BERKELEY, Calif. — A more relaxed fan base, milder weather and a chance to coach at the top-rated public university in the country added up to Cuonzo Martin making the decision to leave Tennessee for California.
Cal hired Martin as the 16th men’s basketball coach in school history Tuesday, a decision that stunned Volunteers administrators and players after he had reaffirmed his commitment to Tennessee just two weeks ago. Martin said it was a difficult move but the opportunity at Cal was too much to pass up.
“It’s a beautiful place. I got off the plane and I just said, ‘Ahhh,’” Martin said during his introductory news conference in Berkeley. “I think it has a chance to be special here. I think that’s the most intriguing thing to me. It’s a place I could spend the rest of my life.”
Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said Martin’s contract, which is still being finalized, is for five years. Financial details will be released at a later date.
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Martin also said he will bring “quite a few” of his assistant coaches from Tennessee to Cal once his contract is complete.
Martin replaces Mike Montgomery, who retired last month after six seasons in Berkeley. Martin went 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee, including a 24-13 mark and an appearance in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament this season. He also was previously the coach at Missouri State.
Martin’s buyout option from Tennessee dropped from $2.6 million to $1.3 million on April 1.
• Aaron Gordon’s decision was expected. Part of a heralded class of freshmen last season, anything but one and done would have been a surprise.
Nick Johnson had to build toward his move to the NBA.
Always a steady player, he boosted his draft status with a superb junior season, earning numerous All-America honors while leading Arizona to within a few seconds of the Final Four for the second time in three years.
Now he and Gordon are headed to the NBA.
“I’m going to show what I bring to the table, so many things as far as my leadership and my ability to defend and knock down shots,” Johnson said during a news conference Tuesday at Arizona’s McKale Center. “If you ask me, I’m a basketball player.”
• Michigan sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glen Robinson III have decided to enter the NBA draft.
Mitch McGary has not decided if he will stay in school or go pro. McGary was not made available for interviews after his teammates had a news conference.
• Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian is up and moving around at a Las Vegas hospital and could go home this weekend after suffering a heart attack and contracting pneumonia.
“He’s feeling much better,” Tarkanian’s son-in-law, Zafi Diamant, said Tuesday. “He’s been up and walking around, (and) all in all feeling much better.”
• Boston University point guard Maurice Watson Jr. is transferring to Creighton.
Bluejays coach Greg McDermott announced that Watson signed a letter of intent and will have two years of eligibility starting in 2015-16.