So it isn’t surprising to hear that he will don an orange blazer for his first trip to Memorial Gym in Nashville on Wednesday night, following in the footsteps of Ray Mears, who made that blazer famous during his tenure at Tennessee in the 1960s and 70s.
“Yes, we are going to do that,” Tyndall said of wearing the blazer at his weekly press conference on Monday, also following in the footsteps of his two predecessors, Bruce Pearl and Cuonzo Martin, who often wore the orange blazer against rivals Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
“I think you just follow the SEC for years and know that this is a huge rivalry to both programs and both fan bases,” Tyndall added. “For me, it’s no different than Eastern Kentucky at Morehead State or Southern Miss at Memphis. Those are just as important, and you prepare no differently. You also understand, to the fans, it’s more important. But to us, we will prepare like we do each and every game.”
One wrinkle that Tyndall won’t see every game, however, is the layout of Memorial Gym, which has the benches on opposite baselines as opposed to the traditional sideline setting. That changes communication, substituting and the angle from which the coaching staff will see the game. But Tyndall said the challenge of playing at Vandy is more than that.
“I think a lot of people make a big emphasis about coaching from the end line, but, let’s be honest, they have a great coach in coach (Kevin) Stallings, and they have had great players for years and years,” he said. “They have great crowds who get into the games. That’s what makes it hard, the great coaches, the great players, and the challenging environment more so than coaching from the end line.
“We understand it’s a huge rivalry game. Both fan bases will be very excited. I am sure it will be a passionate and electric environment in there on Wednesday. We will have to play very well to give ourselves a chance to win.”
It’s a game both team need. Vanderbilt (13-10, 3-7 SEC) is trying to dig itself out of the hole it created by its 1-7 start in league play. The Commodores have, however, recovered to win two straight conference games. Tennessee (13-9, 5-5), meanwhile, came out of the gates hot in conference play, but has now lost four of its last five. Both teams still have a lot to play for, but also have a lot of work to do.
Perhaps a win could lead to a late-season surge for either squad in what is a relatively open conference competition this year behind undefeated Kentucky.
“I try to preach to our team – when we won four out of five or whatever it was – that it’s about the daily grind and continuing to improve,” Tyndall said. “If you lose four out of five, you can’t feel sorry for yourself. It’s still about the daily grind and trying to improve every day. Nobody in college basketball is going to feel sorry for me, my staff or my team because we are losing, I can promise you that. You have to come back in the gym, come back in the film room with a focus and a determination and try to get better. If you do that, I think eventually the wins will take care of themselves.”