Transcript Of Donnie Tyndall Press Conference In Knoxville

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - by Special to
The transcript of Tuesday’s press conference involving Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart and new men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall:



"It's kind of like church -- you have to wait for everybody to get seated.

"Good afternoon, everybody and thank you so much for joining us today. This is a Big Orange day on Rocky Top. This is an exciting day for our men's basketball program and I'm so happy to look out here and see so many people, so many alum, so many people that bleed orange and care about our men's and women's basketball programs. Thank you for being here.

"One week ago today, we officially began the search process to find a new head basketball coach. I had many questions, good questions, on that day from a variety of the media that cover us on a regular basis and even some national media- what's the profile, what are you looking for?

"I'm happy to tell you that Donnie Tyndall fits the profile perfectly. You'll remember some of these profile points I made. We needed to hire somebody that was a winner, somebody that had a track record of success. Coach Tyndall has won everywhere he has been, at every level he has coached, from junior college to his first Division I job, to Southern Mississippi. If you look at the leagues he coached in, and look where his teams finished that season, you'll see a lot of ones and twos.

"He reminds me a lot of another coach that is on our staff, in coaches on the gridiron. I saw a lot of similarities. I saw a winner. I saw a person who was a great fit. A person, that in this case, in my judgment, Donnie Tyndall pulled himself up from his bootstraps. He knew what he wanted to be. He wanted to be a basketball coach. He knew ultimately where he wanted to coach- in the Southeastern Conference and he knew the history and tradition of the University of Tennessee. He was very excitable when we sat down and had an extensive visit about the possibility that he would coach at the University of Tennessee.

"He has boundless energy, one of those common traits I see in a lot of our coaches. When you get to know Donnie, you will see what I'm talking about. He's a grinder. He's enthusiastic. He loves people. He loves to be around people. Great sense of humor, as a matter of fact, early in our conversation, when we got to next year's schedule, he reached his hand out and said, 'Nice to meet you Dave. I hope our paths will cross again.'

"He's a communicator, great communicator. He will embrace our constituents and he will do that willingly and do that because he loves to be around people who care about the University of Tennessee.

"I called some rival coaches about Donnie and I specifically asked about Donnie as a recruiter. That was one of the points I made a week ago, that no matter the sport, you have to recruit. That's our lifeblood. A very prominent coach, that all of you would immediately recognize the name if I said it, said, 'Dave, that guy is everywhere. Everywhere I go recruiting, I seeDonnie Tyndall. I don't think he has a twin, but he might, because he's everywhere.'

"His ability to connect with people, connect with players, connect with recruits, as I say, 'see the big picture on our campus and appreciate being a part of our university.' We've done this, and I'm proud of this, we've done this [come together] at Tennessee- through Chancellor Jimmy Cheek's cabinet, through our faculty, through our staff, our coaches- we really are becoming and have become 'One Tennessee' and Donnie Tyndall fits that extremely well.

"He has a very genuine priority on academic success and his track record backs that up. Again, I don't think we could have found anyone who fits this profile better than the man I'm about to introduce to you, our new men's head basketball coach,Donnie Tyndall."

(Opening Statement)

"Thank you very much. What a great turnout. I'm so honored and privileged to be here today. I want to start by acknowledging these young men over here to my right on what a fantastic season that they had, their Sweet 16 run to finish out the year. I want to say how prideful I am to be their coach and I think they certainly deserve a round of applause for all they accomplished.

"I'd like to just add before I start into my little spiel here- Dave Hart mentioned the fact that I remind him a little bit of Butch Jones, which is such a compliment. When I dug into his past and his history and where he is from, it's amazing- we actually grew up about an hour apart. I'm from Grand Rapids and he's from Saugatuck, Mich., again about an hour apart. Coach isn't here, is he? Dave, he's not here. If you can relay this message to him, I'm from Grand Rapids, he's from Saugatuck, and all the Grand Rapids guys think those Saugatuck guys are really soft. So, let him know that, would you. I'm just teasing of course.

"I want to start by certainly thanking Chancellor Cheek for this opportunity, Dave Hart, who I've just hit it off with and look so much forward to working with. They were a big part of my decision to come here to Tennessee. I certainly want to thank them for this opportunity.

"I would be remiss if I didn't mention my president at Southern Miss, Dr. Rodney Bennett and my athletic director there, Bill McGillis, whom I had a phenomenal relationship with. They made this decision tough in one regard, but on the flip side, it's the University of Tennessee and an opportunity that I'm so excited about.

"I want to thank some very important people in my life that have helped to get me to the point I am in my career. John Brady, who gave me my first chance in Division I basketball at LSU as an assistant coach. I was the youngest assistant coach at that time at 25 years old in the SEC and had a dream of one day being a head coach at this level. Kermit Davis, my boss and co-worker at LSU and then my boss at Middle Tennessee. Those two guys have been great mentors to me. Coach Wayne Martin- Coach Wayne Martin is here. He was a head coach at Morehead State and some people would say I was the best coach to ever coach there, but Coach Martin was the best coach. My mom and dad- mom and dad are right here. My daughters, who couldn't be here today- Taylor is 14, she has a softball game and Grace is 11, she has a big spring play that she is in, so they couldn't be here. Then, my fiancé, Nikki. Nikki and I are getting married in August. Nikki, if you could stand up for a second, please.

"Now some of you, I'm sure, have heard that rumor that maybe I was the second choice for this job. I don't know. Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn't. Roy Williams was like the tenth choice at Kansas and it worked out pretty well for him. I'll say this, look at her and look at me- I probably wasn't her first choice either. I will say this, I think it proves I'm a pretty darn good recruiter, right.

"I'm humbled to be your coach. I think Tennessee is a special place. Many people would ask 'why do you think that coach?' I say this, the tradition starting with Coach Ray Mears and all the great coaches that have coached at this university. The success that has been passed on from year to year, so many great coaches and I'm proud to be one of them, or at least be a head coach grouped in with those guys at this point. All the great players- when you look back at all the great pros, the All-Stars, the All-Americans, from the 'Ernie and Bernie Show,' Tony White, who I grew up watching, Allan Houston, and then recent guys like Chris Lofton, one of the best shooters to ever play in the SEC, CJ Watson, Tobias Harris, the list goes on and on. I hope we have a few more that will be added to that list in the future. The tradition of the women's program- I grew up admiring and still do, Coach Pat Summitt. I can't wait to beat her. You talk about 8 national championships, over 1,000 wins. It's absolutely amazing. The tradition in athletics and then the basketball program is second to none.?

"I believe in the student-athlete, obviously the emphasis there on student. My mom and dad were educators, my mom was a principal, teacher, my dad was a teacher, principal and superintendent of schools. In my eight years of as a head coach, at the end of this May, I will have graduated 21 or my 22 seniors. So when I say the word or the term student-athlete it is not just lip service. Our kids will go to class, they will be on time, they will value an education and they will leave the University of Tennessee with a degree in hand. I can assure you that.

"Our guys will handle themselves in the community in a first class manner. We are not going to have thugs, we are not going to have renegades as part of our program. IT won't happen on my watch. Will we have perfect angels? I doubt it. I am not a perfect angel. But we are going to have people who are prideful to wear the Tennessee uniform and want to represent our university the exact right way.

"Our style of play, which I am sure we will have some questions about that, but it is an aggressive, attacking type of basketball. We full court press on every made basket and dead ball. We get after people form end line to end line. We fall back to an aggressive matchup zone. If you have seen Louisville play, our defensive philosophy is much like Louisville. We have been in the top-30 in Division I basketball each of the last two years in steals and that is obviously because we are playing aggressive, attacking defensive style of play. Offensively, we are going to push the basketball on misses and long rebounds. In the half-court we are going to run a high-low motion with a ton of ball screening trying to give our guards the freedom to create and make plays. Offensively, if you can envision a Kansas -type team, is how we will play at the offensive end.

"Recruiting wise - we are going to recruit the best players in America. We will never-ever walk into a gym and take second fiddle or be okay with finishing second on anyone we recruit. When we walk in with that T on our chest, people are going to say, `Oh boy, here comes Donnie and his crew, we better lace them up,' because we are going to compete everyday relentlessly on the recruiting trail. We have to start that right here in our home state. We have to get into Memphis, we have to control out state because we are the best program in our state. We want everyone who wants to be a Vol or should be a Vol to be a Tennessee Vol.

"We will leave no stone unturned, as I mentioned, our work ethic in recruiting will be second to none. I will have a staff of young aggressive go-getters that will be great with our players, be able to relate to our young people and do a fantastic job, so that you see NBA type players and great college players on our roster every year.

"We have a great university to sell. When you look around at these facilities and all that we have at the University of Tennessee, we should be able to get the best players. We will do everything in our power as a staff to make that happen. But most importantly, we have the best fan base in college basketball, right here in Knoxville, Tennessee. And because of you fans, young people are going to want to come to our school and they are going to want to play in front of you.

"Thank you very much. I am excited to be your head coach and if you have any questions at this time I will be happy to answer them."

(On filling the positions on his coaching staff)

"I have a fantastic staff that I had at Southern Miss and I have to make some decisions and a lot of that is going to be predicated on a couple different guys that I am visiting with. My entire staff is going to be coming with me from Southern Miss but they may not be in the same role. I have to make some decisions as I just said, visit with a couple other people and I hope to have that done in the next 48-72 hours."\

(On Coach Martin leaving Tennessee)

"I think every coach has their own reasons to make a move. What is important to them and their family. Obviously, Coach Martin did a fantastic job and he made a decision that he felt 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 am sure he has his reasons. But I am certainly glad he made that decision."

(On other coaching opportunities)

"I did and there have been opportunities, I have said this, there have been opportunities in the past and I was very, very happy at Southern Miss. Again, my working relationship with my bosses there were incredible. The fans were amazing. The two year run there, was the best two year run in the history of the program so I felt like I had some security. But on the flip side, this is the University of Tennessee, you can compete to go to the final four and you can compete to win a national championship and that is my plan."

(On the importance of bringing stability to the Tennessee Basketball program)

"Well, I think it is very important. Tennessee to me is a destination job. It is in the best league, to me, in the country. I know that is going to vary year-to-year, but arguably it is one of the better conferences in the country year in and year out. I think it is a place that is my network of recruiting-wise, in the southeast, the states I have recruited for 15 years. I have the network and the relationships to be able to get quality players each and every year. I just think, again, the fan base, the passion that our fans have, when you can get 18,000 to 20,000 fans in the gym every night, that is appealing."

(On be prepared to coach in the SEC)

"Well at the lower levels, as Dave said, you are a grinder. I am not jumping on a private plane to go see a kid play. At Morehead State it was six hours one way, stay the night at a gas station for a three hour nap, and finish up so you can get back for the 6 AM morning workout. Those are the things we did religiously for six years. At Southern Miss it was a little bit better but the bottom line, the resources that you don't have those places make you do without and you have to be hungry, you have to be driven. I think it has prepared me because I will carry that same mentality, work ethic and attitude into this position as I had in my first two stops."

(On uniting the fan base)

"It has to start today. Look, I am a big fan of Coach Pearl, I think he is fantastic, he is obviously a great coach and had great success. He is a dynamic personality. With all that being said, Coach Martin did an outstanding job and he had his niche. But we have to put that behind us and it has to start today and we all have to rally and get on the same bus if you will. We are all Tennessee Vols 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."

(On recruiting relationships in the state of Tennessee)

"I think it is always helpful when you have some built in relationships. When I was at Middle Tennessee we recruited Memphis, we have carried that over. When I was at Morehead State, our guard to hit the shot to beat Louisville in the NCAA Tournament was a Nashville kid. So we have some relationships across the state. There may be a guy or two that I entertain hiring on our staff with some other or more relationships. But I certainly think with success of former Tennessee players having been at Middle Tennessee it will open some doors for us."

(On losing a lot of talent this past season and message to team)

"When you look at the roster we lost 72% of our scoring and 69% of our rebounding, so when I meet with these guys individually I'll tell them that somebody needs to step up. I could see it in their eyes in my meeting with them that we have a young, eager group. Its guys that are ready to work, we will start individual workouts tomorrow. My message was very short and simple, I'm a very short, no nonsense guy, my MO everywhere has been that we are going to out work and out tough people I think if they're committed to doing that regardless of what people think we've lost on paper next year we'll surprise some folks, but everybody's got to buy in and I anticipate all these guys and the four signees to do just that."

(On how long this job has interested him)

"Well, should I tell this story Dave? I showed Dave yesterday at the interview, my youngest daughter Grace, she's 11, if you've seen my two daughters throughout my coaching career, a lot of times they sit on the end of the bench. In fact, a few years ago in the NCAA tournament Erin Andrews interviewed my oldest daughter, they're like those girls in the movie Remember the Titans; they live and breathe it now. So we're at the Final Four, Nikki and I and the girls are with us and Tulsa calls on Saturday morning and their athletic director and the search firm wanted to meet with me, so I got dressed and told the girls I was going to meet with them and went down and did the interview. I got back and the girls asked `what do you think daddy, what do you think?' and I said `well, I don't think that's the right spot for daddy.' They said `why not, they're in UCONN's conference, that's the big conference and so I told them that I thought something maybe down the road would be a little bit better fit for your dad, that maybe the Tennessee job would open up because at the time Cuonzo was rumored to be going to Marquette. So obviously that didn't transpire and then about a week later I got a text from my daughter Grace and I showed it to Dave, she text me and it said in capital letters, THE TENNESSEE JOB IS OPEN HINT HINT so you never hope that a guy leaves but this was a job that was on my radar, and Grace's too."

(On hiring on any assistant coaches from Southern Miss)

"I will, I'm not sure in what capacity. But my entire staff will be coming with me; I've got to work some things out over the next couple of days. I've got an outstanding young staff. Grinders, workaholics and guys that the community will really like to get to know. So I will be bringing them I just need to sort out in what capacity."

(On NCAA issue with probation at Morehead State)

"It was isolated to one booster situation. It involved a gentleman who meant no harm or ill will but because he was a graduate of Morehead State University and was contacting some players without our knowledge he became quote unquote and extra coach. My staff had a relationship with this guy it wasn't ever proven and it wasn't the case that we ever asked him to do these things he was just a guy who loved basketball and wanted to help get these people into school. It was a learning experience. My athletic director and I worked hand in hand with the NCAA, it went to committee infractions, we lost scholarships for a year, I'm one of those guys that doesn't shy away from responsibility I learned from it and certainly don't ever expect it to happen again."

(On questions he had about this job)

"When would I start? You know the biggest thing I think anyone looking forward would say is do the guys on the roster plan to come back and I don't think any of them at this point plan to leave which is great. The second thing is were any of the four signees not wanting to come and that doesn't seem to be the case in my conversations with Dave. The last thing was were there any APR issues, which they cleared up with me quickly because in this day and age if you get into APR issues in your post-season ban then your hands are tied in regard to growing your program. The next thing was how do you feel about your boss and your working relationship, Dave is one of those guys who makes you feel very comfortable, he did that in a very short time last night and Jon did that as well. I could tell I would enjoy working with those guys so those couple things were quickly answered and my mind was made up."

(On importance of individual meetings with current players and building trust)

"You know, I think we will hit it off right away because I told them in our first meeting that I'm never going to lie to them. Some things that I tell them may hurt their feelings but I'm a direct, straightforward person. I'm going to look you in the eye and tell you what I think. That's the way you have true relationships, they might not always like it, but they respect it. When I tell them I'm going to do them a, b and c, then we do a, b, and c. When I tell a player we're going to hit the line 10 times, we're not going to hit it nine. They are going to do it the exact right way and I think when you handle people that way the respect is there and you form a true relationship and bond."

(On biggest challenge coming to an SEC, football focused school)

"I think obviously being a quote, unquote football school I think I'll have an athletic director who is very supportive of basketball and the same with Chancellor Cheek. Those guys are very supportive of basketball so that's important. Also you sell the fact that you have a great football program and that your fan base can get 100,000 people into the coliseum to watch them play and how passionate they are. I think when you have that and you bring kids in for football weekends it helps you sell your program and sell your fan base to a young man and his family. When I look at coaches I have a lot of respect for across the country Billy Donovan is at the top of that list and what he's done at a football school is exactly what we're going to try to do at the University of Tennessee."

(On spring signing periods)

"We've certainly been active and we've got our hands on four or five guys who are just becoming available. One thing I always say in recruiting is we won't sign a guy just to fill a spot. If we don't feel like a young man can 100% fit in to how we play then we will just hold the scholarship until the next class. With that being said, on paper we have two scholarships to give and if it's the right guy or two we will certainly fill those."

(On selling the facilities)

"The first sell is the arena, it seats 20,000 plus and fans that watch you play. Secondly Knoxville is a great city; I haven't heard one negative thing about it. The fact that we're going to play an exciting brand of basketball. I've also been at two schools that didn't even have a practice facility so now that I can talk about that and a weight room, trust me, we'll be able to sell Tennessee just fine."


(On if we have a MOU already)

"Yes, we do and that will be posted on our website very shortly so it will be there for everybody to see the details."

(On what questions you and Donnie had for each other)

"We had just a great visit, John, and many of the questions you could anticipate. Again, the questions I had for Donnie went back to the profile and talking about a style of play, being integrated into the university, into our community, his strong feelings - that is a priority, always has been everywhere he has ever been and certainly that was verified through my many conversations with people about Donnie so bottom-line question is, 'Donnie, is this indeed a place that you want to coach the rest of your career because we need stability?' We are getting stability in many areas within our program. We need stability throughout our program and there is no question that his answer which was very enthusiastic is yes. Clearly, this is a destination job. I want to be in Knoxville for a very long time."

(On what questions he asked you)

"Oh, he asked me a lot about our roster, and he asked me about our university. He asked me about our chancellor. I told him that I haven't worked for a more supportive chancellor in my career, so he asked questions you would think would be on his mind as someone who is coming here to invest in Knoxville, in the University of Tennessee, and in our men's basketball program."

(On if Donnie was on your list of potential candidates like Butch Jones was)

"Every time that I have ever gone into a search, I have not been one of these people that have 36 names, then you go to 24, and then you go. I have always taken six to eight people that I have thought I would like to talk to or at least research, and then get done to three people that I would like to get in front of, and then it goes back to that fit, then it goes back to who is the best fit, who is most likely to take our program to where we want it to go and to do so with class and understanding the athletic department's role in the total university structure and being a total team player, not only in the athletics department, but on campus, and Donnie filled all of those important criteria."

(On if the financial situation impacted your list of candidates and negotiations with those candidates)

"Well, Mike, since that gift from the Sentinel of 50 million dollars, we feel pretty good now about the financial situation. That didn't impact it all. I sat down with Chancellor (Jimmy) Cheek before the search began, and he said, 'do what you need to do.' We know what our financial structure is. We know where we are, but there were no weights put on me relative to finances so I had his blessing to go find the best person, the best fit, and to do what we needed to do to attract that person to Tennessee."

(On the video of Donnie Tyndall dancing with his players)

"That was frightening. I did see that. Jon Gilbert wanted me to take a look."

(On being able to sell the program and embrace the fan base being a priority)

"Not for me. It's always a priority for me. In all kidding aside, 'what do they call that dance again?' To see Donnie doing the Harlem Shake tells you he is a real person, he did that in the locker room, and that tells the young men that play for him that he might push us really hard to reach our potential, but he is also a real person."

(On reviewing situation at Morehead State as far as the NCAA)

"Absolutely, we looked into that as you would expect we would. We looked into that very thoroughly and were absolutely satisfied at the end of that examination, that we had no concerns moving forward. Everybody knows, and people that know me and people who work in this department know that compliance is our number one priority, and our staff will tell you we very rarely meet, that we don't talk about compliance, we've invested in it. We have nine people in compliance and one dedicated to basketball, one dedicated to football. Many schools at the lower levels, they don't have those resources and some may be lucky to have one person who oversees that and does the education, but yes, we are absolutely satisfied moving forward after we had researched that situation."

(On the coaching staff)

"I'll answer it in reverse. I can't confirm standing here whether Coach Martin took everybody. I know that the high majority, if not everybody may go with Cuonzo. The first question about Donnie, that's a coach's purgative, we talked about and we talked about it in length. I think Donnie has a great plan there, and when he is ready to solidify it, he will share it with the media."

(On embracing former players)

"I didn't have to initiate that conversation. Donnie talked about that, and the fact that he wants everybody who has ever touched this program to feel special, and that's a priority for him."

(On how quick did you know this is who I want when you met with him yesterday)

"That's a good question, and honestly we were about maybe a little less than an hour into it, and we went several hours past that hour, but at that point Brent, you know, I said to myself, 'who fits the profile better than this guy because it looked like he wrote the profile?', so I knew early on in that conversation that Donnie Tyndall was the right guy to lead our program."

 (E-mail Larry Fleming at

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