I’ve talked a lot about the expectations our staff has for our players when it comes to their effort, energy, accountability, willingness to learn and role commitment within our team. All of these requests of our student-athletes are the necessary steps our staff believes will help them become the best they can be on and off the floor as our program becomes as successful as possible. On the other hand, I have very rarely talked about what our staff requires from one another. We are truly a practice-what-you-preach staff. We demand our players meet the high level of standards we set because our staff demands that and more ourselves. Sure, mistakes are made, people are let down and lessons must be learned. Those that have made them have been fully accountable for them and have used it as a great learning experience. After all, it’s during times of adversity when you often make the most improvements. Times will be difficult but the hunger and eagerness to roll up your sleeves and get to work jumps out of a champion. If you check our staff’s track record, WE are champions.
Coach Jones has known Coach Pearl ever since his brother Bill was recruited by Coach Pearl to Iowa years and years ago. Their relationship and trust has reached new heights over the last nine seasons as Tony has served as Coach Pearl’s Associate Head Coach. He has been there when every decision was made both here at the University of Tennessee and during our unprecedented run at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Coach Forbes is one of the more respected Assistant Coaches in the country. (See this latest top assistant’s poll http://bit.ly/afieXx). His toughness and defensive knowledge is a direct reflection of our improvement in the half court defense over the last few seasons. Coach Shay aka “Super Scout,” is one of the most respected basketball minds in the country. His ability to not only help design and run our team’s offense, but to game plan for our opponents is invaluable. I challenge you to find another assistant coach in the country who has done better than Coach Shay’s 7-3 record vs. Top 5 teams in the country when it is their scout. Not to mention, our Coordinator of Video Scouting Houston Fancher, was the 2003 Southern Conference coach of the year and won three conference championships while at Appalachian State. His knowledge and experience provides the coaching staff with an important source of reference. As Coach Pearl always says, adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Will it be tough when Coach Pearl is away from us for the first 8 games of the SEC schedule? NO DOUBT! But, because of these guys’ knowledge, passion and strong relationships with our players, I know and more importantly, our players know, we will be in GREAT hands. Those 8 games are a ways away. We are strictly focused on doing the necessary things each and every day to get better.
The last two days we have worked diligently in preparing for VCU. Their up-tempo style closely resembles that of Florida’s since their Head Coach, Shaka Smart, was once an assistant for Billy Donovan. It doesn’t take a genius to know that our offense will be challenged due to their pressure if we do not improve our decision-making and reduce our turnovers. We have put a HUGE emphasis on doing everything with two hands the last few days. Every time a player hasn’t caught a pass, snatched a rebound, or made a pass with two hands there has been a punishment. In addition, with our first unit having played heavy minutes on back-to-back nights, we have given a lot of our 2nd and 3rd units extra work in practice. As I talked about in my last post, they have done a great job of staying ready with their individual work but needed some more time going over our offensive play calls and defensive principles. These guys have immense value to our team as our staff trusts them just as much as they do our starters.
Coach Pearl has always taken great pride in having a family atmosphere within our program. He talks to the staff daily about the value of having great relationships with one another and our players. These are the guys that we celebrate the highest of the highs with and work through the lowest of the lows with because we are all in this together. We are the Tennessee Basketball Family.
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