Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Opening Statement
“In our search, we talked to a lot of different people. We really did take our time because we wanted to make the best possible choice and we believe we’ve made the best possible choice. We are thrilled to welcome Cuonzo to campus on this beautiful day. Cuonzo, I have to tell you this, it’s beautiful every day in California. So I’d like to introduce our Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour to say a little bit more about this spectacular hire.”
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour Opening Statement
“Thank you, Chancellor. Obviously, we are here to officially announce Cuonzo Martin as our next head men’s basketball coach. I have a few thank yous and a few comments from a search perspective before I get into how excited I am about Cuonzo Martin joining the Cal family. First of all, I want to thank our student-athletes, I want to thank the men in our men’s basketball program. This was two weeks of uncertainty for them and I have to tell you, I could not be more proud of how they’ve conducted themselves. They’ve kept their focus on the classroom; they’ve kept their focus on their postseason work on the court; and they just took care of business. I really, really appreciate them, and I’m proud of them and couldn’t be happier to present to them their new head coach a little bit earlier today.
Coach Martin is our 16th head men’s basketball coach, and comes to us as Chancellor Dirks said, from the University of Tennessee, most recently off of a Sweet 16 run in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. One of the things that was most impressive to us and I do have to thank my partners here – Nick Dirks and John Wilton, as everything we do at this university is a partnership – I am incredibly pleased that there is an interest across campus in this athletics program, in particular the men’s basketball program. I was joined in this every step of the way by Chancellor Dirks and Vice Chancellor Wilton and I thank them for going along in this journey with us and helping us to get where we got here. I also want to thank the search advisory committee. We had a number of folks, alumni, current students, faculty members, members of the intercollegiate athletics staff, who participated as advisors very early on in the process. Not around candidates, but around qualities and traits that we were looking for. It was extremely helpful as we went down this road.
One of the things that stood out about Cuonzo Martin is his record. His record of success, his record of winning, his record of developing young men and the comments every step of the way about who he is as a man and who he is as a coach. The facts are clear- conference coach of the year, postseason berths each of the past five seasons, 63-41 record at the University of Tennessee, including 24-13 this year and that Sweet 16 run that I previously alluded to. A four-year playing career at Purdue University, a head coaching tenure at Missouri State where he won a conference title, former student-athlete, a former NBA player. He’s played and coached alongside some of the most highly successful and regarded mentors in the game, including Gene Keady. And we will have for you some comments that Coach Keady has made about Cuonzo that I think are pretty spectacular.
Coach Martin is inheriting a program in very good shape and I have to thank Coach Montgomery and his staff for the last six years as we said when Mike announced his retirement. The (winningest) six-year run in our history. This program is in very good shape, and we have Coach Montgomery to thank for that.
Our search placed a very high premium on someone who had demonstrated success at the Division I and ultimately BCS level. Cuonzo has done that. He has shown that he is a winner and shown that he is a winner every step of the way and every year of every step of the way has gotten better. So he’s a winner, he’s a leader and he’s a developer of men. I would tell you that throughout the course of our conversations, community and family kept coming up. This is a man along with his wonderful wife and family, who is going to come to this community and really dive in. Dive into our student-athletes, dive into this athletic department, this university and the Bay Area community. I know that this is a man who is going to develop our students and that is our number one goal as educators here at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with his traits as a winner, his skills as a basketball coach, his mentors, he brings all of that to us, so ladies and gentlemen, Cuonzo Martin.”
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Cuonzo Martin
“Thank you, I’m very humbled at this point. I’m a young man that comes from East St. Louis, Ill., and now I have the opportunity to coach at the No. 1 public institution in the world and that is very humbling. I take academics very seriously and at Tennessee, we did a great job with our guys. We want the academics and athletics to go hand-in-hand and I want to thank these three people for giving me an opportunity - Chancellor Dirks, Sandy, Vice Chancellor Wilton, who have given me a tremendous opportunity. There were a lot of great, qualified candidates and they chose me, so I don’t take that lightly. This is a great opportunity and a beautiful place.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Coach Montgomery. He is one of the best in the game; a good man who did a great job in building community, building team at a high level. I’ve got a tremendous level of respect for him, have watched him from afar and I admire his work as a coach, how he led his guys on and off the court from an academic standpoint and that can’t go unnoticed. He’s a tremendous coach, but what he did with his guys in the classroom speaks volumes. That’s not an easy thing to do with young men every day to be consistent in the classroom and also perform at a high level on the floor, so a lot of credit goes to him and his staff for maintaining such a high level.
I also want to thank the Tennessee basketball family for giving me the opportunity to spend three years there. I gave my life to the program and developed tremendous relationships from an administrative standpoint, to the fans and obviously the players. I love all of them. Our program was about sharing love, trust and building the community, so I appreciate everything and that they gave me that opportunity, which I don’t take for granted.
This is a wonderful place and we’ll continue to build on the success of Coach Montgomery, who did a tremendous job and I’m excited about it. I think the biggest thing we are going to do is certainly reach out to the community, as well as the campus, but we’ve got to get out to the community. I take pride in that and it’s big for our program. Thank you, take care, and Go Bears.”
On the style of basketball he will be bringing to Berkeley:
“I think first and foremost when you talk about the style of play, you want to defend at a high level, regardless of the opponent or what day you’re playing, if it is in a game or in practice. Our goal is to be the best defensive team in the league, and fight for the top notch of the country and we’ve got to do that to be successful. The thing I talk about all the time is that shots don’t always fall, but we have to defend, rebound and play hard every night. Offensively, we run a motion-style offense, we have spacing, we penetrate the gaps, and we throw it inside to our bigs. I’m one of those guys that thinks that if you’re a guard and you can post up, you post up, and you can also play on the perimeter. It’s a free-flowing offense with a lot of spacing, setting screens, attacking the rim. This past year, we were one of five teams in the country that finished in the top 20 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency and you have to be able to do both. You’ve obviously got to score the ball, but we’ve got to do both.”
On his first meeting with the players and his impressions:
“I thought it went great, I think with young guys, when you recruit them into your program, they get used to a certain staff, as a family, as a coach and when it changes, it’s not easy and I understand that. My job is to allow those guys to let their guard down and give me an opportunity. The two things I’ve talked about is trust and love. I think in order for us to go forward, we have to have trust amongst each other and what I talked about with those guys is love, because if there’s love and you let your guard down, it allows me to coach you, allows me to lead you, so that’s very important.”
On replacing Mike Montgomery, after already having replaced a successful Bruce Pearl at Tennessee:
“I think first and foremost, you have your style of play and I think that’s the most important thing. I think for me, there’s always administrative support, there’s always support from the community, from former players, the alumni-base, all of those things are very important for me. I think in order for our program to be successful, we’ve got to have a tremendous student section. For me as a coach, your style is your style, and I wouldn’t mind following guys, I like learning from guys and that’s the most important thing when we talk about Coach Montgomery. He’s one of the best teachers that ever taught the game, so I’ll definitely pick his brain on a lot of things.”
On his plans for his staff:
“I’m definitely meeting with all of the (current) staff and (Travis DeCuire is) definitely one I want to meet with. At my previous stops as a head coach, I’ve always retained guys who were qualified to do the job, and those that have good relationships. I have no problem with that, but I’m going to meet with all the guys.”
On the appeal of this position at Cal:
“Well, you’re talking about the No. 1 public institution in the world and to have the opportunity to coach very talented basketball players as well as student-athletes, guys who can go and get jobs and have successful careers. I think it’s a great place to recruit and you’re talking about a beautiful campus. The Bay Area is beautiful and there are so many opportunities for young men to get exposed to a lot of different things, which speaks volumes. I think it has a chance to be special here and that’s the most intriguing thing to me. I think this is a place that I can spend the rest of my life, because of the opportunities, the pleasure and recruiting.”
On a timeline for what he’d like to accomplish and creating a team that is a perennial contender:
“I think that how long it takes to become a perennial NCAA Tournament team is obviously assess the personnel when you first get into practice, that’s the goal. We had some frank talks amongst each other, and I’ve asked the players what they thought, what they thought about the league, where we can go as a league and I thought that was very interesting. I’m very excited about that, and I think that’s the goal on a consistent basis, because obviously as a league, they’ve showed they can get multiple teams in the tournament and that speaks volumes. I’m one of those guys who takes it one day at a time and of course the most important thing is assessing your staff before anything. Recruiting is valuable, but you’ve got to have a quality staff in order to move forward. Without a staff, you can’t move forward, so that’s first and foremost, getting the guys in place and then you push forward.”
On his 2013-14 season at Tennessee and the reported petition:
“I thought that going through that, and to be honest with you, when you talk about the petition, I didn’t really hear about it until lately. One of things when you’re a coach, you can’t be consumed with things outside your periphery and for me, I thought it was a great teaching point for our guys, because we always talked about having character and going through adversity and dealing with situations. What happened in that process was I was developing young men because they saw my approach every day and I came to work with my hard hat on, and nothing changed. If a guy missed class, he runs 10 suicides, that never changed. I think what happened, was that young men became men in the process, because as a coach, you continue to lead through adversity and for me at the end, it didn’t bother me and that it was a great teaching point for our players.”
Freshman guard Jabari Bird
Did Coach Martin come off as an approachable, personable guy when he first met with the team?
“Definitely. He talked about love and family, all that. A lot of guys have given great feedback, saying coach is pretty fun to play for.”
Do you expect the team to stay intact?
“I don’t think anybody’s making plans on leaving or anything like that. Everybody’s happy with the decision and ready to move forward.”
Have you spoken to any of Cal’s incoming recruits yet?
“I haven’t talked to them since they committed. I don’t even know what they’re planning on doing. Hopefully they’re still planning on joining the program. We could use them, too.”
You sound pretty optimistic. True?
“Yeah. There’s nothing negative going on in the back of my head or anything like that. I’m just ready to get to work.”