KNOXVILLE - Cuonzo Martin stepped to the podium in front of a throng of media, television cameras and boosters.
"It's humbling to think of all the greats that were before me," Tennessee's new basketball coach said at his introductory news conference on Monday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena. "This is rich tradition, and once again it's humbling to be a part of it.
"My goal whenever to get to a place is (it's) my final destination. It's not a pit stop for me, and I think that's here. I want our players to come back 20 years from now and say that's my coach."
After three years at Missouri State, the 39-year-old Martin replaces the highly popular and highly controversial Bruce Pearl, was fired a week ago today amid NCAA violations. Martin said any NCAA sanctions UT might receive when it goes in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions in June.
"Whatever happens with the NCAA," he said. "I'm here to coach a ball team and to be successful doing that. I'm really not concerned with what the NCAA has to do, what they have to say. We'll just wait and see when that happens."
"Cuonzo is a winner in every way," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said. "Cuonzo will win at the University of Tennessee. But more than that, he's going to do it in the right way. He will lead our young men on and off the floor, and he will be a living example of perseverance, tenacity and success."
Martin played and coached under Purdue legend Gene Keady, which groomed him to lead the Bears from an 11-win season three years ago to the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title this season.
"I think his best attribute for me was develop me into a man," Martin said. "You talk a lot of things about basketball, but his approach on doing the right things all the time....those everyday things. Outside all the things he taught me as a basketball player, he taught me how to become a man."
UT signed Martin to a five-year deal worth $1.3 million not including performance bonuses, with an option for a two-year extension after 24 months. The initial term will be extended year-for-year based on if UT receives recruiting restrictions, postseason bans or scholarship reductions from the NCAA.
Martin didn't specify any of his staff, though he said he'll bring some coaches with him from Missouri State. He also said he's spoken with both of the Volunteers' signees, though he'll meet with them after the Final Four.
UT's new coach also said Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson will put their names in the NBA draft.
More coverage online and in Tuesday's Times Free Press.