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Sports Illustrated: Cuonzo Martin could be targeted by Midwest programs this offseason

I’d be skeptical.

NCAA Basketball: Cal Poly SLO at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

One year of offseason rumors claimed the Cal football head coach. Could the carousel reignite this spring with Cuonzo Martin?

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated reports that Cuonzo Martin will be an offseason coaching candidate in a few places, particularly from his Midwest origins.

Cuonzo Martin, California. He’s led both Cal and Tennessee to the NCAA tournament and holds a career record of 183–115. Martin is from East St. Louis, Ill., played at Purdue and got his start as a head coach at Missouri State. His Midwestern roots make it likely Illinois, Missouri or Arkansas could all swoon for him. LSU could be intrigued as well. Expect Martin’s name to be bandied about a lot the next few weeks, as he fits at too many places.

Let’s take a look at each situation.

  • Illinois basketball coach John Groce is on the hot seat. The Illini sit in a tie for next-to-last in the conference. Martin hails from East St. Louis (only a 2-3 hour drive from Champaign) and played on two state title teams there. Our SB Nation Illinois site Champaign Room thinks he’d be a good candidate.
  • Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson has his team sitting on the bubble for the first time in a long time. I’m not sure they’re really thinking about getting a new coach.
  • Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson has struggled mightily in his first three seasons with the Tigers. Martin, as we said before, is from East St. Louis, which is only a two hour drive away.
  • LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones was an abject disaster last season, turning eventual #1 overall pick Ben Simmons into a 19-14 record and no NCAA postseason appearance. With LSU sitting at 9-16 and dead-last in the SEC, you have to imagine the reset button is coming.

I’m a bit more skeptical of these news stories than the Sonny Dykes coaching flirtations. It’s hard to say that ANY of those programs are much more attractive than Cal.

Missouri is at best a lateral move—they’ve made the NCAA tournament five times in the last 14 years. LSU is even worse. They’ve made the Dance a grand total of six times in 24 years. Arkansas has been down on their luck since Nolan Richardson was dismissed, and I can’t believe they’re in the mood to reset with Anderson finding his stride this season.

The only program that makes sense in this calculus is Illinois, and even then the numbers don’t add up. Groce makes about $1.7 million per year on his new contract extension, which is just about what Martin makes at Cal ($1.64 million).

Finally, Martin walking away from Cal and his contract on his own accord to take on another job would mean Martin would have to pay Cal to walk. He’d have to pay the university at least $1 million if he left the program between April 15, 2017 and April 14, 2018, and a little over $1 million if he left before that date. Which means if Illinois fired Groce (who is under contract through 2018-19), they’d have to pony up to make it worth it.