The Cuonzo Martin Experiment at Tennessee is over.
After three years as the Volunteers’ coach, Martin bolted from Knoxville, Tenn., on Tuesday and agreed to a five-year contract to become California’s next coach. He will replace Mike Montgomery, who retired in late March after coaching the Golden Bears for six years.
Martin is fresh off a run to the Sweet 16 at Tennessee, during which his team, as a No. 11 seed, knocked off 11-seed Iowa 78-65 in overtime in a play-in game, 6-seed UMass 86-67 and 14-seed Mercer 83-63 before falling to 2-seed Michigan 73-71.
Each season while at UT, his team’s record improved. In 2013-14, the Volunteers finished with a 11-7 league record — fourth in the Southeastern Conference. Martin, who previously coached at Missouri State before taking over for Bruce Pearl, went 63-41 at Tennessee in three seasons.
The move from Knoxville to Berkeley, Calif., affirms speculation that Martin disliked how Tennessee’s athletic department and its fanbase treated him. Earlier in the season, Vols fans started an online petition to fire Martin and re-hire Pearl, who is now at Auburn.
Some of Martin’s former players expressed that sentiment via Twitter.
“Can’t treat people any kind of way and expect good in return,” Jordan McRae (@JordyMac52) posted.
Tweeted Jeronne Maymon (@JeronneMaymon): “Not even surprised... It was just a matter of time! #RESPECT”
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Former Tennessee men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin (right) smiles as he is introduced as Cal’s new coach at a press conference Tuesday in Berkeley, Calif.