At a Crossroads

Despite my nerves heading to the Final Four, in my heart of hearts, I had really high aspirations. However, walking into the hotel lobby FULL of coaches was like walking into a Mike Tyson right-handed hook in the first minute of the fight (pre-tattooed face days of course). It didn’t knock me out, but it instantly put me in check and woke me up. Getting an interview and finding a job was going to be a lot tougher then I thought. There were young, and old, employed and unemployed, high school and AAU, and Division I to Division III coaches all looking for jobs. It didn’t matter if guys had a good job or not, it seemed everybody was trying to move. How in the world was I going to get noticed?

For starters, I rocked my University of Tennessee basketball shirts all weekend. As you would expect this got a lot of looks and questions. Comments such as “Why would you wear that, they just fired you?” or “You don’t work there anymore” were continuously thrown my way. Comments such as those were exactly what I was going for as the “Power T” broke the ice and enabled me to explain my story to potential employers and colleagues. I am darn proud of all that we accomplished at Tennessee and have nothing to be ashamed of during my tenure there.

I finally landed a couple of interviews on Friday after a lot of time networking on Thursday and with the huge help of some great references. Surprise, surprise, I was nervous but confident. Nervous because I need to find a job for my family but confident because I was just going to be me. The interviews really weren’t that difficult. Sure they asked some challenging questions but because I answered them with complete honesty based on my experiences and character, it was easy. I mean let’s face it, we’re talking about basketball not rocket science. I’m really excited about these potential opportunities and honestly couldn’t be happier with how the interviews went!

One thing that has become more apparent to me in the last few weeks has been the importance of family. My wife, our families and friends have been unbelievably supportive. Same needs to be said about my coaching family. Coach Forbes, Jones, Shay, Fancher, Jeter (my former Coach at UWM for 1 year), Dean Lockwood and even Coach Pearl at times have been great to me. Whether it was taking time out of their hectic schedules to make a phone call for me or give their advice, they have been so good to me and I am so thankful. After leaving my interviews, it seems as though my biggest competition are guys from the new head coaches “coaching tree.”

Coaches, for the most part, are very loyal guys. They really like to hire within their coaching family. Unfortunately, Coach Pearl doesn’t have the most extensive coaching tree out there so although this makes things a little tougher I’m positive that based on the references from those above and the things I stand for, my opportunity will come somewhere.

The big question for me is where will that somewhere be. Two short years ago, as a single guy I’d have gone anywhere for any amount of money. I just wanted to coach. But now, with a wife and a daughter, things have changed. It’s no longer me it’s we. I talked to a lot of different people this week. Some I admire because of what they stand for, some I don’t. Some people I talked to coach because like myself love the game and want to help kids improve and become men while others have a different, more self-serving agenda. As we’ve seen in the media lately, there is an awesome and an ugly side to collegiate athletics but that’s everywhere and in every kind of business right?

Coaching, the more I’m around it, the crazier it seems to get. For every amazing story of accomplishment there seems to be a horror story. For every perceived fluffy story such as Butler’s Brad Steven’s there’s a deeper behind-the-scenes story such as the one a veteran coach of 26 years told me this weekend. The story consisted of 26 years of high stress, 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night, moving place to place, cheating amongst colleagues, lost time and missed experiences with family members, lack of loyalty in the business, problems with players/parents, addiction to sleeping pills and the thought of never being good enough because there truly is only one team that ends the season happy and satisfied each year. This was from a head coach who had made it to the highest level of college basketball, won championships and cashed a big paycheck for many years. The recollection may have been the extreme negative side of coaching as things such as seeing your player’s graduate, become better men, winning games, calling coaching basketball a job and making positive differences in the community were left out but when you throw that crap in above, is it worth it?

I strongly believe that coaching doesn’t have to consist of all that negativity but honestly though, the more I think about it, you can’t hide from a lot of that stuff. I’m confident I will always be a Godly man, a family man and a man who tries to make a positive difference in those around me but do I really want to go through the next 30 years of my life dealing with ALL the coaching profession will throw at me? More importantly, do I want to put my family through it?

So although I knew I’d be sitting here taking this flight back to Knoxville today from the Final Four, mentally I’m actually in a completely different place. With my heart in coaching I thought I’d be sitting here thinking about different coaching job options but now, for the first time ever, despite my deep love for coaching, I’m thinking about different professions. This is normal right? I mean what if I don’t get a job offer in coaching? I have to evaluate everything don’t I? What would I do besides coach considering I don’t have any job offers in the “real world” either? I’m at a critical point in my life but I’m confident things will become clearer throughout the coming days through hours of praying, soul searching, talking and as job offers come or…don’t come.

Thanks for reading!


About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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18 Responses to At a Crossroads

  1. sheree johnson says:

    mark, I am a mom of 3…2 boys in college at olemiss that played sports their entire lives. I have been going to ut bball games since the 60’s, thru good & bad. I have thoroughly enjoyed your tweets, blogs & watching you coach & carry yourself with grace! you have been on my heart since the coaching change & after reading your blog…I’ve never written to someone I don’t know!… but I feel like I should tell you that I’ve been praying for you & your family. I wish I had a connection to get you a coaching job…but you don’t need me…you have god’s will! good luck…I will follow your career & continue praying for your family. god has big plans for you…keep the faith & continue the grace you have shown! blessings!

  2. Michael says:

    Mark I will be praying that God will give you clear insight to what He wants for you and your family! I appreciate your honesty and integrity! I hope that Tennessee will find a place for you on the new staff if that is the Lord’s will! Fight the fight brother it is men like you that the coaching ranks need now more than ever!

  3. Dewayne says:

    Use those connections from the Vol boosters, Mark. I’m sure with your leadership ability, a guy like Thunder would love to have you leading a business opportunity……

  4. Robert says:

    Mark we went to Fla with you this year. Enjoyed talking with you. We looked at SC tape with you. Enjoyed your thoughts. I will pray things will work out the best for you. Have you though of high school coaching around Knoxville? Let us here from you.

  5. Great read Mark! You will be sucessful in whatever field you end up in as long as you keep your priorities as they are now. Thanks for a glimpse into the sometimes seedy world of college basketball. I pray that Coach Martin will be able to run a clean and honest program as he says without giving into the pressures that accompany a program like ours. Keep blogging!

  6. Robert says:

    Mark, we hope and pray the best works out for you and your family. We went with you to Fla game this year. Enjoyed looking at SC tape with you. Have you thought about high school coaching around Knoxville? Let us here from you.

  7. Paul Kamikawa says:

    Good luck on your search for a coaching job. I was a graduate assistant at Tennessee Tech from 1980-82. Always wanted to get into college coaching but the road led me back to my alma mater, Rockwood High School, where I have been ever since. Stay with your dreams & continue to look. There is something out there for you. The “man” upstairs has a place for you. Just haven’t found it yet. It will pop up.

  8. Kim says:

    Mark i am praying for you and your beautiful family. I wish you all the best in finding whatever you decide, but I don’t think you should give up on coaching as i think you will be great at it. you are a high character type of guy and the coaching profession need someone that is grounded such as yourself. And i also pray that this experience will keep you grounded in your success. God bless you, your wife and daughter.

  9. Rick says:

    Thunder is going broke. Would you take a d2 job. Hit me up Maybe I can help

  10. David says:

    Thoughts and prayers your way. As a former small college basketball coach, what you are going through is normal. With those questions you have, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised how God has a way of working those things out. I enjoy the blog and the tweets, keep it up.

  11. Teresa says:

    Mark, Michael is right – the coaching profession desperately needs men like you. But, I like that you are thinking within yourself – is this really what Mark Pancratz loves or is the role you have & believe exists in coaching not really obtainable. Not because you aren’t good enough, but because you are too good for it.

    I agree with Dewayne, also. Use your local connections made through your hard, honest work at UT. I’d be ashamed of our supporters if one of them doesn’t step up with a great job for you if you decide to take a detour or permanent step away from coaching. You put your family first & a member of the UT family needs to step up and give you a little break. I know they won’t be sorry if this is the route you take.

    You and your family are in my thoughts & prayers.

  12. Jessica says:

    Very interesting thoughts. As the wife of a high school coach and teacher I often have the same thoughts about moving, being successful and being liked from place to place. However, I know that just like my husband coaching is in your blood. You wouldn’t be you without it. Every career has positives and negatives. Remember, winning the championship seems so important year to year but in God’s eyes there are accomplishments everywhere along the way. So, I disagree with the statement that only one team ends up truly satisfied. Satisfaction comes in the form of success and you define success. So while you reach for the ultimate goal there are plenty of things to celebrate along the way. I know you know that from you time here at Tennessee. We truly appreciate you and Brooke and Charli and will be praying for you guys and wishing you the best!

  13. Tony Basilio says:


    Thanks for the time on the air today! You’re perspective is refreshing. Never change that…Trust in Christ in all you do….God’s blessings to you and your family.

    Tony B

  14. Pingback: Mark Pankcratz Introspection - VolNation

  15. Gary Rose says:


    I, too, like many others posting here have been praying for you and your family. Although my career path is not in the field of athletics it has been one that has required several physical moves around the country. Upon my graduation from UT in 1985 the next 20 years or so were all about the traditional pursuit of society’s definition of “success”, i.e. ever increasing responsibilities within my profession, chasing the almighty dollar, etc.

    I vowed at the proverbial “halftime” of my life, for me my mid-40’s, to focus on the “second half” being far more about influence and far less about affluence. Mind you, I still work very hard and enjoy the blessings in my life as much as anyone yet the things that truly matter most are my faith in Jesus Christ, the love of my family and friends, and, just as you are doing, trying my best to be a Godly man.

    Although I do not know you personally I have the greatest respect, admiration and appreciation for you and all that you have done during your years on “The Hill”. You represent all that is right about intercollegiate athletics and I am very proud of you.

    Regardless if you ever “cut down the nets”, at whatever level it may be, the Godly life you lead and example you set, day in and day out, make you a champion!

    May God continue to richly bless you and your family!


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  17. newcoach says:

    I love this post. I love to hear that other coaches have that inner struggle about what to do because of wife and kids etc. I just graduated from a small college where I played basketball, I am wanting to get into coaching but i am not sure to what level, as I want to spend a lot of time with my wife aswell as scratch the basketball itch by coaching.

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