When Bruce Pearl presented his coaches with scooters at the 2008 season banquet after Tennessee won its first outright men’s SEC basketball title in 41 years, Steve Forbes had no idea just how useful the gift would be.
“That’s what I’ve been driving around since I’ve been down here in Florida,’’ said Forbes, who was fired along with Pearl and the rest of the staff on March 21 as a result of the NCAA investigation. “I don’t even have a car with me.’’
Forbes, who has taken over as head coach at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, doesn’t have his wife and children with him either, as he has yet to sell his home in Knoxville.
But to say he’s not surrounded by family — of sorts — would not be entirely correct.
Forbes announced Tuesday that he has hired former UT assistant Jason Shay and former Vols student manager and graduate assistant Brooks Savage to the Raiders’ staff.
“I’m very fortunate, and our players are very fortunate, to have a coach the caliber of Jason; he has proven he’s one of the sharpest basketball minds in the country with the scouts he did in our series with Memphis and Florida,’’ Forbes said.
“On top of that, Jason is an outstanding evaluator of talent, and he’s also a very good friend who I feel comfortable with and trust.’’
Forbes has the same sentiments toward Savage, who in addition to showing his coaching traits the six years he spent at UT, launched the OutLive program, which benefits cancer research and screenings at UT Medical Center.
“Brooks Savage is a rising star in this business, and he did an unbelievable job for us in Knoxville before spending the past season at Tulane as video coordinator and director of player development,’’ Forbes said. “Brooks has the personality and the desire to be a top-notch recruiter. He has a great relationship with our players.’’
As for Forbes’ immediate family, the transition still has its challenges.
“I’m missing my son, Christopher’s, 16th birthday, and obviously I’m very disappointed about that,’’ Forbes said. “But that’s part of the transition when you change jobs — it’s not just basketball coaches, it’s anyone in that situation in life.’’
Forbes said he and Shay are sharing an apartment across from the Northwest Florida State campus for now.
While Shay has his Harley Davidson motorcycle, Forbes said his scooter is capable of going 50 mph and it gets “80 or 90 miles to the gallon.’’
Forbes also gives high praises to Vision Airlines, as its $39 each-way special from Knoxville to Destin, Fla., has enabled him to fly home to visit his family on three occasions.
The former UT coaches in Niceville, Fla., have not been at loss for company, either.
“Every week, we’ve had three or four people stop in and see us,’’ Forbes said. “Tennessee fans, friends and people we know in the coaching business have taken the time to stop by, and we really appreciate that.’’
Forbes said he has his own private opinion about how UT handled some things during the NCAA investigation, but he bears no ill will toward Vols’ fans and players.
“My feeling is we accomplished a lot with Tennessee, but it’s over, and I’m moving forward and moving on,’’ Forbes said. “This job is a positive step in the right direction, and I’m not going to live in the past.
“We’re still basketball coaches, and we’re still doing the same kinds of things. The only difference is we’re not playing on ESPN on Tuesdays and Saturdays.’’
Forbes, who was a junior college coach prior to joining the NCAA Division I ranks as an assistant, said he sees a value in his role at Northwest Florida State, an NCJAA Division I program.
“The most rewarding thing about coaching at this level is making a difference and helping kids improve their situations,’’ he said. “They’re here because they need help academically, or with their games, and two years from now I’m going to turn on the television and be able to see them play.’’