Martin takes UT job

Missouri State coach picked to replace Pearl

photo Cuonzo Martin, hired as head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Announced Sunday, March 27, 2011

KNOXVILLE-Tennessee must have felt it was important to move on quickly.

The last time the Volunteers were in the market for a basketball coach, they needed two weeks to hire Bruce Pearl in 2005.

The Vols didn't need half that in hiring Pearl's replacement.

UT announced the hire of Missouri State's Cuonzo Martin as its new coach on Sunday night, less than a week after the popular Pearl was fired a week ago this afternoon amid his controversy with the NCAA.

"Cuonzo is among the most promising young coaches in the game, and we are excited about the coaching ability, toughness and energy that he brings to our program," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement released by the university.

The 39-year-old Martin went 61-41 in three seasons with the Bears. He won just 11 games in his first season, but Missouri State went 26-9 and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship this season. The Bears' loss to Indiana State in the tournament championship game sent them to the NIT.

Prior to his time in Springfield, Martin spent eight years as an assistant coach at Purdue under Gene Keady and Matt Painter. He was also an excellent shooter for the Boilermakers during his playing career, helping Purdue to a pair of Big Ten titles in 1994 and 1995.

UT went the young, up-and-comer route in hiring Pearl following his run to the Sweet 16 at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, though Martin's name may not carry the current sizzle of Butler's Brad Stevens or Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart.

"He has a proven track record of success as a head coach at Missouri State and an assistant at Purdue as well as an outstanding career as a college basketball player," Hamilton said. "Cuonzo has an inspiring personal story, and we look forward to his impact on Tennessee basketball."

Martin was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November of 1997 while he was playing professionally in Europe. He returned home for the treatment of a malignant tumor between his heart and lungs and has is now in full remission. That experience has made raising awareness for the disease important for Martin, who has raised thousands of dollars for charities and research funding.

Missouri State lost 60-56 to UT in Knoxville in November. The Bears were second in the MVC in scoring (69.8 points per game), third in scoring defense and rebounding margin and led the league in 3-point shooting (37.6 percent).

Martin was credited for his efforts in recruiting Purdue stars JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, a tandem that averaged 20.5 and 18 points per game this season, respectively.

Martin might need that recruiting ability in his first few weeks on the job. Both freshman forward Tobias Harris, who's already said he's going to test the NBA waters, and junior guard Scotty Hopson could bolt for the NBA. Kevin Ware and Chris Jones, UT's two guard signees, might also want to look elsewhere.

UT will introduce its new coach today at a news conference at 2:30 p.m.

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