Cuonzo Martin has grown from humble origins. He's had to undergo a lot of harrowing, life-changing experiences. Now he's at Berkeley, chasing the dream of being a big-time basketball coach and asking questions like "Why not Cal?" Despite mixed results his first season, it seems very much like he's on the upside of his career based on what he's done on the recruiting side of things.
Based on his origin story, you can tell why he's fit right into the mindset of Cal, and why he could be ready to succeed in Berkeley for the long haul.
We're glad to have you coach!
Cal's new basketball coach grew up in "The Hole."
That's what they called the housing project in East St. Louis, Illinois, where Cuonzo Martin got his start.
It was the kind of place, his younger sister Valencia said, where "your friends that you grew up with in elementary school could be drug dealers by the time you were in middle school."
It also was a place that instilled a toughness in Martin that he wants from his Cal team. And a place that provided the shelter and direction that allowed him to become a success celebrated by his beleaguered hometown.
As Cuonzo Martin walked into his Indianapolis home with his 4-month-old son Joshua in his arms, he felt weak. His legs quivered. He stretched out his long, thin arms and placed Joshua on the couch.
Then he collapsed.
His wife, Roberta, drove him to the hospital, and doctors immediately peppered Martin with questions. Did he smoke? No. Did he drink? No. He had been playing professional basketball in Italy and was supposed to be in the prime of his career. Instead he wondered if his life was in jeopardy.
"I don’t know if you’re going to die," a doctor told Martin and his wife that day in 1997, "But whatever you’ve got is really, really serious."