KNOXVILLE – After a weekend of job speculation surrounding Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, athletics director Dave Hart released a statement on Tuesday afternoon to voice confidence in the third-year head coach.
“We are proud that Cuonzo Martin will continue to lead our men’s basketball program,” said Hart. “His three Tennessee teams have finished in the upper echelon of the SEC, and each of those teams entered the month of March in contention for an NCAA tournament bid. His third team excelled in the postseason.”
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Martin, who faced questions about his job security late in the regular season, but then rallied UT to an appearance in the Sweet 16 after winning eight of its final 10 games of the season.
His name was heavily linked to the opening at Marquette, but after reports surfaced that he was the leading candidate for the Golden Eagles over the weekend, Martin withdrew his name from consideration early Tuesday morning.
Now he’ll receive “modifications” to his contract, according to Hart, with details coming out when the adjustments are finalized. Martin currently has a deal worth approximately $1.3 million per year that runs through 2015-16. He is currently the 10th-highest paid coach in the SEC.
“We have high standards and expectations for continued improvement and results in every sport in our program,” Hart said. “Having said that, our strong finishes within the conference the past three years, prioritizing academics, representing the University with class and operating within the parameters dictated by the University of Tennessee and the NCAA matters greatly.
“Additionally, the social culture of the men’s basketball program has vastly improved under Cuonzo’s leadership.”
Martin is 63-41 (.606) in three years at Tennessee and has finished in the top five of the SEC every season. The Vols made the NIT his first two seasons, following by their NCAA tournament run in 2013-14.
“The past three seasons here at the University of Tennessee have been extremely rewarding for me, my family and my staff,” said Martin. “We accepted some unique challenges when we took over this program in 2011, but our recent run to the Sweet 16 proves that our blueprint for achieving excellence both on and off the court can generate tremendous results.
“Just as our players have `bought in’ and made a commitment to doing things the right way in all aspects of their lives, my staff and I feel a strong commitment to them and their continued growth as men. Tennessee is where I want to be. That has never changed. I have said many times over the past three years that I believe we have the resources and support to be the last team standing, and that belief has never been stronger.”
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga