Mizzou's Martin adjusts to 'coaching' under quarantine

Posted at 2:26 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 18:05:39-04

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic hit home for Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin when his agent, Buddy Baker, lost both of his parents to the virus six minutes apart.

"He's also a guy that was a manager at Purdue," Martin said. "We grew up together, known each other since we were probably 20 years old."

Baker recently told his story to Sports Illustrated.

As for the rest of Martin's life, it has slowed down like everybody else's, but he's trying to focus on the positive from the pandemic and its resulting stay-at-home orders.

"Since I got into this profession, it was 2000, and it's been going 90 mph since 2000," Martin said Tuesday during a video conference. "It's been great for me just to be around my children, my wife."

His son, Chase, is a high-level senior basketball recruit, but Cuonzo's role has been reduced to "rebounder" these days.

"He does his workouts out there and I go get the rebounds," Cuonzo said. "He's waiting around to see what he's going to do."

As far as his Tigers players, Cuonzo knows the temptation that comes with quarantine.

"I know if I was 18 to 22 years old, I know I would probably be in somebody's gym," Cuonzo said.

He admitted that he didn't know much about the virus at first, but had hesitations about initial plans to play games without fans.

"That was the one thing I said, 'I just don't understand how you can remove fans but the players are still playing the game and interacting and making contact with each other,'" Martin said.

Ultimately, the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament was canceled outright, just before Mizzou was to play.

The Tigers would have been guaranteed at least one more game, but other teams missed out on as many as eight to 10 games without conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament.

Still, Martin agrees with the NCAA's decision not to grant extra eligibility to winter sport athletes.

"It's not as if it was 20-plus games lost in a season," he said. "Then, you look at it from a revenue standpoint. Financially, how does that burden impact the universities and campuses."

Mizzou's staff keeps in contact with the players every day.

Cuonzo isn't sure whether the team will be allowed on campus for the summer, so they've been told to work out with what they have in the meantime.

"This is a tremendous time where you can outwork the competition," Cuonzo said. "Let me see what you have in your house? What do you have to work with? And one thing I always say to the guys, 'Try to do as much ball-handling as possible.'"

Right now, though, it's more about life coaching than basketball coaching.

"Scary times, real times, unfortunate times," Cuonzo said. "You have to be very careful — a lot of learning lessons, and hopefully not painful lessons."