Adams: No. 1 vs. 2: UT dream come true

The Thompson-Boling experience

The marquee has been in place since Monday when Tennessee ascended to second behind unbeaten Memphis in college basketball's national rankings. But No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 UT still has shock value from this vantage point.

It even looks funny when I write it, as though numbers or letters are amiss. The national rankings have the same effect. How can you resist a double-take when you see Tennessee positioned above third-ranked North Carolina, fourth-ranked Kansas, fifth-ranked Duke and sixth-ranked UCLA?

UCLA has played in 17 Final Fours; North Carolina, 16; Duke, 14; and Kansas, 12.

UT has made it to the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Twice.

For fans still dizzied by UT's basketball ascent into the rarified air of basketball's elite, their team is a steadying influence.

UT basketball history isn't relevant to most of these players. Only the seniors have suffered through a losing season. Since then, they have experienced nothing but an exhilarating climb up college basketball's ladder.

Six games into coach Bruce Pearl's first season at UT, his team beat the sixth-ranked Texas Longhorns by 17 points on their home floor. Two months later, they defeated 11th-ranked Kentucky in Lexington. And two weeks after that, they knocked off national-champion-to-be Florida in Gainesville.

Last year's team made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, upset another national championship Florida team, and lost two games by a total of three points to national runner-up Ohio State. That's what UT basketball history means to this team, which couldn't be more comfortable with what qualifies as sudden success to outsiders.

You were reminded of that in an 89-70 victory over Auburn on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

UT easily could have been distracted by the national spotlight, which was shining brightly in the distance. Instead, it dispatched a lesser opponent with the expertise and experience of a basketball blueblood. North Carolina couldn't have done it better.

The spotlight is in UT's face now. So is school history.

If the Vols beat Memphis, they surely would be No. 1 in the country. Imagine that.

I can't write that without thinking of legendary UT coach Ray Mears, who died last summer. I wish he could be sitting behind UT's bench tonight, sporting his orange blazer and distinctive smile.

Pearl has taken UT basketball where Mears wanted it to go, and where he might have taken it himself if illness hadn't ended his career 30 years ago when he was still in his coaching prime.

Longtime UT basketball fans can appreciate that. They also can appreciate the similarities between two coaches separated by decades but connected by their passion for a game that both have promoted as well as coached.

Mears loved big, hostile arenas almost as much as he loved Big Orange Country. Pearl has an affinity for the same adversarial atmosphere.

But the lure of a big game apparently never intruded on Mears' routine.

Former UT basketball star A.W. Davis played for Mears in the early 1960s and also worked for him as an assistant. Twice during that time, the Vols upset No. 1-ranked teams.

I wondered what Mears was like before those games.

"He was the same as he always was," Davis said Wednesday night.

Pearl addressed the same issue after the Auburn game, pointing out that his approach doesn't rise and fall with the ranking of his opponent. News Sentinel sportswriter Mike Griffith, who accompanied the team on its European trip last summer, can verify that's not just "coach speak." Griffith marveled at how Pearl coached a series of exhibition games with NCAA tournament intensity.

Never mind how consistent the preparation has been. Pearl's teams have a track record for elevating their game when the competition demands it.

Tonight's competition is unbeaten, but that doesn't make it unbeatable.

The Vols have proved they can beat No. 1 teams. Now is their chance to become one.

If they pull it off, I would like to think Coach Mears had a good view.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 64

BigVolinCarolina writes:

This is history in the making. Never in my lifetime have the #1 and #2 hoops teams been from the state of Tennessee. In addition, both teams are playing against each other. Plus, we're playing each other this late in the season!

Odds are, this'll never happen again in my next 35 years!

GO VOLS! Beat Tiger High.

jevolball7 writes:

Nice article Adams.....for once!

Cleve writes:

Adams, you're a jerk.

brokebackvol writes:

Nice column Mr Adams but you haven't redeemed yourself to UT fans over the column calling for Fulmer's head. We aren't that stupid.

balloonman writes:

act like it never happened......just ask Bill Clinton......oh i forgot your no Bill Clinton!

cjraney writes:

Boycotting the article. Also boycotting HGTV, foodnetwork, diynetwork, finelivingnetwork, & GAC since I can see by their sponsership they support this sensationalist "journalism." Just wanted to say, "Boo this man!" Yes, boo this "man" named John Adams.

volsfan327 writes:

You have to at least acknowledge that John Adamas has got the conversation out into the light that alot of UT Fans were already talking about with each other when it comes to Coach Fulmer....Fulmer performs better under pressure anyway, so with this heat, we are bound to have a winning season! Like Hamilton said "Expect to Win" GO ALL VOLS!!!!!!!!

FireJohnAdams writes:

Go Vols, beat Memphis...

Adams, go home to LA, that'd be a real Dream Come True!

anthony writes:

That's right John, our dream, not yours, you are now just getting on board for the ride. So get off and walk!!!

Hunter writes:

John, nice article. Now, when the game is over, take 55 South out of Memphis instead of 40 East. Much faster way home for you.....

hcjournals#206623 writes:


It is time to go back to your roots, where being a cutthroat is acceptable. We don't play like that here. It seems you would have learned that by now. New Orleans needs.......sorry, I can't do that to New Orleans. Baton Rouge needs your..............Oh forget it. Please leave us. We are done with your kind...........

tomwhitecbhs writes:

I'm from Memphis when Memphis was MSU and UT called us Tiger High in the 60s. I was in K'Ville and met Ray Mears in 1973. It was the year we went to the finals before being trashed by Walton's UCLA team

I asked Mr. Mears about that Memphis team and he said "great talents, we almost landed Rucker and certainly cost them the championship when
Johnny turned us down but went to Ole Miss. Both never thought about the SEC until I called on them"

There are many of us in Memphis that want this game to GO TIGERS for that very reason.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Word on the street says that John Adams is actually a robust turnip dressed up as a sports writer. I don't know. Just the rumors.

dvol writes:

Nice John, I also wish Ray could be there for this one. Hope VOLS come to play.

StaytheCourse writes:

Why did the chicken cross the road?...........Cuz i hate john adams.

zqvol writes:

Who cares what Adams thinks!

Fire Adams!

why36knot#656113 writes:

A very safe article after his hatchett job on Fulmer. For me however he will never again have any credibilty.
GO VOLS BEAT THE TIGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OldNumber7 writes:

My dream come true is Phil and John in a ring with those Japanese-thong Sumo underpants, and watching them throwdown while I putdown a scotch.

rockyknox writes:

Adams, I guess the team has to be almost perfect for you to write something nice about it. It is pathetic that the KNS keeps you on the payroll. Please leave!

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


I was pretty committed to remaining in Asia until I saw your post. Now, I think I am willing to return just to counsel you.

mtnvol writes:

My dream come true would be a "For Sale" sign in Jack A$$'s front yard.

OldNumber7 writes:

Yeah, that was sick. I think the image of John flattened put me over the edge.

randybaseballvol writes:

Adams needs to be fired - he is effecting our program by trying to shock ppl so they will read.

Fulmer doesn't deserve it and we all don't deserve it - one bad apple can spoil the bunch and there is no doubt he is trying to do that.

How do we get rid of him - maybe we can all sign a petition - get a couple thousand signatures and get him out of here.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

I think we should hire someone with big fat orange lights, like they do for sale promotions by shooting them in the sky and aim it into his bedroom window.

If that proves ineffective, Get huge speakers and play Rockytop or the Philip Fulmer show from 12:00 till 5:00 am.

Come on guys, you can do better than my ideas. Watcha got?

jeffersongavol writes:

If you want Adams gone, like I do, don't worry about canceling the paper. You need big advertisers to pull their ads. If you run ads in this newspaper, please stop. Ads in the newspaper don't work anyway. Also you can contact large advertisers and tell them that you are not doing business with them as long as they advertise in the KNS. If we all do this for a while, JA will be fired. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead.

duckvol writes:

Adams - I have at times enjoyed your articles. I, for one, believe that you have a sliver of talent. Unfortunatly you have chosen to write an article on Coach Fulmer that I would label as "shock journalism". I do not for one second believe that you truly feel what you wrote. You knew this would stir the pot and bring focus on YOU and would help inflate an apparantly low self-esteem. For this reason alone you should be let go UNLESS you are man enough to admit that you only wrote the article to bring attention to yourself. I belive in free spech and will defend your right to voice your opinion, however this is not about opinions, it is about egos. Admit your mistake - we are a forgiving nation. Continue to be a pompous egomanic and we will not forgive. In fact I truly believe you will see the wrath of the educated Vol nation and you will have to seek employment elsewhere. Do the right thing - be a man and admit your mistake before it is too late.

DroopyDrawers writes:


Credibilty! Donkey Adams lost that years ago.

Donkey, have you packed yet? Use MapQuest to get back to Louisana.

bloodrunsorange writes:

I just can’t believe the person who wrote this is the same person who totally disgraced himself with the change at the top article.

TommyJack writes:

Adams should be keel-hauled by the Vol Navy for this libelous, shameful beat-down of all things orange. Maybe legal action is called for. Ship him back to the Atchafalaya

Pullingguard writes:

Adams you have burned your bridges to the Vol Nation and it's time you moved on.. You can never write an article that enlightens or motivates the UT fan base. You are on an isolated island scratching for any substance to justify your being. Good by John Adams...

hillsborovol writes:

Even in a positive article, Adams short-changes the Vols. Tennessee has made it to the Sweet 16 on THRICE, not TWICE...1981, 2000, and 2007. Does the great Adams ever err on the positive side of UT?

Huntingdonvol writes:

Just fire him KNS no redemption!

arkyvol writes:

ray mears was a very good coach. he was not a great coach. i was a student in the hey days of ernie and bernie, not to mention a slew of stellar supporting players. all that talent and it went nowhere. it boggles my mind to think what a crum, knight, or wooten would have done with it. if mears couldn't get it done with ernie and bernie, he couldn't get it done.

TommyJack writes:

arkyvol: Couldn't disagree more. I was there at about the same time. Some of those teams prior to Bernie/Ernie drove other teams wild with their deliberate style. Ray had to play with the deck he drew. Recruiting was almost impossible. Still don't know how he got the B&E boys. After B&E I think his Coach Mear's health was a real issue. Great Vol, Great Coach, IMO.

King30 writes:

Haynesworth? Lewis? Little? Goodrich?
Jesus, John, you could've almost gotten away with that slander if you hadn't felt compelled to use those names just to fill the words of your article.
Then, to reiterate your point on both Birmingham and Atlanta radio stations???
Truly classless.
This would've been a good basketball article if Griffith had written it, but I will NEVER respect another word you contribute to the KNS.
Be a man and, at the very least, find a way to apologize to Phillip, the administration, and the fans of Tennessee football for bringing up names from the past that faultered after they were gone. They sullied themselves, but they also contributed greatly to the immense tradition that is UT football when they were here. You, on the other hand, have done more damage to the program and university than all of their post-UT notorieties combined.
Apologize, John. Phillip deserves at least that much.

Chainsaw writes:

Hey Adams, had your Pamprin (maximum strength menstrual pain relief multi-symptom tablets) this morning?

johnlg00 writes:

arkyvol, that was a little harsh. I too remember those days well, and few of Mears' teams had real quality depth. Mears hardly ever played more than six or seven players, and the drop-off from the starters was pretty steep. Since he didn't have much depth, his teams had to play at a slow pace which arguably didn't make the best use of Ernie and Bernie's talent. One could also argue that someone else could have recruited more and better talent, but no big-name coach would have come to Tennessee at that time. Even CBP wasn't exactly a household name when he first came here. Also, during most of that time, only the regular-season conference champion could go to the NCAA tournament, and there was no conference tournament. Ernie and Bernie could have played for any team in the country; most of the others...not so much. I will admit that a joke among some of my acquaintances at the time was that Mears could take you, me, a waterboy, and two cheerleaders and coach us to second in the SEC. He could also take a given year's All-America team and also coach them to...second in the SEC(;-P)!

db11_cn writes:

John Adams I doubt you read this far down the posting line, but the reaction from the "mouth-breathers" re: Fulmer indicates the impact your articles carry. UTAD response similar to the Doug Dickey press conference when the "Tony Harris is a punk" article came out during Jerry Green era. This is an opportunity for public to witness how Hamilton deals with this kind of ordeal. Instead of writing followup letters of support, he should tell Phil,"Do your job well and all things take care of themselves." Translation - Don't embarrass me or the university. The higher priority on Hamilton's plate is making sure Indiana, or some other school with long basketball tradition and deep pockets doesn't come take Bruce Pearl away. If that happens, it's UT's message to the world, yes, football IS our main focus.

bmaples writes:

I suppose I could have expected this. If a mere comment from some reader dares to question Fulmer and/or Hamilton, the response from the "loyal at all costs" 101st Fighting Keyboardists is swift and severe. Now that John Adams has dared to put into print what many of us thought, or at least wondered about ("Damn! Another arrest! What are they doing down there?"), he is trashed in ways that would make Jerry Springer blush.

Do I agree with everything John writes? No, and that's a good thing. If all sports writers were just koolaid-drinking fans, all we would hear was what we already thought. The job of a reporter is to report the facts, and the job of a columnist is to take those facts and either add some insight or share their opinion.

Sometimes, frankly, John Adams' columns don't add much insight; they are little more than features. This one, for example, gives some historical perspective. I'd rate it about a C+ or maybe a B. (Although, many of us would do no better when faced with a 700-word limit.)

John's column on Fulmer, on the other hand, dared to go beyond the "adding insight" function, and moved to "have an opinion" -- even to "call for action." How dare he! This is the GoVols site -- doesn't he know he's just supposed to write NICE things about the Vols!?!

For the record, I don't agree with John's article 100%. I think the call for Fulmer's dismissal was about two steps two far. But, I also don't agree with the rabid kool-aid addicts on this site. Good grief, people, can you not find a way to disagree without sounding like the worst type of "fan"? The ad-hominem attacks sound like an online version of a mob. Get some perspective, people!

harley.bryant#435606 writes:

I love UT and The article calling for Coach Fulmer to step down was spot-on! No coach gets less out of talent than Coach Fulmer.

volsfan327 writes:

db the voice of reason! Yes, I completely agree..Adams didn't write anything that wasn't being said anyway, he brought the "dirty little secret" to light. Nothing quiets critics like winning...all Coach Fulmer has to do is come out and win, personally, I think he has rode the National Championship coat tails long enough and time to put another championship on the wall. Right now, I want to beat Memphis and make sure Hamilton keeps Coach Pearl at UT...everybody loves a winner! Go Vols

VOLinTusca writes:

John, there's an opening for "Executive Sports Editor" at the Tuscaloosa News. Seems that the recently depated Mr. Wasson was under fire for sexually harassing one of his female students at UAT. You would make a great addition to that pathetic paper, although I don't think they hire anyone but Homers.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Beat U of M. Someway.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Has anyone mentioned that John Adams is an idiot?

eanderson#655202 writes:

Uhhhh, I thought this was a BASKETBALL blog. Where did I go wrong? Good article Johnny. Don't stop.

utalum04 writes:

Fire Adams, Fire Adams, Fire Adams!!!!!

va_vol16 writes:

john what is your reason for staying in knoxville you dont like UT and we dont like you i am not the biggest Phil Fulmer fan in the world but i think that article you wrote was a major low blow and sometimes john you just try to hard to be funny and the only thing funny about you is the way you look

budd#207344 writes:

It saddens me when I see fellow Vol fans defend a coach who allows his athletes to sully the name of our University. This nonsense of allowing five and six chances to people that obviously don't really care is not something I want to see. And if JA wrote it then good for him. I may not like everything Adams writes but if I did then I would begin to wonder if he is a sports editor for the newspaper or in the marketing department for UT football. Fulmer was wrong to allow Colquitt to stay period. And that he doesn't realize it shows how far down the wrong road he has gone.

FLAVOLS writes:

Great comment Budd! Try not to be sheep people!


cdldoc#211897 writes:

Fire John Adams! Why? Because his writing bores us.

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