This year celebrates the centennial season of men's basketball at Tennessee. The News Sentinel continues its series looking into the players, teams and events that have molded an exciting history.
When the 1967-68 basketball season opened, Tennessee wasn't sure who would replace the scoring punch of departed All-American Ron Widby. But the Vols knew exactly who was going to get the ball in the scorers' hands.
That was Bill Hann, a junior guard from Cleveland, Ohio.
Hann was never better at his job than in the SEC opener at Alabama on Jan. 6, 1968. In fact, nobody in the SEC was ever better than Hann was that day.
UT had never won a game in Alabama's Foster Auditorium, which would shut its doors at season's end in favor of the new Coleman Coliseum.
The Vols made good on their last try, romping by 82-63, with Hann propelling the offense along with 19 assists.
Bobby Croft scored 22 points, Bill Justus 21, Tom Hendrix 18 and Tom Boerwinkle 10.
Hann's accomplishment wasn't celebrated, at least not in print. The News-Sentinel account of the game includes one sentence at the end of a paragraph listing the scoring leaders: "Hann had 19 assists."
Two days later a newspaper story said that coach Ray Mears thought the 19 assists might be an SEC record. Box scores didn't tabulate assists in 1967-68, so it's unclear if anyone had 19 up to that point.
Perhaps Hann's day inspired the school to keep track. Both the SEC and Tennessee started recording assists in 1968-69. Hann dished out 173 that year as a senior, an average of 6.2 per game.
Hann's 19 is listed in the SEC record book as the single-game record, matched by LSU's Kenny Higgs in 1977. The NCAA record is 22.
Hann also averaged 7.2 points over his three-year career. The Vols won at least 20 games in all three of his seasons and never finished worse than second in the SEC.
The closest any Vol has come came to Hann's 19 assists in the years since was 16, by Bert Bertelkamp (in a 1980 NCAA tournament game), Johnny Darden (1977) and Rodney Woods (1975).