Then once the Vols took the court in the second half, Tyndall also had some instructions for the announced crowd of 13,000+ at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tyndall waved his arms up and down, imploring a somewhat lifeless crowd to get to its feet and cheer on Tennessee. He had to do it multiple times – reminding the crowd again and again to get up to help create some energy to spark Tennessee.
It worked. The Vols, fueled by the energized crowd, went on a 13-0 run, built a double-digit lead and never looked back in their 67-46 win over Tigers.
“That should be credited to our crowd,” Tyndall said of the improved play in the second half specifically referring to the extra energy in the press and how the Vols created points off of turnovers. “They were great and got in to the game. They helped us get some key stops. Someone asked me after the game, ‘You are doing a lot of different things during the game: coaching, cheerleading, etc.,’ and I told them I was desperate at that point in time.
“At some point, our fans will get up on their own, and I won’t have to encourage them. They sure were good tonight, though.”
In turn, Tyndall’s crowd encouragement also fired up the players.
“It gets me turnt up,” said senior guard Josh Richardson. “Even when I’m on the bench and he’s doing that, it gets me hype. I guess he coaches the fans as well as the players.”
“That is part of it, you have to come out and you have to coach your team and sometimes you have to coach the fans,” added Armani Moore. “It is all about picking up intensity no matter how you are doing it. The fans got into the game tonight, they helped us out and gave us a little bit of a boost and we played better in the second half.”
It’s certainly a change of pace from the prior coaching staff. Cuonzo Martin racked up plenty of wins in Thompson-Boling Arena, but was better known for his stoic, level-headed demeanor on the sideline.
“It’s way different,” said Richardson, who played three seasons under Martin and is in his first under Tyndall. “It’s just different coach, different day. It’s fun. It’s definitely fun to have a coach that likes to play off that momentum so much.”
It’s not surprising to see Tyndall working to get the crowd engaged when he’s on the court. It’s something that he’s done at previous stops at Morehead State and Southern Miss, and getting fans engaged in the program in general has been a continual mission for Tyndall since arriving in Knoxville. He knows the interest is there, but he also knows that being a salesman is part of the job description.
“Everywhere I have been, the first two stops, there was a sense of apathy about the program, no one was involved, people weren’t coming to games so you had to get out and meet and great and let them get to know you and your team so they feel some ownership in your program. I know they had a great year last year and there were a lot of distractions and controversies and all those types of things.
“So you come into this situation, we have an incredible fan base, people that are passionate about Tennessee basketball but I still think they need a pick me up or an energized type of situation. If you tell them and show them how much you appreciate them and let them get to know you a little bit, then again they are going to feel some ownership in what you are doing and want to continue to support you. So we have done that everywhere we have ever been and it certainly won’t stop.”