Tuesday morning, April 22, Donnie Tyndall was named the newest Tennessee basketball coach. He is the fifth coach the Vols have had since the turn of the new millennium.
Tyndall, a Michigan-native, comes in with a winning background. He’s been to two NCAA tournaments with Morehead State, including an improbable run into the third round of the 2011 tournament after upsetting heavily favored Louisville. He’s won two conference tournaments in the Ohio Valley Conference while with Morehead State, led Southern Miss to a regular season conference title this past year in Conference USA, and boasted a 56-17 record during his two years at Southern Miss.
While he has a successful background, Tyndall’s accomplishments up until now mean, well, nothing. He’ll be starting over from scratch at Tennessee after all four commitments the Vols had before Cuonzo Martin’s unexpected departure have all asked for, and been granted releases from the program with National Signing Day closing in quickly.
The good news for Tyndall is he’ll be able to recruit for, and begin building a team centered around his style of play immediately. The Vols have six open scholarships for the 2015 class with the departure of four seniors, the transfer of Quinton Chievous, and the early declaration for the NBA Draft of Jarnell Stokes.
Tyndall said in his press conference Tuesday that he plans to implement a defensive style of play much like Louisville’s, which means they would press after every made basket, and wants the offense to push the ball off of missed shots and get out in transition. So although it may not have been the name they wanted, a stubborn Tennessee fan base still got what they essentially asked for.
Tennessee’s die-hard fan base may be the only negative Tyndall may have inherited initially. This is the same fan base that feels their school is on the same level as the Kentucky’s, Duke’s, and UCLA’s, even though the most they have to show for as far as winning goes throughout their history is one Elite Eight appearance.
This is the same fan base that, while he won’t admit it, had to have played some sort of role in the unexpected exit of coach Martin. Granted that Martin’s performance with the team at the beginning of this season, and in the middle of conference play was less than satisfactory given the expectations even by experts for the team this season, the fan base may well have driven away a coach that was one bad charge call away from getting the Vols to their second Elite Eight in school history, and driving him to a school with possibly less to offer than Tennessee.
While the Vols do have the facilities and resources to build a winning basketball brand, the fact still remains that’s not what they are just yet, and the fans must accept it will take time in order for this to happen. Tyndall has still inherited a good situation at Tennessee, as he’ll get to reap the rewards of Josh Richardson returning, after he began to really blossom as a scorer late in the season, as well as the return of former five-star prospect Robert Hubbs III who was sidelined due to a shoulder injury that forced him into surgery midway through the season.
Tyndall’s main focus now must shift to filling those six empty slots. It’s expected that most will be filled by junior college transfers, which would at least give the Vols a little more experience heading into the 2014-2015 season, and allow Tyndall to begin a fresh search for 2016 recruits with a whole year to do so.
Related article: http://isportsweb.com/2014/04/15/tennessee-basketball-gonzo-cuonzo/