Cuonzo Martin Goes to Mizzou, Not Illinois: Purdue Boilermakers Fan Reaction


cuonzo martin

On Wednesday afternoon the news broke that Cuonzo Martin was resigning his position as Head Coach at California. At the same, we learned that Martin was off to coach Missouri, signing a deal reportedly worth $21 million over three years, and not Illinois. It’s the second time that Cuonzo Martin was potentially going to be an Illini, only to go elsewhere.

As a player, he was reportedly set to join Lou Henson’s program, but changed his mind after Bruce Pearl broke the coaching fraternity code, secretly taped Deon Thomas, ratted him out and landed the Illinois program on probation. Martin opted for Purdue instead, where he went on to have a very distinguished career.

Cuonzo was as elite as second bananas come to the Big Dog Glenn Robinson, on some very special Boilermakers teams. He then became top notch in his own right, making all-conference first team as a senior.

As a coach, it’s been an entirely different story, and it remains to be seen just how much a.) Illinois was really interested and b.) what they really missed out on. As it’s the coaching carousel silly season, we have lots of noise, but very little signal. Illini athletic director Josh Whitman, a West Lafayette, IN native, is astutely keeping things very close to the vest.

Of course, the idiots and attention seekers who claim to have “sources” are still shooting their mouths off.

Maybe Mizzou “beat out” Illinois for Cuonzo Martin, but more than likely, it was more a matter of the Illini going after much bigger fish.


People are going to have differing opinions on what just happened today, and that’s what the comments section is for.

There have been rumors, although very believable ones at that, Illinois made an offer to Virginia’s Tony Bennett that would make the fourth highest paid coach in the nation.

Fly me to the moon, because that’s shooting for it right there. Bennett is what you do when you have the money, the product and the salesman to go all in. Whether or not Bennett comes, you must applaud Whitman for taking a swing. Dayton’s Archie Miller, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and UNC-Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts are all also targets.

Getting back to Martin, opinion on him seems very mixed to say the least. He’s a bit Ron Zook/Tom Creaney with the elite recruiter, mediocre results motif. He’s also more than a bit Lane Kiffin, with the changing jobs all the time and only staying at the same gig for a short period of time.

Like Kiffin, Cuonzo Martin even once coached Tennessee.

cuonzo martin

Martin lured McDonald’s All-Americans Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to Cal, and Illini fans worry he’ll poach Jeremiah Tilmon from them. To get more insight on Martin, we reached out to our close friend of the program, T-Mill who runs Hammer and Rails, the SB Nation Purdue community. He was gracious enough to speak with us on this the eve of Purdue taking on Vermont in the NCAA Tournament (our game preview and prediction at this link).

Be sure to check out H&R’s guide to Milwaukee and scouting report on the Vermont Catamounts.

The Purdue player and coaches media availability on Wednesday occurred prior to the Cuonzo Martin news breaking, and hence there was no talk of the hire.

TSB: If Purdue fans had to choose, would you rather Cuonzo Martin goes to Mizzou or Illinois?

T-MILL: Hmmm, it is hard to say. See, I am of the minority opinion that Cuonzo is not THAT great of a coach, but it is mostly based on him moving around a lot. He has only stayed three years in one spot and is 2-2 in the NCAA Tournament. While I think he is a great recruiter, I think he worked best with Matt Painter in a tag team fashion. Painter did the coaching and ‘zo did the recruiting.

That said, I would rather he be at Illinois because it is a better job. It is cute how Missouri thinks it is a basketball school.

LOL! That’s a bit like Grandpa Abe Simpson’s “I’ll be dead in cold, cold ground before I recognize Missoura.”

How would Cuonzo Martin taking over the Illini programs had been received by the Purdue community, do you think?

I think it would be a lot like when Bruce Weber was at Illinois. We would see the recruiting increase, but I am not sure what it means long term because we just haven’t seen him stay long enough to get an idea of what he is building.

cuonzo martin cal

How would Boilers feel when they play the Illini? 

I think it would be okay. Because of Weber there has always been a close connection there of mutual respect. I think Purdue and Illinois are similar in that they have the unenviable moniker of “Best programs to never win the NCAA Tournament.” 

Yes, it is a let’s say “bittersweet” uhm “honor” to hold. What do you feel are the Cuonzo Martin strengths and weaknesses as a coach?

Well, he is definitely a solid recruiter. He brought in some talented players to California and he was pretty much Painter’s lead recruiter, but we’re talking about a guy that just lost an NIT home game to Cal Bakersfield with a couple of 5-star recruits on the roster.

cuonzo martin tennessee

What traits he showcased as a player at Purdue have carried over to his coaching style, and might again display at Illinois?

Cuonzo was a top three-point threat for us and even then, his best work was as the Robin to Glenn Robinson’s Batman. Sadly, I think that is his destiny. He is an excellent top level assistant, but I haven’t seen the longevity in one place yet for him to prove he is a No. 1 guy.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and NBC, contributes to Chicago Tribune.comBoldWGN CLTV and KOZN

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