Martin also spoke with Marquette about its coaching vacancy a few weeks ago, but he pulled his name from consideration. Hart said soon afterward that the university was reworking Martin's contract. Martin also released a statement through the university on April 1 reaffirming his position at Tennessee, saying "Tennessee is where I want to be. That has never changed."
Two weeks later, it did.
Many of Martin's former Tennessee players expressed support for the coach on Twitter. Some even referenced the fan backlash as a reason he left.
"Can't treat people any kind of way and expect good in return," wrote Vols guard Jordan McRae.
Martin, for his part, downplayed the petition. He said he didn't pay attention to it at first, then tried to use it as motivation for his players during the season's stretch run.
"They just woke up a hungry bear," Martin said. "It wasn't a big deal at all."
Hart said he did not believe Martin left because of money. Martin was set to make $1.35 million the next two years, which ranked him in the bottom half of Southeastern Conference coaches, but Hart said Tennessee offered him a two-year extension worth $1.8 million in each of the next four years. Martin's buyout option from Tennessee dropped from $2.6 million to $1.3 million on April 1.
Martin is not the only one changing his tune about Tennessee, either.
Kingsley Okoroh, a 7-foot-1 center originally from England who played this season for Westwind Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, announced on Twitter that he has switched his verbal commitment from Tennessee to California. Okoroh had verbally committed to Tennessee on Monday.
Martin previously served as coach at Missouri State, going 61-41 in three seasons, including win totals of 24 and 26 in his final two seasons. In 2010-11, Martin guided Missouri State to the regular-season Missouri Valley championship and was named the conference's Coach of the Year.
As a player, Martin earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 1995 at Purdue when he averaged 18.4 points per game and made 91 3-pointers. After playing two seasons in the NBA, he served on the staff at his alma mater from 2000-08 -- first as an assistant coach under Gene Keady and in his final year as associate head coach.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.