In another crazy turn of the college coaching carousel, ESPN's Jeff Goodman reports that Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin has taken the head coaching job at California.
Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin has agreed to be head coach at California, sources told ESPN. Story coming.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 15, 2014
Ever since Mike Montgomery announced that he would retire, the Cal coaching search seemed to center on Xavier coach Chris Mack, ex-NBA coach Eric Musselman and various mid-major coaches. Martin's hiring comes out of nowhere, after Mack reportedly turned down the job. The hiring is one of the most surprising moves of the college basketball offseason thus far, rivaling Buzz Williams leaving Marquette for Virginia Tech.
There was speculation that Martin would take the Marquette job, but he was expected to remain at Tennessee after withdrawing his name from consideration, according to CBS.
Martin starred at Purdue in the 1990's. He took the Tennessee job in 2011 after leading Missouri State to the 2010-2011 regular season Missouri Valley title. Martin earned his first NCAA Tournament bid as a head coach with the Vols this past season, and reached the Sweet 16 from the First Four. He was set to lose a number of key contributors next season, including leading scorer Jordan McRae and big men Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon.
Martin will inherit a roster at Cal that has some promising young talent, but failed to find its footing last season on its way to a 21-14 record and an appearance in the NIT. Martin's most intriguing player at Cal might be 6'6 guard Jabari Bird, who averaged 8.3 points per game as a freshman last season.