Randy Smith: Tennessee’s New Head Basketball Coach

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart took very little time in finding a replacement for the departing Cuonzo Martin. After being turned down by Louisiana Tech’s Michael White, Hart offered the job to Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall who accepted. Tyndall signed a six year contract worth $1.6 million a year.

While U.T. fans were turned off by Cuonzo Martin’s lack of personality, they should love Coach Tyndall. He may not be as dynamic as former coach Bruce Pearl, but he is pretty close. It’s good the Tennessee fans are expected to fall in love with Tyndall’s personality and charisma, because the wins could be few in 2014-2015. Martin’s departure left the Vols’ cupboard bare as only one starter returns from last year’s “Sweet 16” team. Guard Josh Richardson will be the lone senior for the Big Orange next season, which means it could be a few years before the Vols can compete near the top of the SEC, which Martin did all three years in Knoxville.

The similarities between Coach Tyndall and Coach Pearl go beyond personality. Like Pearl,(Wisconsin-Milwaukee)Tyndall comes from a mid-major program. (Southern Miss) Like Pearl, Tyndall’s teams believe in playing full-court pressure defense. There is one trait Tyndall possesses that Pearl did not when he came to Knoxville. He has a recruiting network already set up in the southeast. Tyndall spent four years as an assistant coach at LSU, so he knows the SEC well. He also spent four years as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee State so he also knows Tennessee well.

He is also a proven winner. In the six years he spent as the head coach at Morehead State in the OVC, he was 114-84 with two NCAA appearances. His Morehead squad scored a huge upset in NCAA play as his 13th seeded Eagles knocked off fourth seeded Louisville coached by Rick Pitino. He only spent two years at Southern Mississippi but in two years his teams won 56 games. That includes a school record 29 wins and a Conference USA Championship this past season.

There was a bit of a scandal regarding recruiting violations during his tenure at Morehead State, but the school self-reported and self-sanctioned, so the NCAA accepted.

The general feeling in the media is Tyndall is a great hire for Tennessee.  Gary Parrish of CBS Sports says, “Like I said when Arizona hired Sean Miller, Tennessee will eventually be glad that they stumbled into this hire. Donnie Tyndall is a great fit.” 

On the internet, Tennessee’s fickle fans are remaining lukewarm about Tyndall’s hire. One even said, “It appears that Dave Hart has a very specific physical type in hires. (Baseball coach) Dave Serrano, Butch Jones and Donnie Tyndall have similar physiques.” Seriously? First of all, Dave Hart did not hire Dave Serrano, interim AD Joan Cronin did. And Butch Jones and Donnie Tyndall look nothing alike at all. Jones is considerably taller and thinner; which shows you how much most of the internet scholars actually know about anything. 

In all, I am at least a little bit excited about getting Donnie Tyndall as the Vols’ new head basketball coach. I loved Cuonzo Martin and hated to see him go, but I also agree that he was not happy with the Vols’ fan base and the administration. I wish him well at California and I wish Bruce Pearl well at Auburn. I also wish the best for Coach Tyndall at Tennessee and I sincerely hope he doesn’t get burned out too quickly trying to please a less than knowledgeable fan base. 

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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. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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