All things considered, things worked out as well for Michigan as can reasonably be expected for an NCAA Tournament bubble team that lost its head coach for the remainder of the regular season after he slapped an opposing coach in the head.

That, of course, is quite literally yesterday’s news.

Whether you agree that Michigan’s 5-game suspension of Juwan Howard is sufficient punishment for his postgame actions at Wisconsin on Sunday — and I certainly don’t — that matter is now behind us.

The issue at hand, starting with Wednesday night’s game against Rutgers, is how the 14-11 Wolverines can build a strong enough résumé to get back to the tourney.

And that’s where Michigan is lucky that it has a veteran like Phil Martelli to step into Howard’s shoes until the start of the Big Ten Tournament.

Martelli’s moment arrives — a few decades late

Martelli was ready to coach at a program like Michigan decades ago.

It could have been as early as 1996, when he led Saint Joseph’s to the Sweet 16 in just his second season. The Hawks also reached the NIT championship game in Year 1, and at 39 years old, he was at an ideal age to jump to something bigger.

But Martelli shares more in common with Benjamin Franklin than a hairline. He’s a Philadelphia guy, through and through. So he stayed at Saint Joe’s.

It paid off for both sides in 2004 as the Hawks embarked on one of the greatest seasons by a 21st century college basketball team. Led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, the Hawks started the year 27-0 before finally losing to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Saint Joseph’s rebounded to reach the Elite Eight, losing a 64-62 classic to Oklahoma State when John Lucas III drained a 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Without Lucas hitting that shot, Saint Joe’s was absolutely good enough to win a national championship that instead went to UConn.

But Martelli hardly needed that hardware to land a bigger gig. He was the AP coach of the year. The Naismith coach of the year. The Henry Iba Award winner. At that point, there couldn’t have been many programs that would have turned him down if he showed interest.

Maybe it was the lack of Wawas around the country. Or plain-old loyalty. But even though it would be nearly impossible to replicate his 2004 team at a school like Saint Joseph’s, Martelli stayed.

And stayed some more.

There was sporadic success in the 15 ensuing seasons. Another loss in the NIT title game in 2005. Three more trips to the NCAA Tournament, including a 2nd-round appearance in 2016.

But following a third straight non-winning season in 2019, Saint Joseph’s athletic director Jill Bodensteiner controversially ended Martelli’s 24-year tenure at the school.

Juwan Howard’s savviest move

Juwan Howard’s stupidest coaching move placed Michigan in a position where it needed to replace him for the final 5 games of this season. But his savviest coaching move will allow the Wolverines to stay in NCAA Tournament consideration despite his absence.

When Michigan hired Howard to coach his alma mater in 2019, there was just one concern: He had no experience coaching or recruiting at the college level. Things are much different than in the NBA, where he had spent the previous 6 years as an assistant after retiring from his playing career.

Howard knew he needed a veteran assistant to show him the ropes. In fact, it was his top priority. He reached out to Martelli before even interviewing at Michigan, figuring he needed to develop a foolproof plan to seal the deal.

They had never even crossed paths before, but Howard kept hearing Martelli’s name pop up when he asked others who he should build his staff around.

“Coach Martelli is like the godfather. Everywhere we go, ‘Phil Martelli, we love Phil Martelli!” Howard told the Detroit Free Press in 2019.

One conversation was pretty much all it took to sell both on the relationship.

It felt like a brilliant move at the time, but there was obviously no guarantee it would work. Or for how long.

But Martelli is clearly comfortable being Howard’s right-hand man. It’s a perfect basketball marriage. And now he’s the right man at the right time as Michigan attempts to stay afloat until Howard returns.