With Mike Kelly, the voice of the Tigers, near his side, Cuonzo Martin shows off his new uniform after being introduced as the head coach of the Missouri Tigers on Monday at Mizzou Arena.
Take it from one who
knows: MU hits HR
with hire of Martin
March 20, 2017
COLUMBIA, Mo. --- J'Den Cox wins again, he's now a three-time national champion.
The Missouri baseball team wins again. And again. And again. Keep repeating until you reach 19. There's no crying in baseball --- and there aren't any 19-game winning streaks, either
So that's pretty good, too.
The Missouri women had another good season and were, once again, one win away from the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
These are all great happenings from the land of all things Mizzou. But rightly or wrongly, those feats have been swallowed up in the wake of what else happened the last five days.
Cuonzo Martin happened.
While it was known last Wednesday, the East St. Louis native was formerly introduced as the 19th head coach of the basketball Tigers Monday afternoon before a gathering of several hundred fans at Mizzou.
These are fans who are starved for a winner and welcomed Martin with open arms and hearts.
You could almost feeling the hugs floating from the seats to the stage.
"This is a special day for me, it's a tremendous feeling --- it just feels like home," said Martin, who's signed a seven-year deal worth $21 million. "It seems like this thing has come full circle. I just feel like this is a great place for me, with tremendous tradition and a tremendous fan base.
"Mizzou's not just a national brand, it's a world brand. I think we have everything we need to be the last team standing some day."
Martin, 45, was introduced by first-year Athletic Director Jim Sterk.
"We are thrilled that Cuonzo is returning to the Midwest and that his family will now call Columbia home," Sterk said. "From the outset of our search, our goal was to find a coach who had demonstrated success, academically and on the court, while also sharing our values and who can help to reignite interest in Mizzou Men's Basketball among our fan base.
"I believe we found all of that and more with Cuonzo, he's been a winner on and off the court"
This is basically the first good thing that's happened to the men's basketball program since it went into a five-year tailspin, a tailspin that started when Mizzou --- as a No. 2 seed and a 24-point favorite --- lost to Norfolk State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Martin takes over for Kim Anderson, who was fired after three dismal seasons --- 27-68 overall, 8-24 this season. But Anderson had taken over for Frank Haith, who bankrupt the Tigers of both their talent and their soul during his three-years at the helm.
Haith created a disaster that finally hit home last season --- a postseason ban and other NCAA sanctions for the program, and it was a disaster that would get no better under Anderson.
"Coach Kim can coach," Martin said in Anderson's defense, "but stuff happens."
Martin met with the returning players before his public introduction.
"These are great young men," Martin said. "If losing basketball games is the worst thing that happens to them as they go through life, then they'll live a great life. I told them: 'Don't allow losing to dictate how you walk or act as a young man. Hold your head up high, have character, have integrity and we'll get to where we need to go.'
"I think we have a chance to be successful and I'm not in the business to wait three or four years."
Martin announced his resignation from the University of California on Wednesday after three years with the Bears. It didn't take long for Sterk to make his move --- and make Martin one of the top 12 highest-paid coaches in the nation.
So it goes without saying, the school was willing to open the wallet for this coach.
Martin will start assembling his staff immediately, and we should know more in the next week or two. Namely, the decision everyone is interested is whether to make Michael Porter Sr. part of his staff. It's been reported by ESPB it will happen, but those reports have yet to be confirmed.
Because where Michael Sr. goes --- like back to Columbia from the University of Washington --- his massively talented sons, 6-9 Michael Jr. and 6-10 Jontay, will likely follow.
Martin's first head coaching job was at Missouri State, where he won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship in his third and final season, and twice took the Bears to the NIT. His next stop was another three-year stint, this one at Tennessee, where he directed the Vols to the Sweet 16 his final season, before coaching Cal for three years and taking the Bears to the NCAA Tournament last year.
The Bears went 21-13 this season, losing in the first round of the NIT last week. His Cal record was 62-39 and his overall mark is 186-121 in nine seasons.
Martin says his biggest coaching influences are Stewart, Gene Keady, his coach at Purdue, and Jim Calhoun, the longtime coach at UConn.
Old school? Ya think? Those guys probably built it.
"I feel like those guys," Martin said, "were tough, hard-nosed, they worked extremely hard and demanded a lot of their players. I loved the way those guys coached the game."
Martin has proven himself to be both a good recruiter and good coach during his three prior stops. But as much as helping them become good basketball players, Martin wants to help them become men.
"My goal for all our players," he said, "is 20-30 years down the road for them to be successful men. My mom talked about that as a youth, but I didn't really understand what it meant at that time. But now as a man ... I do."
Martin has certainly established a pattern in his career --- staying three years at each of his three stops. Will this be his destination job?
"If Mizzou keeps me for 20 years," he said, "my plan is to be here for 20 years. This is it for me."
Of course, what coaches say and what they do a down the road can be drastically different realities. But for now, we should take him at his word.
Also, never forget to be grateful to Kim Anderson, who tried to clean up the mess left by the horse in Frank Haith's parade.
Now, however, it's time to move on.
And feel like a winner. Again.
Mizzou fans should feel like
winners again after Martin's hire
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