What’s the long run for Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin?

Cuonzo Martin

Cuonzo Martin
Photograph: Getty Photos

All through the years of protecting Cuonzo Martin with my boots on the bottom in Columbia, Missouri, musing to each whim of Mizzou athletics because the hometown every day newspaper’s sole beat reporter, I’ve realized just a few issues concerning the 50-year-old East St. Louis, Illinois native alongside the way in which.

First and least vital, there’s a miniscule probability he reads this. It’s not a me drawback or a him not determining how one can get to a web site subject. Protection about Martin, his gamers and MU doesn’t devour him. He’s by no means been entertained by a well-thought-out lede or irritated once I wrote about how all his offseason recruiting of followers to pack Mizzou Enviornment for dwelling video games was ruined within the Tigers’ second contest of the season, a 80-66 loss to mid-major in-state competitors, Kansas Metropolis.

Up till Missouri’s trio of December losses in opposition to its two largest rivals, Kansas and Illinois, alongside its lopsided defeat to open Southeastern Convention play in opposition to Kentucky, I used to be reluctant to speak about Martin’s job safety, even when straight requested about it throughout radio and tv spots. Then losses to the Jayhawks, Illini and Wildcats have been by a mixed 89 factors. Sure, these groups are both national-championship contenders or seen as a longshot value pick to win the NCAA Event, however the Tigers wanted to do higher in every of these video games. That doesn’t encapsulate the near-misses, like a 1-point loss to then-No. 1 Auburn, or different gaffes, like scoring 14 factors in a half in opposition to Liberty.

The most popular subject within the MU athletics universe has been the identical because the calendar flipped to 2022. Would Martin be the Tigers’ head coach come subsequent season? No clear indication has been given both means, that means it’s a well-kept secret, or the more-likely state of affairs, Missouri athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois and different determination makers on the college haven’t come to a conclusion but. For as soon as, possibly it’s not lip service that critiques of coaches are literally happening after the season ends?

Regardless of the way you slice it, this was Martin’s recruited roster in yr No. 5 in Columbia, the perfect he may do from the prep ranks and switch portal are on his bench.And the Tigers didn’t even meet the low bar set out for them this season. As Missouri opens SEC Event play on Wednesday in opposition to Ole Miss, it’s a official thought {that a} loss can be his ultimate recreation on the helm at Mizzou.

Martin’s contract makes letting him go extra sophisticated. He can’t be fired with out trigger due to qualifying for 2 NCAA Tournaments till Could 1. And his buyout is $6 million until May 2023, which isn’t an enormous quantity for a well-funded group of boosters, however nonetheless not an unimportant chunk of change for an athletic division figuring out of a deficit for the final a number of years. And that’s not together with paying a brand new coach. That quantity reduces to $3 million on Could 1, 2023. Might these prices even be negated by raised curiosity and higher attendance beneath a brand new coach? Missouri completed No. 12 out of 14 teams in dwelling attendance amongst SEC groups. It’s not too removed from ninth and final on both aspect of MU.

It’s exhausting to disregard the positives surrounding Martin, too. And I perceive a few of this has little to do with successful faculty basketball video games. However when making high-level hires, you’re hiring the individual and their baggage, too, not solely somebody to carry a clipboard and speak to officers. Take a look at City Meyer for instance. Martin grew up in a single-parent dwelling within the East St. Louis neighborhood nicknamed “Da Gap” due to how exhausting it’s for youths to dig themselves out. After the beginning of his first little one, Martin was diagnosed with cancer. He dug himself out of that, too. Now, he’s about to complete his 14th yr as a Division-I basketball coach, 11 coming in a high-level convention.

To place it bluntly, he’s a great, trustworthy man in a occupation the place the variety of upstanding males is dwindling.

The cabinet was extremely naked when Martin took over and this system has proven nice indicators beneath his management. However has there been sufficient? I discussed Reed-Francois earlier, who was on the search committee that introduced Martin from Missouri State to Tennessee in 2011. Her son, Jackson Francois, is slated to be a walk-on for the staff subsequent yr and dedicated to this system to play for Martin after his official go to this summer season in Columbia, together with his mother in attendance, on a small trip whereas in her ultimate months because the athletic director at UNLV.

It’s her first main determination as Missouri’s athletic director due to the short-term ramifications. From my interactions with her, I don’t suppose she’d hesitate to tug out a pink slip if that’s what she felt was needed right here, as a substitute of defending a private friendship. Reed-Francois’ greater loyalties are to Mizzou as an entire and herself earlier than pondering of Martin. But, her previous almost ensures that if Martin is let go, she took each avenue to see if she believed he may ultimately flip MU right into a official yearly SEC contender and located no tangible knowledge.

What he’s carried out to assist the gamers which have entered his program may not be flashy sufficient for the limelight, like sizzling takes about his job safety are. Carving out time to get his gamers fitted for fits, ensuring they’ve a fundamental data of how one can do their taxes earlier than they graduate and taking academic staff journeys, like a January 2021 detour to The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama earlier than a recreation in opposition to Auburn matter most to the folks that put on Missouri jerseys on the courtroom and their households.

Within the cutthroat enterprise of school athletics, none of that registers on a scale to single-handedly save Martin’s job. When requested straight this previous weekend about whether or not he expects to get yr No. 6 with Mizzou, his reply: “What I do count on is, I count on to rise up tomorrow, go to church, after all I rely my blessings. I don’t fear about that although. I don’t. I don’t fear about that.”

That’s Martin in a nutshell. He’s not resigned to being pressured to resign. He has life expertise most of us lack and it dictates his each conduct. Basketball is a ardour of his, little question, and this season’s losses positively affected his skilled life. However that’s solely a slice of who Martin is. It’s a fancy, but comprehensible, means of going about every single day that makes sweating the small stuff seem a a lot bigger sin. I’m not advocating for Martin to remain. I’m not utilizing my voice to say Missouri ought to look elsewhere, though his outcomes on the courtroom development in the direction of needing one other college to educate. 

See also  Bring the NBA to Mexico City

Leave a Reply