By Steve Williams
When John Currie was introduced as UT’s new athletics director, you may remember him saying he wanted to take his time and get acquainted with athletes, coaches and everyone connected with the Tennessee program before he made any major decisions.
And there was one comment he repeated often as he was interviewed on local radio and television stations.
“The good Lord gave me two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason and the first thing I’ve got to do is get around and listen,” he said. “To see and learn and reconnect with folks.”
Obviously, what Currie heard and saw from the Tennessee men’s tennis program wasn’t to his liking as he served longtime head coach Sam Winterbotham the pink slip about a week after the Vols were ousted by Texas A&M 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament that was held in Knoxville April 26-30.
That decision came as a surprise and had to get the attention of other UT head coaches in the program, particularly baseball skipper Dave Serrano.
From all accounts, Serrano is a good guy and a hard worker who has been determined to get his program on the right track, but his teams unfortunately have been struggling for years just to make a 12-team tournament field in a 14-member conference.
This “bonus” season, as many fans would call it, has been pretty much like the others as the diamond Vols headed into their final two weekends of regular season conference play.
Winterbotham’s teams won three SEC titles in 11 years and played for the NCAA championship in 2010. Those numbers overall are pretty impressive.
Compared to Sam’s worksheet, Dave doesn’t appear to have a chance of meeting Currie’s standards for success.
Well, maybe he does, if Serrano’s Vols make the SEC tourney field this year and battle their way to the conference title game and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
Despite all of Winterbotham’s success, Currie must have viewed his program as one on the way down.
Tennessee men’s tennis hadn’t been up to par the past two seasons. The Vols went winless in SEC play in 2016 and slightly improved to 3-9 this season. They had won four matches in a row before falling to the Aggies.
Winterbotham had a young team but some outstanding recruits coming in and believed the Vols were in good shape to turn things around next season.
But Currie pulled the plug. It had to send shockwaves throughout the UT Athletics Department.
In the meantime, the good Lord blessed me with one nose and I’m going to do some sniffing around and hunting for clues as to where Currie may strike next and in the future.
As for UT’s other spring sports, co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly are on safe ground in softball, although Thursday’s 6-2 loss to No. 6 seed LSU in the SEC quarterfinals in their home ball park probably blew their chances of hosting a NCAA Super Regional.
Currie should have concerns regarding men’s and women’s golf.
Women’s tennis, under former Lady Vol great and first-year head coach Alison Ojeda, advanced to the NCAA regional at Duke this past weekend, while the track teams were in the SEC meet in Columbia and UT rowing was scheduled to host the Big 12 Conference championship in Oak Ridge. Yes, the Big 12.
Odds are Currie’s trail will lead to Serrano’s door soon after the season and the meeting between the two will be short but not sweet.
It would be easy to say Serrano just needs to go now, but that wouldn’t be fair to him or his players. They deserve the chance to play out the season.
Besides, the good Lord also gave me one mouth, and I don’t want to have to pull my foot out of it.