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Tennessee Assistant To Become Head Coach At East Carolina

Where are we picking the Duke Blue Devils to lose?

East Carolina is closing in on hiring Tennessee associate head coach Mike Schwartz, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman first reported Monday evening.

The ECU Board of Trustees officially approved the hire Wednesday afternoon.

The Pirates fired head coach Joe Dooley last week after four poor seasons in Greenville. East Carolina athletic director Jon Gilbert was previously in an administrative role in Tennessee’s athletic department when the Vols’ hired Barnes and his son — Kent — is a sophomore walk-on.

Schwartz was a walk-on himself for Rick Barnes at Texas before starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater under Barnes.

The 45-year old California native joined Tennessee’s staff following Barnes’ first season in Knoxville and has been a key cog in the reemergence of the Vols’ program ever since.

“He became our first-ever GA at Texas,” Barnes said Wednesday. “From that point he moved some different places, and obviously having a chance to work for Frank Haith, who is from our family, and then Rodney Terry. And I always knew when it was the right time I would love to have Mike back.

If you ask me when I thought he would be a head coach, I don’t think I ever thought he wouldn’t be a head coach. He has got it in all areas, facets of the game, and his commitment to the game and what the game is about is special.”

Schwartz spent his first three years in Knoxville as an assistant coach before being promoted to associate head coach following Rob Lanier’s departure to become head coach at Georgia State.

Schwartz is the Vols’ unofficial “defensive coordinator” spearheading a Tennessee defense that’s been one of the nation’s best over the past few years. The Vols’ defense has ranked in the top 10 of adjusted defensive efficiency three times in Schwartz’ six years in Knoxville.

Tennessee’s defense ranks third nationally in defensive efficiency this season.

Barnes and Schwartz shared an embrace following Saturday’s SEC Semifinal win over Kentucky that  properly orchestrates the mentor-mentee relationship.

“I’ve been with Mike — he was my very first GA,” Barnes said following the win. “I have known him my entire life, it seems like. Certainly from the time I met him as a walk-on when he walked on our team at Texas, and then became our first GA and how hard he works. Again, each one of my guys when they prepare, they all have their different way of doing it. They know how we want it done.

I called him last night at 11:30. I went back, and I said what are you doing? He said, Coach, I just ordered a pot of coffee. If you need me, I’ll be up for the next three years. That’s what we went through my mind.”

Schwartz is stay on Tennessee’s staff through the upcoming NCAA Tournament run.

“He had a talk with us before it came out to the media,” Santiago Vescovi said. “First of all, we were happy and proud for him. I think it’s a deserving job for him. He’s been working for it, and I think we’re all happy that opportunity came up to him. But right now I think our main focus is right here and the games that we’ve got to play right now. Once the season is over, we’re going to spend time with him before he leaves and everything. Most of all I think we are really happy for him that he has this opportunity. It is well deserved.”

The California native has been most known for his defensive coaching prowess at Tennessee, but has also been a consistent and string recruiter. Schwartz was internal in Tennessee landing Josiah-Jordan James — the first five-star recruit of the Barnes’ era.

Schwartz would become the fifth Tennessee assistant to leave Knoxville for a head coaching gig in Barnes’ seven years in Knoxville joining Chris Ogden (UT-Arlington), Lanier (GSU), Kim English (George Mason) and Desmond Oliver (ETSU).

Tennessee opens up NCAA Tournament play Thursday afternoon in Indianapolis when they face 14-seed Longwood.

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