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Dooley Says Staff Exodus At UT Was “A Good Correction For Me”

When a head coach loses seven of his nine assistants in one offseason — an offseason heading into what many view as a make-or-break season, for the matter — it’s hard to put a good spin on the turnover.  But that’s what Derek Dooley has been faced with at Tennessee since last November.  And with each coach who’s left for a lateral job elsewhere the mass exodus has been viewed more and more as a case of rats scurrying to find an exit from a sinking ship.

But don’t tell that to the Vols’ third-year coach:


“Is it normal to have seven coaches transition in a year?  No, it’s very rare for something like that to happen.  But I kind of view it as sort of a correction.  When you start a company, when you start anything, you always have that little initial correction to kind of fix all the things maybe you didn’t get right in the beginning.

I think it was a good correction for me, and I think it’s going to be for the team…

I think some left because the fit wasn’t right.  I think some left because they maybe allowed the fear… the fear made the wolf a little bigger than it was. I think some left just because professionally they thought it would be a good growth situation.

Each coach was unique in why they left, and it’s part of the profession.”


Uh, sort of.

Yes, coaches move.  But not in droves as they did from Knoxville over the past few months (as Dooley freely admitted).  Part of the problem for Dooley’s staffing issues might have resulted from a miscalculation — or a signal sent — on the part of his boss, new AD Dave Hart.

Several of Dooley’s ex-aides were looking for some type of contract extension this past offseason to insure that they wouldn’t be left without a seat in the coaching game should things go poorly for UT this fall.  But Hart wasn’t interested in giving extensions to coaches who had led the Vols to an 11-14 record in two years and who had just blown a 26-game winning streak over Kentucky.

Several of the ex-coaches realized it was better to make a lateral move for a two-year deal than to stay in place on a “you-could-be-done-at-year’s-end” type of pact.  Heck, that’s just smart business.  The bad part for UT, however, was that the school found in order to hire new assistants — many from smaller schools like UCF, The Citadel, and MTSU — Hart and Tennessee wound up having to offer multi-year contracts anyway.

Whether this was a miscalculation on Hart’s part or a message to Dooley that he’d better put things together quickly is anyone’s guess.  In fact, a bit of both could be true.  But the bottom line is this: Dooley’s heading into a key season with seven new assistants and he’s implementing a new 3-4 defense as well… a move that usually works better in Year Two than in Year One of such transitions.

At this point, Dooley’s not willing to compare his last staff to his current one.  He told The Chattanooga Times Free Press that “it’s a little premature” for that kind of call.  He did say, however, that he believes “this group has a real good understanding of Tennessee, the SEC and what it takes to be successful in this league.”

For his sake, he’d better hope so.



Only coach that bothered me was Joseph at the end to Nebraska. Wilcox and Sirmon were a package deal and the guy, Wilcox, wanted to move out West. So he did. Yes, it was a painful loss timing-wise probably and certainly didn't HELP Dooley in any way, but coordinators move at all programs...sometimes even laterally. Could have easily still happened had UT won 8 games last year. And Wilcox had a multi-year deal in place, anyway... Harry Heistand was almost a total failure. Shame on Dooley for hiring his resume at all in the first place/but not for losing him....  JP, you know damn well that Lance Thompson is an absolute trainwreck. Saban will be the last guy, maybe the second to last guy, he ever works for. He wasn't recruiting like he had been. He needed to go, even had the Vols just won the Sugar Bowl.... I agree with Pennington on the TE guy that went to work for Leach. He was only making 200k a year at UT and got a package deal out there with his good friend as his boss who will get at least 3 years for sure out in Washington. Anyone takes that deal...... The receivers coach Baggett was a bad situation. Dooley was damned if he did/damned if he didn't kick Da'rick Rogers off the team. Dooley chose Rogers over Baggett. Time will tell if that was a good idea or not...


Anyway, you saw last weekend why we are even having these discussions. Ol Phil did a crap job as coach post 2001, especially post 2005. Dooley had a total sh-tsandwich for talent the last two years and has done an amazing job in restocking the talent base in a very tough recruiting environment, especially along the o and d line, linebackers, receivers, QB's, really all of it.. But you can't expect true freshman to win games in the SEC, especially second string true freshman, regardless of how good they end up being later on.  


Dooley has had two years of pretty damn good (based upon the tools he had to work with) and one day of disaster (UK game, which yes, was on him).  


Knoxville journalists need Knoxville news fodder to try to get national attention and put money in their pockets. I get that. UT has been losing games, so that's certainly something to talk about. I get that.... But Derrick Dooley day in and day out has been getting the program back a little bit closer to where it needs to be, inch by inch, in a remarkably difficult conference and under very difficult circumstances that he didn't cause or create. People realize that. He very much deserves this third year and probably even a fourth if he can get 7 regular season wins this year. He may or may not be the Vols coach of the future, but he very much is the coach bringing the program back from the total disaster that Fulmer and Kiffin made of it. I don't know who that was available and willing to come on Jan. 20 2010 that could have done any better, in any way Pennington. Do you? You never seem to write about that...


I think the house cleaning will pay dividends in the short term and long term. The only major change is the switch in defense. Which looking at history, does not usually go well the first half of the first year. So I hope the offense is able to score until the defense can get set. The coaching team was put together on the fly with men that were willing to leave a program either right before signing day or after. Your not picking from a full cattle yard when you are doing that. Dooley is from the Saban tree. I am sure he is not the easiest person to work for. Wilcox left because he was not fitting in, and might not liked living in the fish bowl of SEC football. Other coaches were also not performing or fitting in, and were not brought back or left on their own. Only time will tell if we have upgraded our staff that will keep building or if this is the beginning of the end. Hopefully this coaching staff will gel and present a unified gameplan for the players to follow and win.


 I agree with a lot of what both posters said. They had to hire a guy that would pull together a staff that could recruit quickly regardless of their abilities to coach players. That meant keeping guys like Chaney and Thompson to make sure both sides of the ball were represented. Then it appears Dools had a thing for Wilcox while at La Tech. So in he comes and handles his side of the ball with 3 coaches he doesn't even know until Sirmon steps in. Chaney calls on Hiestand and Baggett - guys he knew from the NFL. Dools fills in the rest from guys he knew about and interviewed. The result was a mishmash that was never going to work.  Hart coming in fixed a lot of the problems by being competent and stable. I feel like it is now a staff that can get it done and that will mesh well together if it is not too late. At least the roster was addressed during the period.  Now they have to coach 'em up and git 'er dun.


John, why in the world do you think CDD is going to make it passed this year? What evidence have you seen? And if you don't think he's going to be a long term success,sec titles etc, wouldn't it be best to fire the guy after this year anyway?


Or.... Hart was sending a message directly to some of the coaches in question.  Wilcox, Sirmon, and to a lesser degree Thompson probably left because they wanted something more secure for the future of their careers.  Baggett was pretty much fired.  Hiestand, Russell?  The OL stank at run blocking, never got better, and seemed detached from their coach.  Russell's special teams were anything but while his TE's didn't seem to know what to do.


Thompson wanted to be DC.  For whatever reason, he wasn't seriously considered.


So as Dooley said... they left for different reasons.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



You are consistently the angriest ranter on this site.  This is an SEC site.  I do television and radio across the South.  I happen to live in Knoxville at the moment, but if you think that changes the way this site operates -- pro- or anti-UT -- you're delusional.


Now, watch the language or I'll delete your posts as I have others.  


Second, I wrote a long piece at the time of Dooley's hiring explaining why Tennessee had a hard time finding a coach.  Listed about 10 factors that went into that mess.  But, no, I'm not going to write that again and again.


If you want pro-Vol news, tune to your nearest Rivals, Scout or 24/7 site.  If you want to know what's going on around the league from a guy who talks to people at every league outpost and who doesn't give a flip who wins or loses, then come here.


Either way, watch the cursing... and dropping one letter from a four-letter word won't cut it.


Thanks for reading,



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