Gonzaga (+240) Remains The Favorite To Win The National Championship
Tennessee basketball announced a pair of staff moves on Tuesday, promoting assistant coach Justin Gainey to associate head coach and promoting volunteer assistant Gregg Polinsky to a full time staff position.
Mike Schwartz — who’d been at Tennessee since 2016 and served as associate head coach since 2019 — left the Vols’ program to take the head coaching job at East Carolina. The former Texas walk-on was a major piece of Tennessee’s success under Barnes and served as the “defensive coordinator” as the Vols’ posted top five defenses both of the last two seasons.
Barnes has consistently promoted within staff when his associate head coach’s have left for head coaching jobs and it stays the same here. Gainey just finished his first season on Tennessee’s staff after spending a year at Marquette and two years at Arizona.
“Justin has been an outstanding addition to our program, and his presence and experience have benefited our players and staff alike,” Barnes said in a statement. “Just as he quickly earned the respect of everyone within our program, he’s earned this enhanced role through his steadiness, daily approach and work ethic.”
The seventh-year head coach has frequently promoted from within to fill his associate head coach openings, but has looked wide-and-far for assistant coach openings. Instead, Barnes wasted no time in promoting Polinsky to a full-time assistant role.
Polinsky underwent a career reset coming to Tennessee for the volunteer job. The St. Louis, Missouri native was the head coach at Georgia Southern for four-years in the late 90s before transitioning to professional basketball.
Polinsky spent 19 years with the Brooklyn Nets franchise in a myriad of roles including chief scout and director of college scouting before joining the Detroit Pistons for three years before coming to Knoxville.
“GP added so much to our program this season,” Barnes said. “Elevating him into this role was an easy decision after observing the way he’s impacted our players and staff. His knowledge of the game is so extensive, and he’s spent a large chunk of his career in the NBA, which is the goal destination for most of today’s players. He understands what it takes to make it there—and, more importantly—have longevity there. GP is a world-class talent evaluator and an outstanding relationship builder. He fits the culture of our program perfectly.”
While Polinsky was just a volunteer coach, he was extremely active during Tennessee practices this year and frequently spent extra time working with players. The NBA scouting veteran also helped implement Tennessee’s altered offensive scheme that focused on shooting more three-pointers.
The offseason is now in full swing. We’ll keep you updated with all professional basketball and transfer portal moves at RockyTopInsider.