AD Mike Hamilton on the end of Bruce Pearl's career at UT
Mike Hamilton expected at least two questions when the coaching candidates he was interviewing got a chance to return fire.
The first one was obvious, and the Tennessee athletic director had to clear what he could reveal about the ongoing NCAA investigation beforehand.
And the second never actually came up at all.
Neither Cuonzo Martin nor any of the unnamed coaches who didn't get his new job asked how long they could expect Hamilton to be their boss at UT. And during Martin's press conference on Monday in the Ray Mears Room after Hamilton formally introduced him with the Vols, there were really no indications whatsoever that their time working together could be short.
"I expected it, frankly, but we didn't have any," Hamilton said of questions about his job security. "There were a couple questions about NCAA issues, but other than that, there were no questions about campus leadership, athletic department leadership or anything of that nature.
"You know, a guy like Cuonzo, he was most concerned about being in a place where he felt like he could win and that he would have the right kind of resources to win. Frankly, he didn't ask a whole lot of questions about the issues with the NCAA because he wanted to be at the University of Tennessee."
Now that he's officially there after leaving Missouri State for a five-year deal at UT, potential sanctions from the NCAA conceivably could impact how much and how quickly Martin is able to win with the Vols.
But regardless of the early returns, it would appear Hamilton will be around to see how his latest hire fares after UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek again voiced his support for the athletic director.
"I think if you look at this hire we just made, we really made an excellent hire - Mike Hamilton is behind it," Cheek said. "He's the one that made the decision. He asked me to come in and look at Cuonzo, and I did. I said, 'This is the person I think we ought to hire.'
"(Hamilton) made that decision, so I have confidence in his decision-making ability. He's our athletic director."
With that public support from the administration and a new coach in tow, the next step is moving on to the case with the NCAA and figuring out what limitations, if any, Martin will be facing.
The time line for knowing the exact penalties and the severity of them still is unclear, though UT does have its date with the Committee on Infractions on the schedule in June. That uncertainty might have made finding a replacement for Bruce Pearl more challenging in the aftermath of the Notice of Allegations UT received last month, which included 10 violations from Pearl's tenure.
Hamilton could offer no guarantees about the eventual verdict from the NCAA to anybody he interviewed. But Martin, for one, apparently didn't hear anything that would dissuade him from passing on the Vols. And should he inherit restrictions on recruiting, a ban on postseason play or a reduction on scholarships, Martin also has some insurance built into a contract that will add a year for each season of punishment he faces.
"I wouldn't necessarily say (there was) hesitancy, I would say more of asking questions," Martin said. "I think that was the most important thing for me, then also it was a great opportunity. After that, there wasn't a lot of reservation at all.
"For one, it's a great job. It's a great opportunity, has great tradition, great history, it's in a great league. But for me, as far as the NCAA is concerned, Mike assured me everything will work out, and I support that 100 percent. Whatever happens with the NCAA, I'm here to coach a ball team and be successful doing it. I'm really not concerned or worried with what the NCAA has to do, what they have to say, we'll just kind of wait and see what happens. For right now, I want to try to coach these quality young men to be successful."
Martin can start that process right now as he begins to shape the program in his image. Any limitations he might eventually have to deal with along the way have yet to be determined. But for now, it appears Hamilton will continue to be around to offer some help.