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Former Cal coach finds welcoming new fan base in Missouri

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Cal men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin on Wednesday announced his resignation and will reportedly sign a $21 million deal with University of Missouri. (Courtesy Cal Athletics)
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By Dave Matter | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Cuonzo Martin got a standing ovation from hundreds of fans gathered at Mizzou Arena for his introduction as Missouri’s new men’s basketball coach on Monday, the culmination of a quick hiring process that zeroed in on the 45-year-old coach from the start.

Missouri was the first power conference school to hire a new coach during the current hiring cycle and Martin was the only coach Mizzou seriously considered. On Monday, shortly before Martin’s formal introduction, UM unanimously approved Martin’s seven-year contract that will pay him an average guaranteed salary of $3 million per year.

Martin, born in St. Louis and raised in East St. Louis, comes to Mizzou with 186 Division I coaching wins from his three three-year stops at Missouri State, Tennessee and Cal-Berkeley. Martin has coached in two NCAA Tournaments, once at Tennessee and last year with Cal.

On Monday, Martin said Missouri has all the makings to build a championship program.

“We have everything here to be the last team standing one day,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

On March 12, Mizzou athletics director Jim Sterk and executive associate AD Brian White met with Martin and his wife Roberta at his home in Northern California for about four hours where they discussed the job. Sterk and White left California confident that Martin was interested but weren’t certain he would accept the position.

“He said he wanted to come, but they had to talk about it as a family,” Sterk said. “I think it was within the next day [he accepted the offer]. But he told me, ‘I want to come there’ from the start.”

Sterk described his connection with Martin as “a shotgun wedding” and said Missouri had to be aggressive with Martin knowing that other jobs could target him.

Martin declined to comment on specific questions about Michael Porter Sr., the former University of Washington assistant and father of prized recruiting target Michael Porter Jr., who signed with Washington in the fall but could end up at Mizzou instead. Martin only acknowledged that he knows Porter Sr. from his time coaching in the Pac-12.

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