New Tennessee football coach Butch Jones is making a hard push to become the anti-Derek Dooley around the Volunteer State.
Dooley and his crew didn’t have great relationships with many high school coaches throughout the state. Jones has had his staff criss-crossing Tennessee from Bristol to Memphis in order to create ties. Dooley kept most ex-Vol players at arm’s length. Jones has opened his arms to those folks and embraced them. Dooley — like all coaches — had some prickly relationships a few players’ families. Jones is asking his players’ parents them to ring him whenever they like.
This isn’t to say Jones is wrong to do any of the above. But that last action could lead to some real headaches for the new Tennessee coach.
According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, Jones last week sent a letter to the parents of UT’s football players. In it he invited them to attend a Family Day barbecue in mid-March. He also told the parents that they’re “welcome to call him at any time.”
Now some parents from pee-wee ball to the SEC will question their son’s coach — “Why isn’t Little Timmy starting?!?!?” — regardless of whether said coach has invited them to do so or not. But for Jones to tell parents to call him any time? One expression comes to mind: “If you give ‘em an inch they’ll take a mile.”
Perhaps Jones is ready to be peppered with calls and texts and drop-ins from ex-lettermen to mamas and papas. But there’s a reason most coaches these days are a bit more closed off — at some point a coach needs to coach.
Jones has had success everywhere he’s been and if this has worked for him in the past, then there’s no reason to believe his open-door policy won’t work now. And he certainly knows how to market his new program to those folks closest to it. But when the phone’s ringing off the hook after a loss this fall, UT’s new coach may regret giving out his phone number and opening up his office door.