Cuonzo Martin out as Missouri basketball coach | Mizzou Sports News

TAMPA, Fla. — In the end, one bad season proved to be too much for Mizzou basketball to stomach another year of Cuonzo Martin. Martin will not return next season as the head coach of the Missouri men’s basketball program, the Post-Dispatch first reported Friday afternoon, not long after Martin and MU’s traveling contingent returned to Columbia from Tampa, Florida, where the Tigers’ season ended with Thursday’s loss in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. Mizzou officially announced the decision Friday evening. 

Martin, 50, leaves with a five-year record of 78-77, 35-53 in SEC regular-season games and 3-4 in the SEC tournament. He was 0-2 in NCAA Tournament games, losing in the first round in 2018 and 2021. After a 20-13 debut season, Martin’s second and third teams finished just under .500 (15-17, 15-16) before last year’s turnaround season, when the Tigers started 13-3 and peaked at No. 10 in the national polls. But they collapsed down the stretch, losing seven of their final 10 games, leading to a drastic roster rebuild that never took shape as planned. The Tigers finished 12-21 this season, just the sixth 20-loss season in team history.

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Search consultant Eddie Fogler, former head coach at South Carolina and Vanderbilt, will assist Mizzou in the national search for Martin’s replacement. MU athletics director Desiree Reed-Francois previously used the former coach’s firm, Fogler Consulting, when she hired T.J. Otzelberger as the basketball coach at UNLV.

Reed-Francois, who helped hire Martin as the head coach at Tennessee in 2011 and whose son Jackson Francois planned to walk on the basketball team under Martin next season, was not made available to comment Friday. 

“Coach Martin represented the University with an extremely high level of class and dignity”, she said in a statement. “He is a man of high character whom I have the utmost respect for, and we are grateful for his contributions to our program, on and off the floor. He is not only a coach, but is a teacher, and he has impacted the lives of every student-athlete who came through the program over the last five years. We wish him, Roberta, and their family nothing but the best in the future.” 

“I believe that Mizzou is one of the best men’s basketball coaching jobs in the country,” she added. “Our University is the flagship institution of our great state and a member of the Southeastern Conference, the premier league in college athletics. We are located in a recruiting hotbed and there’s incredible alignment between our department and our President and Board of Curators. We have — and will —continue to invest in our men’s basketball program and I look forward to introducing the new leader of our program to our community in the near future. We will work quickly and expeditiously to find the candidate who is the best fit to continue building our championship culture.”

Martin, born in St. Louis and raised in East St. Louis, has two years left on his original seven-year contract. By making the NCAA Tournament twice during his first four seasons, Martin triggered two clauses in his contract that increased his buyout to $6 million this year. The buyout total would have dropped to $3 million if MU fired Martin after April 30, 2023. MU plans to fully honor the terms of Martin’s contract, which states that liquidated damages can be be paid in equal monthly installments until April 30, 2024, or in a lump sum “as might be negotiated and agreed to by the parties.”

Among the potential candidates Mizzou could explore include North Texas’ Grant McCasland, Drake’s Darian DeVries, Murray State’s Matt McMahon, Cleveland State’s Dennis Gates, Baylor assistant Jerome Tang and former Mizzou player Kim English, who went 14-16 in his first year as the head coach at George Mason. Sources close to the program also mentioned Oregon’s Dana Altman and St. Louis University’s Travis Ford as coaches possibly interested in the position.

This was Martin’s third losing season in five years at MU, but the Tigers were far closer to breaking even in the other two. This season, the crowds at Mizzou Arena became more sparse than usual as MU ranked 12th in attendance among SEC teams, averaging 6,600 fans per home game. In November, Martin signed his highest-rated recruit since his first few weeks on the job five years ago, four-star forward Aidan Shawn, but that wasn’t enough to inspire hope he could revive the program in the near future.

Instead, the Tigers will launch a fifth head-coaching search in the last 16 years, a turnstile that underscores the program’s failures to maintain any shred of success over the last two decades.

This time, though, it’s Reed-Francois’ coaching search, though the first-year athletics director will surely have strong input from powerful university system president Mun Choi, influential boosters and past and present members of the UM System Board of Curators, many of whom can’t help throw their weight around when it comes to important athletics department matters.

Another challenge for MU: This will be Mizzou’s first major athletics hire since the NCAA allowed immediate eligibility for transfers, as well as the name, image and likeness movement. That means current players and signed recruits could be prime for poaching. MU’s top two returning players, Kobe Brown and Trevon Brazile, have already been contacted by representatives of other schools, a source confirmed Friday, as well as Aidan Shaw, who signed with MU last fall.

Martin’s fifth season came undone early with a home loss to Kansas City — an ominous callback to former coach Kim Anderson’s first home game, another demoralizing loss to the Roos — then barely competitive efforts on the road against Liberty and Florida State. Before the calendar turned to 2022, the Tigers’ shortage of depth, talent and continuity were all exposed in blowout losses to Kansas, Illinois and Kentucky. 

Asked after Thursday’s loss to Louisiana State if it could indeed be his final game coaching the Tigers, Martin answered with the same reflective tone he’s used in recent weeks. 

“I’m good to go. I’m at peace with whatever,” he said. “I don’t get consumed with that. I don’t worry about that. If that’s the best thing for both parties then that’s the best thing for both parties. But I won’t waste any time with that. Whatever happens happens. … Because if it is (my last game) then the plan worked. Because when I was put here, it worked. I was here to make it work. I say that with all humility. Then you let the chips fall where they may. But I’ve got a tremendous peace of mind. I’m going back to the hotel to relax with family and then go from there.”






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