April 22nd, 2014 10:14 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Morehead State, SEC, Sweet Sixteen, UT
By most accounts Donnie Tyndall looks to be a pretty good hire for Tennessee’s basketball program. The Vols’ new coach built up Morehead State over the span of six years. At Southern Miss he slightly improved upon Larry Eustachy’s rebuilding job the last two years. He knows the South, has recruited in the SEC before (as an LSU assistant) and — perhaps most importantly for some UT fans — he’s said to have a “big personality.”
There was also an NCAA run-in while at Morehead State, but apparently Tennessee brass heard a good explanation from Tyndall during their rushed Monday romance.
The Volunteers’ latest coach will officially begin his tenure today at 2:00pm ET in Knoxville. You can bet he’ll say all the right things at that introductory presser. He’ll know why a vocal part of the Big Orange fanbase turned on Cuonzo Martin — a slow style of play and an unwillingness to “sell his program.” Expect Tyndall to talk about “embracing the fans,” playing “an exciting style” of basketball as well as stating that he’ll be happy to wear a bright orange jacket that Bruce Pearl and Martin wore for special rivalries.
It was only four years ago that a fella named Derek Dooley won Vol fans over by saying such un-Kiffiny things as “embrace the traditions” and “britches” at his press conference. He never said “britches” again, never embraced Tennessee’s traditions and flopped on the field, proving that introductory comments really don’t mean much once the actual games begin.
For Tyndall’s sake, he certainly needs everyone in the UT fanbase to come together behind him. That never happened for Martin. From Day One he was simply “Not Pearl.” He won 19, 20 and 24 games and went to a Sweet Sixteen. Only John Calipari and Billy Donovan won more SEC games the last three years. His thanks was an extension that would have put him at eighth on the league’s pay chart and a decreased buyout. It’s a safe bet that no other SEC school outside of Kentucky would have run off someone with Martin’s record. And Tennessee is no Kentucky when it comes to history.
Those against Martin were vocal from the start and with an underachieving regular season — not unlike Kentucky this year — their discontent spread quickly. Several thousand folks put their names on a petition that helped steer several candidates (by all accounts) away from the UT job. Not only A-listers passed, but so too did a three-year coaching veteran from Louisiana Tech. Michael White wanted a big buyout for security’s sake. No wonder. But that didn’t happen and the La Tech coach passed on the Tennessee job, bringing to mind this:
So Tyndall became the guy because several other guys said “no thanks.” That doesn’t mean he’ll flop anymore than saying the right things today will mean he’ll succeed. If he does play an exciting style — Ken Pomeroy’s tempo ratings suggest his teams play only slightly faster than Martin’s teams — and if he does play the role of showman — one Vol writer says UT hoops fans require an “experience” to support hoops — then he’ll likely do just fine.
That is until he loses to Pearl and Auburn. At that point, don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t break out a new petition.
Martin’s tenure showed that winning isn’t enough at Tennessee. A coach has to win big and act as a salesman/promoter/carnival barker if he’s to win over all the Vol backers. (It’s a good thing UT didn’t make a run at a guy like Ben Howland who’s not exactly known for being PT Barnum — though it sounds like his UCLA program did become a circus away from the court.)
Until Tyndall sinks or swims with his coaching and warmth, we would suggest Volunteer fans actually support the guy. Buy in from the outset and let Tyndall prove you wrong. If folks start out as skeptics, it’s much harder to win them over. Ask Martin.
Tyndall is UT’s fifth basketball coach in 15 years. If Tennessee’s fans support the man from the get-go and if he proves to coach and sell well, maybe he’ll be around Knoxville longer than the man he’s replacing.
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