Cuonzo Martin bolts Tennessee for California

Published on Tuesday, 4/15/14, at 4:59 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Cuonzo Martin bolted Knoxville earlier today to take the California job. Can you blame him?

His players at Tennessee won’t even though he was in Berkeley when the team was informed of Martin’s decision. From Jordan McRae to Jarnell Stokes and beyond, it was unanimous on twitter that the UT players had zero anger toward Martin, who got no love from the Volunteers’ fans or administration during his three-year tenure.

After taking UT to the NIT in his first two seasons, Martin led the Vols to three NCAA Tournament wins and a Sweet 16 appearance in his third year. They lost a heartbreaker to Michigan in the Midwest Region semifinals after a controversial charging call went against Stokes in the final seconds.

Marquette came calling for Martin’s services two weeks ago, but he elected to remain at Tennessee. UT athletics director Dave Hart gave Martin only a slight raise that still left him as just the 11th-highest paid coach in the 14-team SEC.

Martin will also take with him his most recent commit, seven-foot-once-inch center prospect Kingsley Okoroh, who tweeted earlier that he would follow Martin to play for the Bears instead of the Vols.

Where does Tennessee go from here? Well, there will be tons of interest in the job. Even though Thompson-Boling Arena was built for Pat Summitt and the women’s program, it’s still one of the nation’s premier facilities. Bruce Pearl proved you can win and win big at UT.

If UT can hire Dayton's Archie Miller, then Cuonzo Martin's exit will be a good thing.

If UT can hire Dayton’s Archie Miller, then Cuonzo Martin’s exit will be a good thing.

The scary thing for the Vols is Dave Hart, the AD whose only hire at FSU was Steve Robinson, perhaps the worst hire in the history of ACC basketball.

The two names that immediately come to mind are Wichita St.’s Gregg Marshall and Dayton’s Archie Miller. I would consider both home-run hires, but I’m not sure if Hart can make it happen.

Ben Howland was begging for the jobs at Marquette and Wake Forest, and it says here that UT is a better gig. Howland led UCLA to three Final Fours before getting ousted following the 2012-2013 campaign.

We know that Pearl isn’t a candidate after taking over at Auburn. There were 36,000 UT fans that signed a petition to bring him back and that’s what led to this situation.

Once again, UT is looking for a new coach. Sound familiar?

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–In a bit of a surprise, Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein announced today that he will return to Kentucky for his junior season.

–Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III announced today that they are leaving early for the NBA Draft. Michigan is still awaiting word from Mitch McGary, who missed all but eight games during his sophomore campaign after undergoing back surgery.

–Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon are leaving Arizona for the 2014 NBA Draft.

–Cornell’s Nolan Cressler is transferring to Vanderbilt and will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the 2014-2015 campaign. Cressler averaged 16.8 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Big Red this past year.

–If you have fond memories of the 1989 Final Four at the Kingdome in Seattle, you have got to read this great feature from Michael Rosenberg in a recent SI.

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