So, The University of Illinois is looking for a new Men’s Basketball Coach, and it seems that Cuonzo Martin might be on the radar. The latest news from the search today has VCU’s Shaka Smart turning down a dump truck full of money to coach the fighting Illini, and Coach Martin telling his staff that he has no interest in the job. Which might be true, but as a Tennessee fan and alum we have been through this before.
What we do know about Cuonzo Martin; Coach Martin is a Big Ten guy. He grew up in East Saint Louis, Illinois. He played a Purdue, was an assistant coach at Purdue, and his team at Tennessee has the look of a Big Ten team already. His entire assistant coaching staff is from the state of Illinois, with Tracey Webster having the best ties as a former assistant coach at Illinois from 2005-2007.
What we know about Illinois; Shaka Smart turned down the job, and they were throwing only 2.5 Million dollars his way. We also know that there is pressure on the University of Illinois to hire a minority candidate, as they are one of three Big Ten schools without a minority hire in Men’s Basketball or Football.
So, that brings us to the facts. Cuonzo could double his current salary by going to Illinois. He and his coaching staff know the area better than anyone. Illinois has more basketball history and support for the Men’s Basketball program. He would inherit a better situation than what he did at Tennessee.
I could go on for days about why Martin to Illinois makes sense. For all Tennessee fans and alumni I hope that it does not happen. I truly believe that Cuonzo Martin is building a great basketball program at Tennessee, and is a better coach than Pearl. However, we have seen this chapter in the book happen before. So, would it surprise me if he left? No, chance… He would be a great fit at Illinois, and would help the Illini win multiple championships in the future.
All we can do is sit back and wait, and remember that nothing his final until they hire somebody other than Coach Martin.