For five years and seven games, Tennessee men's basketball was largely a joy ride. The bill came due in 2011.
UT hoops has undergone a traumatic renovation in the past calendar year. Here's a look at the top 10 stories in how that came to pass:
1. Pearl Era Ends: Bruce Pearl wanted to retire at Tennessee, and the majority of UT fans would have been happy with that scenario.
Pearl was fired on March 21 when UT's administration decided it would be better to face the NCAA judge and jury without the coach charged with unethical conduct.
His bottom line was 145-61, six NCAA tournaments in six years and one tantalizing possession short of the Final Four in 2010.
2. New Sheriff: Less than a week after jettisoning Pearl, UT introduced his successor.
Cuonzo Martin of Missouri State was believed to be in play for a couple of attractive vacancies and UT moved fast to lock him up.
The former Purdue star is UT's second black hoops coach and came with a squeaky clean reputation.
3. One and Done: Tobias Harris became UT's first player to leave for the NBA after his freshman year. The Charlotte Bobcats plucked him in the first round, but then traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks.
4. The Tony Jones Era: While Pearl served an eight-game SEC suspension, associate head coach Tony Jones went 5-3.
Jones, who had virtually no head-coaching experience, directed a five-game SEC winning streak, including triumphs at Ole Miss and Auburn. Two of his losses were in overtime, the third was a last-possession deal in regulation.
Jones has resurfaced as a head coach, at Alcoa High School.
5. Who's Left?: Martin inherited a roster with minimal experience. Besides Harris and five seniors leaving, junior Scotty Hopson bailed to test his luck in the pros (he's in Greece) and neither of Pearl's signees, Kevin Ware and Chris Jones, made it to campus.
All in all, the Vols lost 70 percent of their minutes played and 74 percent of their scoring from last year.
Cam Tatum is the only returning starter. Martin rounded up five signees.
6. Stoked Up: Martin's biggest recruiting score came last week when Memphis forward Jarnell Stokes agreed to join the Vols in January.
A top-15 national player, Stokes will be eligible as of Jan. 11 and raises UT's recruiting profile at a crucial time.
7. No Sweet Home: Thompson-Boling Arena became a happening place during the Pearl years, but the magic tapped out last February.
Pearl's last home win came on Feb. 16 against South Carolina. The Vols dropped their final three home games of the season, to Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky. Georgia hadn't won in Knoxville in 10 years.
8. The Bitter End: Pearl's final game at UT was a 75-45 embarrassment administered by Michigan in Charlotte. Some 48 hours before the Vols left for the NCAA tournament first-round game, AD Mike Hamilton cast a pall over the program with a radio interview in which he placed Pearl's future with the program in doubt.
The Vols competed for a half then threw in the towel, getting outscored 42-16 in Pearl's final 20 minutes.
9. Happy New Year: The Vols rang in 2011 with a rousing 104-84 rout of No. 21 Memphis on Jan. 5. For one day at least, Thompson-Boling was transported back to the good ole days before the NCAA mess hit the program.
It was Pearl's last outing before the eight-game suspension. Things would never be so positive again.
10. Mid-Major Malaise: Martin's first season saw hopes raised by a competitive showing in the Maui Invitational.
But December has been a reality check. The Vols have lost to Oakland, Austin Peay and College of Charleston and had to rally to pull out wins over UNC Asheville and ETSU.
That's where things stand heading into 2012.