The coaching search hardly anyone wanted to make in the first place reached a swift and unexpected conclusion Sunday night.
What is relevant is whether he’s a good hire or not. And we have no way of knowing the answer to that one for a while.
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter whether athletic director Mike Hamilton and Martin win the press conference today.
First impressions are nice, but what matters is whether Martin can win over the shell-shocked players he inherits from Bruce Pearl and the recruits he needs to compete for SEC titles in the coming years.
Martin probably wasn’t UT’s first choice. Whether he was first, second or 22nd also doesn’t matter.
Of the handful of major schools sitting at the coach-search poker table, Tennessee wasn’t holding the best hand.
The program faces as-yet undetermined NCAA sanctions. Thus, luring a proven head coach from a major program was going to be a stretch, no matter how deep Tennessee’s pockets.
So you cross a Jamie Dixon or a Jay Wright off the list and go to the next rung. Which is Martin’s rung.
Martin’s head-coaching resume is thin: three years at Missouri State. Thin can still be impressive, especially when you factor in eight years on Gene Keady’s staff at Purdue.
That he might have been in play — or eventually come into play — for other vacancies could have factored in UT’s sense of urgency to get him hired.
A segment of Big Orange fans understandably look longingly to the guys who are headed to Houston: Butler’s Brad Stevens or Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart.
Stevens wasn’t coming to UT. He’s got a better job.
Smart is on an amazing run, but his head-coaching resume is even thinner — two years at VCU.
Smart, from all appearances, is a bright young coach. But for the sake of argument, here’s a point to consider.
If VCU didn’t get virtually the 68th and last bid to the NCAA tournament, no one would be talking about Smart today. VCU finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Martin, meanwhile, coached Missouri State to the title of its league, the Missouri Valley Conference. There’s something to be said for excellence in the longer haul — two months as opposed to two weeks.
We don’t know yet how good of a coach Martin will be but we know enough that his toughness is beyond question.
He hails from East St. Louis, Ill., which will never be confused with Beverly Hills. He, ironically, planned to sign with Illinois. He didn’t, because Illinois in 1990 was facing NCAA sanctions over the Deon Thomas case — initiated by Pearl’s controversial tactics as an Iowa assistant coach.
Instead Martin went to Purdue to play for Keady, who today calls Martin “the best leader I ever had.’’
Then Martin had to overcome a near-fatal bout with cancer — non-Hodgkins lymphoma — in the late 1990s. He lost 40 pounds but said the will to watch his 4-month-old son grow up inspired his survival.
That son, Joshua, is 13. He’ll be looking for a middle school in Knoxville.
And his dad has a challenge on his hands.
Whether Martin was a surprising hire or whether he was Tennessee’s first choice is meaningless and will be forgotten in time.
All that matters is whether he’s up to the challenge.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6276. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 or http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.