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Missouri State brings back Cuonzo Martin to lead its basketball program

Missouri State hired Cuonzo Martin on Wednesday, bringing back the only coach to lead its basketball program to a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title more than a decade after he left Springfield for stints in power conferences.

Martin signed a five-year contract through the 2028-29 season with a base salary of $600,000 and incentives for NCAA Tournament and NIT appearances, conference championships, coaching honors and other benchmarks.

“Zo is an experienced coach who has consistently won at the Division I level,” Missouri State athletic director Kyle Moats said. “He is respected both nationally and here in our community, and he brings instant credibility to our program.”

Martin spent 2008-11 with the Bears, going 11-20 his first season before going 24-12 and winning the CIT in Year 2 and finishing 26-9 with an appearance in the NIT in his third year. That got the former Purdue standout hired by Tennessee, where he led the Volunteers to a pair of NIT appearances and a trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.

Martin then spent three years at California, taking that program to the NCAA tourney in 2016, before spending five seasons at Missouri. He led the Tigers to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances — both first-round exits — but was just 78-77 overall with one winning conference record, and he was fired two years ago after the Tigers struggled to a 12-21 finish.

Martin, who has a 264-198 career record, will be reintroduced to Missouri State fans during a news conference Monday. He replaces Dana Ford, who was fired after six seasons and a single NIT appearance.

“One of the things that stands out about (Martin) is that he really wants to be at Missouri State,” Moats said. "His track record with our donors, our fans and our students will make this an easy transition. In my opinion, there was not a better coach out there to lead our young men.”

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball