When Josh Pastner appeared on a Knoxville radio station Monday, he entertained the typical mid-July questions: recruiting, the one-and-done rule and the prospects of his upcoming team.
But when asked about playing Tennessee, the Memphis basketball coach didn't offer a fence-straddling answer.
"I have no desire to play Tennessee," Pastner told hosts Josh Ward and Will West on The Sports Animal. "I don't think it does us any good. I'm just being honest with you. For us, it's a game that, I don't know why we play it, but we play it because the athletic director wants me to play it and he's my boss and what he says goes."
Reached later, Pastner said he hasn't hidden from his feelings, which he said are rooted in recruiting and aren't personal. To Pastner, it's simple: He doesn't consider Knoxville a fertile recruiting ground, so why give Tennessee exposure in Memphis, a place where the Vols actively recruit players.
But he reiterated that he understood why fans enjoyed the game.
"It's a great game for the fans and the state, but as a head coach, it's something that I'd rather play someone else," Pastner said.
He said that he and Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson have discussed how he feels about the series, which has long been tied into the two schools' attitudes about whether they want to play football against each other. The News Sentinel reported in January that a 10-game, 20-year football contract between the schools expires in 2017.
"(Johnson) feels it's great for the state of Tennessee," Pastner told the radio station. "A lot of people want it in the state of Tennessee, and so I understand that. I'm OK with it. Look, my athletic director, I think he's the best. I mean, the absolute best. If he tells me to do something, I totally believe in chain of command. He's the boss. If he told me to go play Ole Miss, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State and anyone else, I would do it, because he's the boss."
Memphis hasn’t scheduled Ole Miss since 2006, Arkansas since 2003 or Mississippi State since 1984.
After a three-year hiatus, the Vols and Tigers have played every season since 2005-06. The Vols visit FedExForum this season. Pastner said the Tigers would visit Knoxville in 2012-13 but wasn’t sure about future games.