By Alex Norman
A week after Cuonzo Martin resigned, Tennessee hired Donnie Tyndall as the 19th men’s basketball coach in program history.
“I’m humbled to be your coach,” said Tyndall in his introductory press conference on Tuesday, April 22nd in front of media, boosters, and players at Pratt Pavilion. “I think Tennessee is a special place. Many people would ask ‘why do you think that coach?’ I say this, the tradition starting with Coach Ray Mears and all the great coaches that have coached at this university. The success that has been passed on from year to year, so many great coaches and I’m proud to be one of them, or at least be a head coach grouped in with those guys at this point… The tradition in athletics and then the basketball program is second to none.”
“We are excited to add Donnie Tyndall to the Tennessee family,” said Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart. “He has a proven track record of success and has won at every level at which he has coached. Donnie brings tremendous positive energy and a strong work ethic to this important leadership role, and we look forward to his impact on our men’s basketball program.”
Tyndall has compiled a 200-107 record in his 9 seasons as a head coach, with a 170-102 mark in Division 1. He spent six seasons at Morehead Stare and the past two years he was running the show at Southern Miss. In 2013-2014, the Golden Eagles finished with a 29-7 record and a share of the Conference USA title. He plans on bringing his aggressive style of play to the Vols, a style which should appeal to Tennessee fans.
“We full court press on every made basket and dead ball,” said Tyndall. “We get after people from end line to end line. We fall back to an aggressive matchup zone. Offensively, we are going to push the basketball on misses and long rebounds. In the half-court we are going to run a high-low motion with a ton of ball screening trying to give our guards the freedom to create and make plays.”
Martin’s departure to take the California job caught many off guard, especially when you consider that only a couple of weeks before he said that he would return to Tennessee for the 2014-2015 season.
“I think every coach has their own reasons to make a move,” said Tyndall. “What is important to them and their family. Obviously, Coach Martin did a fantastic job and he made a decision that he felt was best for him and his family. Just like I had to make a tough decision to leave Southern Miss because I think this is the right opportunity for my family… I really can’t answer as to why, I am sure he has his reasons. But I am certainly glad he made that decision.”
Tennessee men’s basketball hasn’t exactly been the model of stability over the past couple of decades. Since 1989, the average length of a coaches’ tenure has been a little over four years. But Tyndall says that he doesn’t see his move to Knoxville as a temporary one.
“Tennessee to me is a destination job,” said Tyndall. “I know that is going to vary year-to-year, but arguably it is in one of the better conferences in the country (SEC) year in and year out. I think it is a place that is my network of recruiting-wise in the southeast, the states I have recruited for 15 years. I have the network and the relationships to be able to get quality players each and every year. I just think, again, the fan base, the passion that our fans have, when you can get 18,000 to 20,000 fans in the gym every night… that is appealing.”
Tyndall will have his work cut out for him next season. Seniors Jordan McRae and Jeronne Maymon have used up their eligibility and junior Jarnell Stokes is going pro.
“When you look at the roster we lost 72% of our scoring and 69% of our rebounding, so when I meet with these guys individually I’ll tell them that somebody needs to step up,” said Tyndall. “I could see it in their eyes in my meeting with them that we have a young, eager group… guys that are ready to work…. My message was very short and simple, I’m a very short, no nonsense guy, my MO everywhere has been that we are going to outwork and out tough people… but everybody’s got to buy in and I anticipate all these guys and the four signees to do just that.”