When Butch Jones first arrived in Knoxville, the first coaching staff he assembled had a mix of budding potential and experienced veterans. Those veterans, however, didn’t have much experience at Power-5 schools, and Jones himself had never been the head coach at a Power-5 school either.
Jones and his various staff members have hit several bumps along the road during the last four years, and those trials have served as valuable learning experiences. And that’s why Jones has elected to surround himself with a plethora of former head coaches in a pivotal fifth year at Tennessee.
Tennessee now has four coaches with head coaching experience on staff after several changes this offseason. Larry Scott and Bob Shoop were already on staff last season, but now the Vols have also added Brady Hoke and Mike Canales into the fold.
Scott and Canales have both served as interim head coaches (Scott at Miami and Canales at North Texas), but both Shoop and Hoke were hired as head coaches rather than taking over on an interim basis. Shoop was the head coach at Columbia from 2003-05 and went 7-23 overall.
Hoke, however, has more head coaching experience by himself than the other three coaches combined.
Brady Hoke was the head coach at Ball State from 2003-08, San Diego State from 2009-10, and Michigan from 2011-14. Hoke compiled a 78-70 record in his 13 years as head coach and learned many lessons along the way, especially at Michigan where he was fired after a 5-7 record in his fourth season.
“I think it can help at times with different situations and things that you’ve dealt with or been through,” Hoke said about his head coaching experience at a media availability on Tuesday. “Hopefully, with the whole staff, but hopefully I bring a little bit different perspective at times.”
Hoke’s 13 years of head coaching experience surpass even Jones’ head coaching career. Jones has been a head coach at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and now Tennessee. Jones will be entering his 11th year as a head coach, and this will be his fifth at the helm of the Vols.
Butch Jones has received backlash for some of his coaching decisions while at Tennessee, especially over the last couple seasons. And it would appear that criticism hasn’t fallen on deaf ears considering the coaching hires Jones has made the last couple offseaons. And Hoke is aware of the importance he and the other former head coaches will play for Jones and the Vols.
“I know Coach (Jones) and I talked about that during the hiring process,” Hoke stated. “I think it helps because of the different situations and the things you go through. But I think Butch is pretty grounded.
“Really, what I know of him and what I see from him on a daily basis, this thing is going in the right direction.”
Time will tell how much the hiring of Hoke and the other former head coaches will aid Butch Jones and Tennessee’s roster. But Jones has at least learned the value of surrounding himself with more experienced coaches and appears willing to learn from outside voices.