During his four years as a Purdue player and eight as an assistant coach, Martin learned how work ethic leads to winning. Such a formula has taken 11th-seeded Tennessee through three NCAA Tournament wins, and a chance to further extend its season.
Speaking at Lucas Oil Stadium, one day shy of the Volunteers' contest with Michigan, Martin reflected on his relationship with Gene Keady.
"He taught me a lot of things," Martin said. "Obviously he's a great coach, but I think more of his teaching taught me things in life to be consistent."
It was Keady who first recruited Martin to West Lafayette, then later offered a spot on his Purdue bench as an assistant. Two decades later, the former Boilermaker is succeeding as a head coach.
"I'll never forget when he came to my home in East St. Louis, a lot of coaches come in, sell me different t things, talk about different things, the things that Coach Keady talked about was if you go to class every day you'll get a degree," Martin said.
"And at that time I wouldn't say I appreciate it, but my mom, she liked it and she respected that and she said, I think you need to go to Purdue. It's probably one of the greatest decisions I made in my life because Coach was a good man. He was a fair man."
One of the most notable coaching philosophies Martin took from Keady was very simple: "If you work hard, you'll play." It has rubbed off on the team.
Off the court, Martin carries one of Keady's most important philosophies.
"If you go to class every day, you'll put $100 in your bank account," Martin said, offering one of Keady's sayings. "If you miss a class you'll take a thousand out. So that means you got to go to class every day."
Martin is the fifth Keady disciple to reach the Sweet 16 as a head coach. Only Steve Lavin and Bruce Weber have pushed past that point. With a win over Michigan, Martin can join this company.
For Martin, the opportunity for elite success could come just down the road from where it all started. If it weren't for Keady, who knows where Martin would be?
"He doesn't get the credit he deserves, even though he's a Hall of Famer," Martin said. "I think because of his humble approach that's why he's so respected."