When former UTC Head Basketball Coach John Shulman was asked to leave his position more than a year ago, I supported the decision. I love Coach Shulman to this day, and really admire what he accomplished as the Mocs' head coach. However, in many instances a change at the top can be a good thing. That was the case at UTC.
New Coach Will Wade has breathed fresh air into the once proud UTC program. As of today, the Mocs are in second place in the Southern Conference Standings at 10-2, with an overall mark of 16-11. They have four games left in the regular season before play begins in the SoCon Tournament. The Mocs next outing will be Thursday night as they host Georgia Southern at McKenzie Arena. For the first time in many years, the Mocs have a sure-fire star on their squad. Zaccheus Mason leads the SoCon in rebounding (9.6 per game) and is currently fourth in scoring. (17.9 per game) Mason has been a key contributor to the Mocs great season thus far, but Coach Wade's squad has some other key parts as well.
Wade has brought a "family feel" to the Mocs' program. No one player is more important than another, and everyone, coaches, players and fans alike, should all be on the same page. That's why attendance has increased dramatically at McKenzie Arena. Coach Wade has made it fun to come to Mocs' basketball games again. With four games left in the regular season, UTC has already clinched a bye in round one of the SoCon Tournament. In the past several years, Mocs' fans have not only been unexcited about the tournament, they were totally indifferent about UTC basketball. That's why the change was made.
There was another change at UTC last year as well. Long-time Head Coach Wes Moore finally left the Lady Mocs' program for a big-time ACC job at North Carolina State. UTC administration, led by athletic director David Blackburn, hired a Hall of Fame coach in former Vandy and Ohio State head coach Jim Foster. While Foster did inherit some talent from Wes Moore's last Lady Mocs' squad, UTC hasn't missed a beat. Coach Foster has shown from day one why he is a Hall of Fame coach, as the Lady mocs haven't missed a single beat. As of today, UTC is 23-3 and an amazing 15-0 in the Southern Conference. Coach Moore's tenure at UTC was highly successful, though he even felt deep down that things had become stale in the program.
"Change for the sake of change", isn't always a good thing. (Tennessee football is a great example) Personally, I have always thought of changing something to shake things up a bit, was potentially a bad thing. Gone are the days of one man or woman staying at one school or at one team as the head coach for twenty or more years. It just isn't going to happen again.
One year ago, things were about as bad at UTC as they had been in a long, long time. Changing head coaches allowed the men's program to make a complete turn around. Now, the crowds are better and interest is approaching where it was in the Murray Arnold-Mack McCarthy days. The Mocs have satisfied the old guard as well as created new and younger fans for Chattanooga basketball.
Yep, things are fun again at the Round House. I hope that never changes!
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson, TN. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org