first season, with that total increasing by $100,000 annually over seven years.
Martin also has incentives of up to $605,000, including $50,000 for a Southeastern Conference championship and $25,000 for SEC Coach of the Year. Additionally, the contract details a number of provisions, including two courtesy cars and a country club membership, as well as an additional $1.1 million budget for basketball-specific staff.
Martin replaces Kim Anderson, who had a 27-68 record in three seasons, including a conference record of 8-46. Anderson was asked to step down March 5.
After thanking university officials and introducing his wife and three children, Martin got down to business, discussing everything from his team’s style of play to the circumstances surrounding his hiring.
“Coach (Anderson) can coach,” Martin said of his predecessor. “Stuff happens. … If somebody was already employed in their job, you know how tough these jobs are, so you don’t want somebody losing their job so you can take it from them. It just presented itself, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Martin already has some SEC familiarity from his time at Tennessee. He was 63-41 with the Vols and went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2014.
“We like to play extremely hard,” Martin said of previous teams. “The one thing we talk about all the time is to play unselfishly as a team. … My job is to put you in position to be a successful basketball player, but the things that we cannot compromise are defending, rebounding and playing hard.”
Martin met with Missouri players for the first time about an hour before the press conference. Point guard Terrence Phillips seemed optimistic.
“I’m just such a high-energy guy, I think having a coach that’s like that, it brings excitement to me,” Phillips said. “We don’t know what our offense is going to be like or what our defensive mentality is going to be like, so it’s just really having to kind of take a step back and just see what (Martin) wants.”
CLICK AUDIO PLAYER to HEAR MARTIN’s MEETING w/ MEDIA AFTER PRESSER