Tennessee seeks stability with 'an elite basketball coach'

For Rick Barnes, it is a small step down.

The University of Tennessee hopes it is a step in the right direction following a series of missteps that have created instability within the men’s basketball program.

Barnes agreed to become UT’s next basketball coach Tuesday, days after his 17-year run at the University of Texas ended. Texas is one of the most well-funded athletics departments in the country. Under Barnes, its program was a perennial NCAA Tournament participant (16 appearances in his 17 years) and one that has produced eight first-round NBA draft picks in the last decade.

At Tennessee, he becomes the fourth coach in five years and takes over a program that has lost two coaches to NCAA infractions (Bruce Pearl and Donnie Tyndall) and another to fan dissatisfaction (Cuonzo Martin).

“Rick Barnes is an elite basketball coach in every respect," Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart said in a statement announcing the hire. "Rick brings an extremely impressive track record of excellence, as well as much-needed stability, to our men's basketball program. This is an exciting day for our Tennessee family.”

1977-78: North State Academy, assistant coach
1978-80: Davidson, assistant coach
1980-85: George Mason, assistant coach
1985-86: Alabama, assistant coach
1986-87: Ohio State, assistant coach
1987-88: George Mason, head coach
1988-94: Providence, head coach
1994-98: Clemson, head coach
1998-2015: Texas, head coach
2015-present: Tennessee, head coach

The 60-year-old Barnes is 604-314 (a .658 winning percentage) in 28 years as an NCAA Division I head coach. He has taken his teams to the NCAA Tournament 22 times, including 19 of the last 20, with one Final Four appearance (Texas, 2003). Only 30 coaches have won more games in Division I, and 96 of those victories have come against ranked opponents, 34 of them against teams in the top 10.

Barnes will be introduced at a 3 p.m. (CDT) news conference.

Mar 31, 2015 11:23 AM

Report: Rick Barnes poised to become Tennessee's next basketball coach

Rick Barnes will go from one UT to another … although the shade of orange will change slightly.

247Sports reported Monday that the former University of Texas coach would replace Donnie Tyndall at the University of Tennessee.

"It's gonna happen sooner than later," one source told the website. "I wouldn't be surprised if there is an agreement in principle by the end of (Monday) night."

A short time later, ESPN.com reported that a formal offer had been made.

Barnes and Texas parted ways Saturday after 17 seasons during which the Longhorns made 16 NCAA tournament appearances, appeared in the Sweet 16 five times and the Final Four once. They also won three Big 12 titles during that time.

Tennessee fired Tyndall last week for NCAA violations committed during his two years as coach at Southern Miss.

Barnes also coached at George Mason, Providence and Clemson. His career record as a head coach is 604-314 and nine of his teams finished ranked among the top 20. He is Texas’ all-time winningest coach at 402-180.

At his farewell press conference Sunday, Barnes said he expected to be a head coach once again.

“Yeah, quicker than you probably think,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mar 30, 2015 3:11 PM

Hart thought Tyndall learned from first go-round with NCAA violations

Dave Hart knew that Donnie Tyndall’s record with the NCAA was not perfect.

What the University of Tennessee athletics director did not know was that Tyndall, who had been punished while he was head coach at Morehead State, continued to break the rules after he took over the program at Southern Miss.

If he had, he would not have hired Tyndall last April to replace Cuonzo Martin as UT’s men’s basketball coach. He also would not have needed fire Tyndall after one 16-16 season, which he did Friday.

“I was convinced at the time that Donnie had learned from that,” Hart said, according to a press conference transcript posted on the UT athletics website. “… There are a lot of coaches in the industry who have had a transgression but never had another one. Was that a risk worth taking? Not standing here today, it wasn't."

The investigation into the Southern Miss program began last November. The NCAA has not issued its report, but Hart said he expects Tyndall, who recently met with NCAA investigators for a second time, to be found guilty of major violations. That allowed the university to fire the coach with cause.

In August 2010, Morehead State’s program was put on probation for two years for recruiting violations related to booster activity. Tyndall was 114-85 in five seasons (2006-12) as head coach there and led the program to the 2009 OVC title and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 25 years.

UT’s decision to fire Tyndall was not mandated by the NCAA.

“We had completed the gathering of information that we felt pertinent to make the decision,” Hart said. “I'm not going to comment on the process, because we are not involved in it from the NCAA perspective and what will happen from this moment forward.

“Based on the information we had, it was a decision we had to make and we made it. The NCAA doesn't say 'Hey here is what we think.' They don't get involved in personnel issues or campus decisions. We made the decision based on information available."

Other notable moments from Hart’s press conference:

On his working relationship with Tyndall since the NCAA investigation commenced: “We were very supportive of Donnie. He knows that. We were extremely supportive in helping him do the job he had to do as the head basketball coach. We really didn't talk about this much. We let the appropriate parties do what they were doing, but Donnie and I didn't have much conversation about it."

On the timeline for hiring a new coach, UT’s third in as many years: “You can never dictate or anticipate how quickly or what quick turns in the road might occur that would delay the inevitable process of bringing someone to a formal contract. So it is hard to say the time frame. You always want to move as quickly as possible, but you also want to get in front of people who can fit the profile and do the job that needs to be done."

On the decision to enlist a search firm to help identify a new coach: “A search firm is not going to produce any different background search results then the background search and results that we can get through various means. A search firm would have not known what was going on at Southern Miss. Southern Miss didn't know. But what they can do is help with the confidentiality aspect in our world that is rapidly changing. … With social media and so on, I think they can help in that regard. I think they can help expedite the calls and research that we do.”

On making the decision to fire Tyndall: “You have to have the courage to do what needs to be done in the best interest of the program, the university. I think technically, from a pure tactician standpoint, Donnie Tyndall is an outstanding basketball coach, and you've heard me say that. I thought he was a very good fit. He fit our profile. But none of that trumps what you have in front of you."

(Photo: Randy Sartin/UTSports.com)

Mar 27, 2015 3:16 PM

UT fires Donnie Tyndall for conduct connected to NCAA investigation of Southern Miss

The University of Tennessee is looking for a men’s basketball coach. Again.

Athletics director Dave Hart fired Donnie Tyndall on Friday because of Tyndall’s connection to NCAA violations committed during his two seasons at Southern Miss. Tyndall went 16-16 in his one season with the Volunteers.

From The Associated Press:

In his termination letter Friday, Hart said Tyndall acknowledged deleting emails that could have been relevant to the investigation. The Tennessee AD said it's highly likely the NCAA will determine Tyndall failed to cooperate and that he failed to disclose "material information concerning violations of NCAA rules" during Tennessee's hiring process.

The termination letter acknowledges Tyndall’s the right to a post-termination hearing. If he so chooses, he has until April 15 to submit a written request for a hearing. He has until March 31 to return all university property and return his courtesy car.

UT hired Tyndall on April 22, 2014 and gave him a six-year, $1.6 million contract. Because he was fired with cause, the university is exempt from the $3 million buyout.

Mar 27, 2015 11:06 AM

UT offensive lineman removed from 'football activities' following arrest

University of Tennessee tackle Coleman Thomas was removed from all football activities Thursday after he was arrested for allegedly stealing an Xbox and three video games from a fellow student.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the sophomore from Max Meadows, Va. was charged Wednesday and released a short time later on a $2,000 bond.

Coach Butch Jones was not scheduled to meet with the media Thursday and no statement was issued on his behalf.

From the News Sentinel:

According to an arrest report, the victim reported that on March 13 between 10:55 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., someone entered his room at Reese Hall on the University of Tennessee's campus and stole his Xbox and three games — Call of Duty Warfare, NBA2K15 and NHL 15.

Authorities discovered that the items had been sold later the same day to the Game Stop store at 6731 Clinton Highway. The cost to reimburse Game Stop was $176 according to the arrest report.

The stolen items were valued at $640 according to the report.

Thomas, 6-foot-6, 308 pounds, played 11 games last season as a true freshman with five starts at right tackle. He missed two contests with an ankle injury.

Campus Insiders named him an honorable mention Freshman All-American.

(Photo: UTsports.com)

Mar 26, 2015 9:33 PM

Tyndall has second interview with NCAA investigators regarding Southern Miss case

University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Donnue Tyndall recently met for a second time with NCAA investigators looking into potential violations during Tyndall’s two-year tenure at Southern Miss.

That interview took place March 16, according to a Yahoo.com report, which said Tyndall’s contract with UT allows the school to fire him for a major violation at another institution.

Southern Miss self-imposed a 2015 postseason ban “based on information gathered during the review process” of the investigation in January.

Tyndall’s initial interview with NCAA investigators was in November.

“All I can say is I've cooperated 100 percent and if I need to, I will continue to do that," Tyndall told The Associated Press in January. "That's all I can say on that matter."

Yahoo’s report said it was unclear whether the second meeting marked the end of the NCAA investigation or whether it was one of the latest steps in the process.

Mar 26, 2015 12:20 PM

Injuries force Tennessee to adopt two-tiered approach to spring football

A shortage of healthy players has prompted Butch Jones and his staff to produce multiple schedules for spring football at the University of Tennessee.

“We'll actually have two practice formats,” Jones said Monday, a day before the Volunteers begin spring workouts. “Have never done this but again have never had the inordinate amount of injuries that we have this spring.”

There are nine players who will miss all of spring football because of health issues and four others who will be limited to some degree, at least at the start. No position will be affected more than the defensive line, where only five players are truly healthy.

The rundown of current injury issues:

Will miss all of spring football: Defensive end Derek Barnett, wide receiver Jason Croom, tight end Alex Ellis, offensive lineman Marcus Jackson, defensive lineman Jakob Johnson, linebacker Darrin Kirkland, linebacker Curt Maggitt, defensive lineman Danny O’Brien and defensive linemen Kyle Phillips.

Will be evaluated for possible return: Linebacker Dillon Bates and wide receiver Marquez North.

Limited to non-contact drills: Running back Jalen Hurd.

Limited reps: Offensive lineman Chance Hall.

Jones and his staff have adopted a divide-and-conquer approach, which will put healthy players on one schedule and the injured players on another.

“On practice days of Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, our injured players will just lift and basically go through an off day,” Jones said. “The days that are off days with film and lifting for our [healthy] players that are going through spring football, (the injured players) will do walk-throughs and different things to try to simulate the mental repetitions, the mental effort, the mental intensity in the physical reps that they're allowed to do.

“… It's going to be a great challenge in how we structure practice. However, it's also exciting because it gives other individuals great opportunities to really prove their football identity, and to really continue to progress and get better.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mar 23, 2015 1:12 PM

UT announces home-and-home football series with Pitt

Call it the Johnny Majors series.

The University of Tennessee announced a future home-and-home football series with the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Volunteers will host Pitt on Sept. 11, 2021 and play at Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, 2022.

As it stands right now, that return contest will be the first game ever in Pennsylvania for UT’s football program. The program has played in 25 of the 50 United States.

There are plenty of non-conference openings to be filled between then and now, though. The only other contest scheduled for 2019 through 2022 is Sept. 7, 2019 against Georgia State.

Majors, of course, was head coach of both Tennessee and Pittsburgh. The 1956 Heisman Trophy runner-up was 45-45-1 in two stints at Pitt (1973-76 and 1993-96), the first of which included the 1976 national championship. At Tennessee (1977-92) he was 116-62-8.

Mar 18, 2015 9:11 PM

SEC Tournament: Timeouts were a time of change in Vanderbilt-Tennessee contest

Media timeouts occur roughly every four minutes in a college basketball game, which divides each half into five segments.

Or in the case of Tennessee’s victory over Vanderbilt in the second round of the SEC men’s basketball tournament Thursday, they often came once the Volunteers outscored the Commodores by nine points.

The teams traded runs throughout the second half and each one started and ended with a media timeout, right up until the last one, that is.

If form held, it would have been the Commodores’ turn to pull away once again but that didn’t happen. Following the final media timeout, the Volunteers scored 11 of the final 13 points to cap a 20-2 run that carried them to a shocking 67-61 victory at Bridgestone Arena. It was the third of the five second-half segments in which they outscored Vanderbilt by nine.

“I thought (this) certainly was a game of runs and our guys were very resilient,” UT coach Donnie Tyndall said. “Their team was tough as well and we were fortunate to end the game the right way, mostly because we were able to finally get some stops and get out in the open floor and convert in transition.”

A look at the four second-half media timeouts and how the game changed with each one:

Timeout 1 (15:46 to play): Vanderbilt led by six at halftime and doubled that advantage less than two minutes into the second half, which prompted Tennessee to burn an early timeout. It didn’t help much and when the first scheduled timeout occurred the Commodores were comfortably in front. Vanderbilt 47, Tennessee 36.

Timeout 2 (11:46 to play): Josh Richardson (22 points, 3 steals) scored seven points in a span of 3:01 and Tennessee held Vanderbilt scoreless for the entire segment. Luke Kornet (4 assists, tied a career-high) committed turnovers on consecutive possessions that led directly to four UT points and Damian Jones (18 points, 15 rebounds) missed a layup. Vanderbilt 47, Tennessee 45.

Timeout 3 (7:01 to play): Coming out of the timeout the Commodores worked the shot clock and got a 3-point basket by Wade Baldwin (16 points, 5 assists) that reversed the momentum. Jones, a dominant player most of the way, took control again with six points and a Richardson jumper was the only thing that kept the Volunteers from being blanked in that stretch. Vanderbilt 59, Tennessee 47.

Timeout 4 (3:49 to play): Once again, Tennessee outscored Vanderbilt 9-0 between media timeouts. Robert Hubbs (16 points) made a 3-pointer with 6:20 to play that started the rally and Kevin Punter followed with one of his own less than a minute later as the Volunteers quickly cut a 12-point deficit in half. Then came one by Derek Reese that made it a one-possession game with 4:33 to go. UT was 3-for-4 on 3-pointers in that segment, 4-for-21 the rest of the night. Vanderbilt 59, Tennessee 56.

At that point there was every reason to expect Vanderbilt would come out of the timeout, score a couple quick baskets and ease its way to the finish but it didn’t happen.

From that point, The Volunteers once again outscored the Commodores by nine points. The only difference was that in this case it was 11-2 instead of 9-0. UT held Vanderbilt scoreless for the final 3:07 and went ahead to stay when another Hubbs 3-pointer, with 2:13 remaining, broke a 61-61 tie.

“Last seven minutes, we thought we had the game where we wanted it and had some really good, open looks and missed,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “… We just allowed them to become the aggressor there at the end, the last five or six minutes, and that was our undoing.”


Wednesday’s results

Game 1: Auburn 74, Mississippi State 68
Game 2: South Carolina 63, Missouri 54

Thursday’s games

Game 3: Florida 69, Alabama 61
Game 4: Auburn 66, Texas A&M 59
Game 5: Tennessee 67, Vanderbilt 61
Game 6: South Carolina 60, Ole Miss 58

Friday’s games

Game 7: No. 1 Kentucky (31-0, 18-0) vs. Florida, noon (SEC Network)
Game 8: No. 4 LSU (22-9, 11-7) vs. Auburn, 2:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 9: No. 2 Arkansas (24-7, 13-5) vs. Tennessee, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 10: No. 3 Georgia (20-10, 11-7) vs. South Carolina, 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Mar 12, 2015 10:58 PM

New UT offensive coordinator to earn $500K annually

Mike DeBord, hired last month to be the University of Tennessee’s new offensive coordinator, will earn $500,000 per year over the next two seasons, according to the terms of his contract which includes incentives that could drive his earnings even higher.

The Knoxville News Sentinel obtained a copy of the contract Thursday through a freedom of information request and published some of the details.

DeBord’s base salary will be $200,000. The rest will be supplemental income from “broadcast, endorsement and/or consultation contracts.” The 59-year-old also will receive a car allowance and $5,000 per year for summer camp work.

From the News Sentinel Report:

If the Vols appear in a bowl game, DeBord receives a bonus equivalent to 8.33 percent of his annual contract. The bonus raises to 12 percent if that bowl is a New Year’s Six bowl and 16 percent if the Vols reach the College Football Playoff. He would receive an additional 4 percent bonus if the Vols win the SEC Championship Game and an additional 4 percent if they win the national championship.

Previous offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian earned $480,000 last season and all of Butch Jones’ assistants were expected to receive raises this year. So DeBord’s deal does not appear to change the basic salary structure of the staff in any way.

Mar 12, 2015 12:19 PM