Kippy Brown knows all about leaving Knoxville.
Tennessee's former interim head coach has done so three times in his long, successful career. But when Brown did so on Saturday, he probably could have used some consolation.
The 54-year-old left UT for the Seattle Seahawks after his third stint as a UT assistant coach. This departure, however, was far different than the first two.
Brown left UT after the 1989 season to join the New York Jets staff. He left after the 1994 season to become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer assistant. Both times, Brown had to consider the move a positive one for his resume.
The latest departure was different. He was the coach that got passed over once again for a head-coaching job.
"I'd like for it to happen, but you just can't control things," Brown said. "You do the best you can. Work your tail off and good things can happen. I'm proud of my career."
He should be. Brown's career has spanned 30 years and seven professional franchises. He's worked with countless Pro Bowlers, mostly as a receivers coach, and garnered enough respect from NFL head coaches that he has been named assistant head coach and passing game coordinator.
However, that resume wasn't enough to convince UT athletic director Mike Hamilton that the Sweetwater native was the right man for the job. Instead, Hamilton had all but made the decision to hire Derek Dooley before interviewing Brown on Friday.
"The one thing we said is 'We're not hiring anybody officially until we interview Kippy Brown.' " Hamilton said Monday.
Technically, perhaps, Hamilton didn't hire Dooley until he interviewed Brown, even though news leaked that Dooley was Hamilton's choice before Brown was interviewed.
Brown was supposed to be Hamilton's first interview as UT looked to fill the position vacated by head coach Lane Kiffin, who bolted last week for the same job at Southern California less than a month after hiring Brown.
Hamilton said weather issues impeded his travel Thursday night and Friday morning, forcing him to continually postpone the eventual one-hour interview he had with Brown.
"At that point I had to make a decision," Hamilton said.
The decision was to be straight-forward with Brown, interview him and see if he could sway UT's decision.
"What I told him is 'Kippy, look, you're not in the same situation you were Wednesday because I've interviewed a bunch of other guys now," Hamilton said. ". . . I have not offered the job to Derek Dooley because I told him I wanted to come back and interview you first.
"He knows he's in position A to get the job offer, but you need to have a fair chance to tell us what your program would look like."
Brown did so and was told that Dooley would be hired shortly thereafter.
"I'm OK with everything; I really am, and I'm done with it," Brown said. "I wish them the best. I really do."
When Dooley was hired, Brown's decision was all but made. He knew Pete Carroll well. The two coached together with the Jets on a staff that oddly enough featured former UT defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
In another strange twist of fate, it was Carroll's departure to Seattle that created the chain reaction that would cut short the long-awaited return to UT for Brown.
Carroll's departure led to USC hiring Kiffin and sent the Vols into a tailspin for much of last week.
"I think it's going to be a heckuva situation," Brown said of the Seahawks. "I knew that if I didn't get the head-coaching job (at UT), I probably wouldn't stay."
Another former Vol assistant also fell by the wayside in Hamilton's quest to find UT's 22nd head coach. Former UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe was one of the eight or nine candidates Hamilton said he spoke to about the job.
Hamilton declined to comment when asked about negotiations about Cutcliffe's coaching staff, which was thought to be a sticking point, but confirmed that there was a timing issue that could not be overcome.
"He got into a timing deal, where he had to know specifically if he was truly a candidate or not," Hamilton said. "We were in a situation where we were going to let the process completely run its course."
While some wanted Hamilton to hire a former Vol assistant - i.e. Cutcliffe or Brown - others wanted a big-name coach, like Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who also coached at UT 1993-94.
"We made a couple of runs at a couple of different people," Hamilton said. "The timing was not the best in a lot of ways.
"In the end, I feel like we got a great guy that we can be excited about here at Tennessee."
That, however, came at the expense of Brown, who finally returned to UT after being rumored for so many assistant-coaching vacancies in the past and was so close to landing the head-coaching position he's coveted for so long.
Hamilton said he could understand if Brown felt shaken by the process.
"I'm sure he probably felt that way, but the guys that are on the inside know how hard we worked making sure we gave him an adequate chance to tell us what he would do if he were the coach," Hamilton said. "It wasn't the best of scenarios. I admit that freely."