- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2011

KNOXVILLE, TENN. (AP) - With possible NCAA sanctions looming, Tennessee officials are confident new men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin will win “the right way.”

Martin accepted the job well aware of the potential hurdles swirling around the program.

The former Missouri State coach said during his introduction Monday that he has done his homework on the possible NCAA punishment and has also received assurances from athletics director Mike Hamilton regarding the situation.

“It’s a great job. It’s a great opportunity, has great tradition, great history,” Martin said. “For me, as far as the NCAA is concerned, Mike has assured me that everything will work out, and I support that 100 percent. Whatever happens with the NCAA, I will be the coach.”

Martin was one of 14 candidates Hamilton said Tennessee seriously considered and was introduced a week after Bruce Pearl was fired for recruiting violations. Pearl and the Vols’ basketball program have been charged with 10 violations, including an unethical conduct charge against Pearl for lying to NCAA investigators.

School officials will go before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on June 10-11, with final word on the Vols’ punishment likely not coming until the fall.

Hamilton said he talked to Martin’s former coach and boss at Purdue _ Gene Keady _ before deciding to hire him as someone who can win at Tennessee.

Cuonzo will win at the University of Tennessee … More than that, he’s going to do it the right way,” Hamilton said.

Tennessee gave Martin a five-year deal guaranteeing him $1.3 million plus bonuses related to the team’s success with the option of a two-year extension after a 24-month review.

The school also gave Martin protection in his contract against whatever sanctions the NCAA does hand down. His original deal will be extended based on the number of years Tennessee is punished either with restrictions on recruiting, ban on postseason play or reduction of scholarships.

Martin noted Tennessee’s rich tradition and how he played high school ball against eventual Vols star Allan Houston. He said he called Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt and wished her luck in a regional semifinal against Notre Dame on Monday night, and he became a fan of Peyton Manning while living in Indiana.

When Tennessee officials contacted him, Martin said he checked into what the Vols face and weighed that against what he called “a great opportunity.”

“I wouldn’t say (there was) hesitancy, I would say it was more of asking questions,” he said. “After that, there wasn’t a lot of reservations at all.”

Martin went 61-41 in three seasons at Missouri State after eight years as an assistant coach at Purdue under Keady and Matt Painter. During his tenure, the Bears improved from 11-20 in his first season to 26-9 in the 2010-11 season, earning them their first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship and Martin the MVC coach of the year honor.

As a player at Purdue, Martin scored 1,666 points in 127 career games and set the Boilermakers’ single-game record for 3-pointers with eight in an NCAA regional semifinal victory over Kansas in 1994.

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