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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Which almost-coach would have had the biggest upside at Tennessee?” – Wes
Nathanael: Very good question. I think that would’ve been Mike Gundy. He had the personality, the passion, and the coaching ability to fit in and be successful at Tennessee. Vol fans would’ve loved him right off the bat, and I think he could’ve transformed the Vols’ offense into a juggernaut in a couple seasons. Would’ve had concerns about his defense, but I think he would’ve been excellent at Tennessee.
Will: I’m not sure how close Gundy was, but I think he’s probably the choice here. But since Jeff Brohm was closer, I’ll entertain his upside. That would have been an unbelievable hire. Gundy has question marks about his character, but Brohm represents an up-and-coming offensive guru who will move up the ladder sooner rather than later.
“What is the greater shame: the search for a coach or that the search is overshadowing a great start for the BasketVols?” – Brian
Nathanael: Another great question. I think the search itself is the biggest shame/embarrassment, but the fact that it’s overshadowing the start Tennessee’s basketball team has gotten off to really is unfortunate. This team has played very well to start the season. Hopefully they keep it up in February and March when the attention will all be on them.
Will: Hearing “Fire Currie” chants during the basketball game on Wednesday night was a little embarrassing. A very good team is getting completely overshadowed, which is a complete shame. But the good thing about that is the lack of noise won’t affect this team. The less hype around those guys, the better.
“Les Miles is 114-34 as a coach has SEC titles and a National title. He can win in the SEC. Why are we not looking at Miles, but looking at guys like Schiano and Doeren?” – Travis
Nathanael: Let me make it clear that I would still have plenty of concerns about Miles as head coach if he came to Tennessee. He would need to be much more hands-off on offense and hire a competent offensive staff. He’s far from a guarantee. With that being said, I do think he’s far, far better than coaches like Schiano and Doeren that Tennessee has been looking at. With the exception of Gundy and Jeff Brohm.
Will: Another great question. First of all, Tennessee just got rid of a bad in-game coach. Miles is also a very bad in-game coach. So that’s probably one reason. Looking at Currie’s past hires at Kansas State, he loves to hire consistent winners. That’s why Tennessee is mainly looking at sitting head coaches (besides Schiano) and staying away from Tee Martin.
“Why won’t we look at to the coordinator level to find the next coach? We seem to have an unhealthy fixation on head coaches only.” – Delisa
Nathanael: Because the administration wants to bring in someone who knows the responsibilities and demands of being a head coach. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but with where they are in the search now, why not go ahead and start looking at coordinators if you’re not going to call/offer guys like Les Miles or Kevin Sumlin? I would much rather take a risk on someone like Jeremy Pruitt or Venables at this point than some of the coaches with head coaching experience they’re looking at. And, of course, Tee Martin is someone they absolutely should be looking at. But they’re not.
Will: I think this administration feels like it isn’t worth the risk. Personally, I disagree. You can’t settle for another mediocre coach with a resume similar to Butch Jones. You need to take a risk in order to finally get this program back on its feet again. I think Tee Martin is the perfect risk you’ve got to take at this point. He’s a Tennessee guy who can recruit. Plus, he’d bring a fantastic staff with him too. It’s a no-brainer at this point.
“Do we know who is driving the decision-making process at UT? Currie thought he had Brohm but deal was nixed. So who has the power to make the hire & why hasn’t Tee Martin received a call? (or Les Miles)” – Robert
Nathanael: Robert, this whole thing is a mess. I’m not sure UT’s administration even knows who is calling the shot. The Haslams clearly have the power, and they are driving this thing. But I’ve also head that they may not have even offered Brohm after all. Who knows what’s happening at this point?
Will: I’m not convinced that this answer is as cut and dry as many are reporting. John Currie kept this search so close to the vest for a while that anyone who claims they know the “whole story” is probably wrong. Jimmy Haslam of course has a lot of say. But I’m of the understanding that Phil Fulmer has only had a very small role in this search. And that needs to change.
“What did we do to deserve this?” – Ashley
Nathanael: Absolutely nothing. And that’s the frustrating part. Vol fans literally sat through a monsoon this season to watch the worst team in program history suffer a blowout loss to LSU. The fans haven’t done anything to deserve this.
Will: The world will never know.