Cuonzo Martin to become next Cal men’s basketball head coach

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Athletics Director Sandy Barbour, new Cal men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and Vice Chancellor of Finance John Wilton pose for a photograph at Martin's introductory press conference on April 15, 2014.
Michael Drummond /Senior Staff
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Athletics Director Sandy Barbour, new Cal men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and Vice Chancellor of Finance John Wilton pose for a photograph at Martin's introductory press conference on April 15, 2014.

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Cuonzo Martin has agreed to become the next head basketball coach for Cal. He will replace Mike Montgomery, who retired March 31.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, along with other administrators at Cal, formally announced Martin’s hiring and welcomed him to UC Berkeley.

“We have found exactly the right person with exactly the right fit for our university,” Dirks said.

Martin was the head coach of Tennessee for three years, leading the Volunteers to a 63-41 record and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2013-14. Prior to that, he was the head coach of Missouri State for three seasons after spending seven seasons as an assistant at Purdue.

“One of the things that stood out was his record,” Barbour said. “His record of success, record of winning and record of developing men.”

Martin emphasized academics and community in his press conference, repeatedly mentioning that he was humbled by the opportunity to coach at what he called “the No. 1 public university in the world.”

“I take academics very seriously,” Martin said. “We want academics and athletics to go hand in hand.”

The hiring comes after weeks of speculation that included names from UC Irvine coach Russell Turner to Xavier head coach Chris Mack, and more recently, Richmond head coach Chris Mooney.

Throughout the entire process, Cal associate coach Travis DeCuire was seen as a candidate and was endorsed by Montgomery. Barbour called DeCuire a “serious candidate” at the time. But Cal Athletics looked outside its walls and went with Martin. Barbour emphasized the importance of success at the Division 1 level in the search, something that Decuire doesn’t have.

“Our search put an extremely high emphasis on finding a coach that had demonstrated success at the Division 1 level,” Barbour said. “Cuonzo has done that.”

Martin has not reached a decision yet about retaining DeCuire on staff in some capacity but did say he would talk to the current coaching staff.

“At my previous stops as a head coach, I always retained guys,” Martin said.

Earlier in the day, some former Cal players took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with Cal passing over DeCuire. Robert Thurman, who played for the Bears from 2010 to 2013, tweeted:

Jeff Powers, a senior who played for Cal for four years, retweeted Thurman’s tweets and added in his own tweet, “Feel awful for my former teammates.”

Martin said a meeting with the returning players went “great” and acknowledged that some players can take time getting comfortable with a new staff.

“Me, personally, I like him a lot already,” said freshman guard Jabari Bird after the press conference. “He has a lot of great qualities, and I’ve heard a lot of things about him. I’m ready to get to work.”