Editorial: New basketball coach calls for a unified Vol nation

Apr. 22, 2014 @ 11:09 PM

The new man at the helm of the Tennessee Vols basketball team seemed to be a likable fellow in his first interaction with Knoxville yesterday. And he also seemed to know the score.

Donnie Tyndall, who led the Southern Miss Eagles to a 29-7 record and NIT quarterfinal appearance this past season, was introduced as the Vols’ new leader Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at the university.

Right out of the gate, he pressed many of the right buttons with the fanbase. He talked about an up-tempo style of play, the hard work he’ll bring to the job, and he spoke with candor on the Bruce Pearl/Cuonzo Martin saga.

It was refreshing to hear Tyndall broach that elephant in the room when questioned by the media, as most coaches shy from mentioning their predecessors and the situations that led to their exits.

Tyndall’s main point was that the fan base needs to get unified behind the orange and white, and do it immediately.

“It’s got to start today,” he said.

“Look, I’m a big fan of Coach Pearl. I think he’s fantastic. He’s obviously a great coach and had great success. He’s a dynamic personality. And, with all that being said, Coach Martin did an outstanding job, and he had his niche. But we’ve got to put that behind us. And it’s got to start today.

“We all have to rally and get on the same bus, if you will. We’re all Tennessee fans, we all bleed orange, we all want our team — our young guys — to do well. So let’s start today. Let’s pull this thing together, put all that stuff behind us and go to work.”

The questions about the circumstances surrounding Martin’s departure also didn’t faze the 43-year-old Tyndall, who earned his first coaching job 20 years ago at Iowa Central Community College.

“Every coach has their own reasons to make a move,” he said. “What’s important to them and their family. (Martin) made a decision he thought 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 and I.

“I really can’t answer as to why — I’m sure he has his reasons — but I’m certainly glad he made that decision.”

A self-described “grinder” Tyndall said he’s learned a lot coming up through the coaching ranks and is extremely excited to be the Vols next coach.

“I think it’s prepared me,” he said of his experiences at Southern Miss and Morehead State. “The resources that you don’t have at those places make you do without,” Tyndall said. “You have to be hungry, you have to be driven. I’ll carry that same mentality, work ethic and attitude in this position as I had in my first two stops.

“Tennessee, to me, is a destination job,” he said. (The SEC is) arguably its one of the better conferences year-in and year-out. The fanbase, the passion  that our fans have when you can get 18-, 20-, 21,000 fans in the gym every night, that’s awful appealing.”

Now Tennessee fans need to embrace their new coach.  Did UT shell out wads of cash to get him? Not by NCAA standards. Was he a white-hot name on the coaching carousel? Nope.

But he’s been successful everywhere he’s been, he’s a proven winner — at least at the mid-major level — and now he’s the man on the bench for the Vols.

Cuonzo Martin’s gone, and Bruce Pearl isn’t coming back. Tyndall deserves what some argue Martin never had: a fair chance to make the Tennessee head coaching job his own.