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Hart reworking Martin's contract

April 1st, 2014 7:37 pm by AP

Hart reworking Martin's contract

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said Tuesday that the university is reworking the contract of men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, who said Tuesday he intends to remain with the Volunteers.

“We are working on modifications to Cuonzo’s current contract and will release details of those adjustments when finalized,” Hart said n a university statement.

The university also released a statement from Martin.

“Tennessee is where I want to be,” the coach said. “That has never changed.”

Martin did speak with Marquette about its coaching vacancy, but he pulled his name from consideration. Marquette announced Tuesday it had hired Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski to replace Buzz Williams, who had left to take over Virginia Tech’s program.

Martin is 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee, including a 24-13 mark and NCAA regional semifinal appearance this season.  Martin makes $1.35 million per year, which ranks him in the bottom half of Southeastern Conference coaches.

Martin’s contract currently runs through the end of the 2015-16 season. After leading the Vols to a second straight NIT berth in 2013, Martin received a $50,000 raise but didn’t get a contract extension from Hart, who took over Tennessee’s athletic department after Martin already had been hired.

Hart indicated his support for Martin in his comments Tuesday.

“We are proud that Cuonzo Martin will continue to lead our men’s basketball program,” Hart said. “His three Tennessee teams have finished in the upper echelon of the SEC, and each of those teams entered the month of March in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. His third team excelled in the postseason. 

“We have high standards and expectations for continued improvement and results in every sport in our program. Having said that, our strong finishes within the conference the past three years, prioritizing academics, representing the university with class and operating within the parameters dictated by the University of Tennessee and the NCAA matters greatly. Additionally, the social culture of the men’s basketball program has vastly improved under Cuonzo’s leadership.”

Martin took over a program under NCAA investigation in 2011 and has averaged 21 wins per year, but he’s struggled to escape the shadow of former coach Bruce Pearl, who led the Vols to NCAA tournament appearances in each of his six years on the job. 

When Tennessee was struggling earlier this season, disgruntled fans started an online petition to bring back Pearl, who has since been hired by Auburn. Tennessee revived its season and won eight of nine games before falling 73-71 to Michigan on Friday in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

In his statement, Martin referred to “some unique challenges” he faced upon taking this job. But he also showed his support for a fan base that hasn’t always warmed up to him.

“I have said many times over the past three years that I believe we have the resources and support to be the last team standing, and that belief has never been stronger,” Martin said. “I appreciate the unrivaled passion of this fan base and feel the responsibility to make those fans proud. I also appreciate the commitment that the university and athletic department leadership have shown to this staff.”

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