published Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Tennessee confirms Cuonzo Martin's return as basketball coach

Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin reacts in this file photo.
Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin reacts in this file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- A little more than 12 hours after Cuonzo Martin removed his name from consideration for the coaching vacancy at Marquette, Tennessee confirmed its men's basketball coach would return.

Both Martin, who just finished his third season with the Volunteers, and athletic director Dave Hart released statements on Tuesday afternoon.

"We are proud that Cuonzo Martin will continue to lead our men's basketball program," Hart said in the statement. "His three Tennessee teams have finished in the upper echelon of the SEC, and each of those teams entered the month of March in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. His third team excelled in the postseason.

"We have high standards and expectations for continued improvement and results in every sport in our program. Having said that, our strong finishes within the conference the past three years, prioritizing academics, representing the University with class and operating within the parameters dictated by the University of Tennessee and the NCAA matters greatly. Additionally, the social culture of the men's basketball program has vastly improved under Cuonzo's leadership.

"We are working on modifications to Cuonzo's current contract and will release details of those adjustments when finalized."

Martin has two years left on his current contract, the original five-year deal he signed when he was hired to replace the popular Bruce Pearl in 2011. After two National Invitation Tournament appearances in his first two seasons, Martin was given a $50,000 raise but no extension to his contract.

His third-year salary of $1.35 million is the 11th-highest in the SEC, but that is likely to change following Tennessee's Sweet 16 run in this season's NCAA tournament.

In three seasons at Tennessee, Martin's records are 63-41 overall and 32-20 in the SEC, and he led the Vols to just their seventh appearance in the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

He met with Marquette officials on Sunday and with Tennessee personnel on Monday. Though at one point it appeared likely Martin would leave, a source close to the coach said shortly after midnight on Tuesday that he'd removed his name from consideration.

"The past three seasons here at the University of Tennessee have been extremely rewarding for me, my family and my staff," Martin said in the statement. "We accepted some unique challenges when we took over this program in 2011, but our recent run to the Sweet Sixteen proves that our blueprint for achieving excellence both on and off the court can generate tremendous results.

"Just as our players have 'bought in' and made a commitment to doing things the right way in all aspects of their lives, my staff and I feel a strong commitment to them and their continued growth as men."

Tennessee's season ended last Friday night with a 73-71 loss to Michigan in the Midwest Region semifinal. The Vols will lose three starters, including All-SEC top scorer Jordan McRae and seniors Jeronne Maymon and Antonio Barton, and add four signees: point guard Larry Austin, wing Jordan Cornish and forwards C.J. Turman and Phil Cofer.

The Vols also hope Jarnell Stokes will return for his senior season instead of entering the NBA draft.

"Tennessee is where I want to be," Martin said. "That has never changed. I have said many times over the past three years that I believe we have the resources and support to be the last team standing, and that belief has never been stronger.

"I appreciate the unrivaled passion of this fanbase and feel the responsibility to make those fans proud. I also appreciate the commitment that the university and athletic department leadership have shown to this staff. I am excited about the future and remain honored to be the head basketball coach at Tennessee. Go Vols!"

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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