John Adams: UT needs more than a new coach

John Adams

Fans react to Tennessee's firing of coach Bruce Pearl

Vol Hoops 2010-2011: Out-Dribbled by Distraction and Disappointment

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If you were still wondering whether Mike Hamilton would continue as Tennessee’s athletic director, chancellor Jimmy Cheek cleared things up for you late Monday night.

In a statement released by UT, Cheek wrote: “Mike Hamilton has my support. I join him in looking forward to continued success.”

That was Hamilton’s cue to update his résumé. The last thing you want in today’s job market is a vote of confidence from the UT chancellor.

Bruce Pearl got one last September. While UT announced it was punishing the basketball coach for NCAA violations, Cheek said he expected Pearl would be coaching the Vols for a long time.

A long time lasted six months.

The dramatic shift in support from then to Monday’s firing of Pearl is what angers and perplexes UT fans the most.

Cheek and Hamilton tried to explain their revised stance. They would have been better off tweeting.

Twitter wouldn’t have provided Hamilton with enough room to write: “The cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents have led to a belief that this staff cannot be viable at Tennessee in the future.”

Somebody get him a copy editor — fast.

You have just fired one of the most popular coaches in school history. You at least owe fans a coherent, detailed explanation.

The details include Pearl’s “bump” with a recruit. That occurred after the September press conference in which UT officials pledged their support of Pearl as long as no additional, detrimental evidence was forthcoming.

Bumps usually are classified as secondary violations. When the NCAA categorized this one as major, its message was clearer than anything you’re apt to hear from UT.

The NCAA wanted Pearl out of coaching. That’s the going penalty for lying to its investigators, as Pearl did.

You could argue that UT’s brain trust should have figured that out in September. If it had fired Pearl then, at least the program would be further along the road to recovery.

Instead, the decision-making has fostered a worst-case scenario.

By keeping Pearl, the program was subjected to a season’s worth of bad publicity. By firing him this week, the negative publicity was compounded, and further questions were raised about the program’s leadership.

Those leaders are more steadfast in their strategy than their support. They’re still engaged in wishful thinking.

Writes Cheek: “Going forward, I’m confident that Mike Hamilton will find the right coach who can build on the foundation created over the past several years.”

Insert your own punch line.

I don’t fault Hamilton so much for whom he has fired or hired, but for his staggering lack of perception.

Last week, with the NCAA tournament only days away, Hamilton suddenly raised doubts in a radio interview as to whether Pearl would return. Until then, he had voiced only support for the coach.

Vols fans were understandably outraged, as evidenced by Hamilton’s approval rating, which plummeted faster than a president’s in the midst of an unfavorable war or a collapsing economy.

How could Hamilton not see that coming? And how could he be so insensitive to his student-athletes?

Never mind how difficult this season has been. The team still made the NCAA tournament, which qualifies as a college basketball player’s dream come true. Hamilton obviously didn’t consider that dream when he made his remarks.

The team was left to deal with the possibility of losing its coach.

The players performed accordingly, losing a first-round game to Michigan by 30 points.

In a season rife with distractions, Hamilton provided the greatest distraction of all. How’s that for leadership?

And how’s that for proof UT needs a new athletic director as much as it needs a new basketball coach?

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskkns

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Comments » 123

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

I sure hope you are right about Hamilton. Personally, I think the change of heart was brought about by the 75-45 loss to Michigan. Reverse that score, and Pearl is still the coach.

Lean_and_Hungry writes:

I'm sure qualified coaches are lining up to work for this confederacy of dunces.

brauhuff#295403 (Inactive) writes:

you cannot let this idiot continue as athletic director

crutch1966 writes:

the ncaa needs to get rid of tressel also then.

gbo78 writes:

Outcome of the Michigan game didn't have anything to do with this other than getting the season out of the way so we can move on.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Jury is still out on Hamilton. Just because Cheek supports him for many years to come doesn't mean he won't be fired next week. The total administration at UT is a joke, and I have been a UT supporter for 40 years. I do not support any of the administrative personnel, this is the worse I have ever seen backstabbing and double standards (not to mention lying).

I will still support all the Volunteer sports programs but will never believe anything coming out of the mouths of anyone in the administrative area again.

PHIL FULMER FOR AD!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I sure hope you are right about Hamilton. Personally, I think the change of heart was brought about by the 75-45 loss to Michigan. Reverse that score, and Pearl is still the coach.

Well that certainly didn't help Bruce's cause but either way, the bump last September along with another NCAA boo-boo this March with some Kentucky basketball tickets really dragged him down. Unlike Adams, I don't have a real problem with firing him now because until 3 weeks ago, they didn't know exactly what the official NCAA allegations were going to be and once they found out, the season was basically over. I have a big problem with Hamilton's handling of that interview and a bigger problem with Cheek's apparent love affair with Hamilton. UT basketball will survive and if it doesn't, I hope some of our more rabid Pearl fans will realize that for all Bruce Pearl has done for UT, and it is impressive, ultimately any demise of the program short- or long-term must also be laid squarely and wholly at Bruce's feet. I think the NCAA is going to whoop a "show-cause" penalty on Bruce so he is basically out of coaching for several years anyway - doing it now or waiting until next August when the infractions committee releases their verdict - I'd say now is the better choice. Go Vols!!!

AllVols writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I sure hope you are right about Hamilton. Personally, I think the change of heart was brought about by the 75-45 loss to Michigan. Reverse that score, and Pearl is still the coach.

He might still be coach, but only until we ultimately lost. The decision to fire Pearl was CLEARLY made before the tournament even started.

FlaVol2 writes:

John Adams, you penned a good argument for the firing of Hamilton. He hired both coaches (Kiffin and Pearl)that let the university down by doing things that are not trustworth or properly correct. My view of this last week is get rid of both of them.

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

in response to gbo78:

Outcome of the Michigan game didn't have anything to do with this other than getting the season out of the way so we can move on.

Baaaaahhhh ..... Baaaahhhh ..... Baaahhhhhhh ....... WHAT A SHEEP

crwood6#232345 writes:

Fulmer probably would not make a good AD. He was a football coach not an administrator. Being a good football coach does not qualify you to run a multi-million dollar athletic department. Former UT assistant AD, Mitch Barnhardt, who is currently the AD at Kentucky is who we should go get. He's a class act, good fund raiser and excellent administrator. Plus, he knows UT and Knoxville.

Hunter writes:

The University of Tennessee has not seen quality leadership at the highest level since Andy Holt left the Presidency. Shoumaker did a commendable job, but had his own "barbecue-gate" that cost him dearly.

Mike Hamilton is by all indications a fine, upstanding man who gives abundantly to charitable causes and has done incredible fundraising work in this poor economy. He badly misplayed this situation, but the fault still lies at the feet of Bruce and staff (who I love dearly!!!) for choosing to misrepresent themselves in front of the sport's governing body.

Whether or not Hamilton stays, the University as a whole needs far better leadership at the highest levels than has been evidenced to date.

spencer1989#206886 writes:

If the NCAA was out to put Pearl out coaching (for any length of time) over his lying.....Then Tressel needs that penalty plus jail time...With the keys thrown away. What he did was at least twice as bad. As I have said from day one of this mess.....Let's see how the NCAA treats some of these other "pet programs".

ralphie writes:

every player will xfer. bball is dead

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

OVER / UNDER hamilton fired within 5 days .... I say under .... others?

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to HHUUMMBBLLEE:

OVER / UNDER hamilton fired within 5 days .... I say under .... others?

Witch Doctor in...what we betting?
Bones never lie.

tenuhc writes:

Hamilton has to go. Please make it fast so a real AD can get us a Coach.

ajenkins07#229518 writes:

Agree 100%!

jarvol writes:

Here here. UT needs a new AD before it attempts to hire a new basketball coach. No football coach on UT's 1st page of candidates would give Hamilton the time of day nor will any good basketball coaches. The man is an absolute moron who should never have been hired 8 years ago.

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor in...what we betting?
Bones never lie.

the future of UT basketball that's all

I_BLEED_ORANGE writes:

Hamilton ripped by Adams, but he's right. Handled Who Must Not Be Named hiring terribly and Fulmer and Pearl firing poorly.

vols2#227315 writes:

As bad as I would like to see Hamilton fired, he will not be fired because the president is his next door neighbor. Just ashame Pearl was not his neighbor too.

VolunteerLifer writes:

"You could argue that UT’s brain trust should have figured that out in September. If it had fired Pearl then, at least the program would be further along the road to recovery.
Instead, the decision-making has fostered a worst-case scenario.
By keeping Pearl, the program was subjected to a season’s worth of bad publicity. By firing him this week, the negative publicity was compounded, and further questions were raised about the program’s leadership."

Bingo, Adams. Right on the money. If the brain trust didn't know in September that the ncaa wouldn't tolerate us keeping Pearl, they should have. By all the blustery statements about keeping Pearl no matter what, the AD and administrators just set themselves up to look like incompetent fools. Very poor judgement and decision making.

I vote: "No Confidence" On Mike Hamilton.

TWhite11 writes:

So does this mean that Ohio st has to fire tressel since he lied about something bigger then having some kids over for a backyard barbecue?

jarvol writes:

And for goodness sake would you Fulmerites please stop mentioning that bubba to replace Hamilton. UT needs somebody that can unify the fanbase and not meddle in the football program and we all know Fulmer has no shot at doing either of those. You want an articulate Vol to lead the AD....then go get Charles Davis.

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

mike don't go away mad,just GO AWAY

KJVol writes:

Let's see, the first half score was 33-29, down 4 points. I guess that Hamilton's words really only sunk in at halftime.

How about a likelier explanation. The team QUIT (Tobias Harris' words, not mine).

Maybe the mess that Coach Pearl created this year collapsed around them and they JUST QUIT.

No, wait, it's a whole lot easier to blame Mike Hamilton....instead of Bruce Pearl who WE ALL LIKED.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to AllVols:

He might still be coach, but only until we ultimately lost. The decision to fire Pearl was CLEARLY made before the tournament even started.

Your 100% correct Allvol..Bruce was toast as soon as the official NCAA letter came down..At that point the powers to be((however that is))decided to cut our losses and hope for lesser punishment and hope for a big hire..I must say Hamilton's comments before the tourney was one of the dumbest;totally unnecessary moves by an AD I can remember!!!That by itself shows the AD should not be representing UT..Iam still wondering what the volnation thinks about Haslam's huge donation just prior to that..I don't know much about Haslam but the timing certainly raises some questions

mserena#334282 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I sure hope you are right about Hamilton. Personally, I think the change of heart was brought about by the 75-45 loss to Michigan. Reverse that score, and Pearl is still the coach.

Once again, high praise for John Adams and his honest and candid remarks regarding both the Bruce Pearl soap opera as well as the Mike Hamilton sit com. Like Mr Adams, I, too, am skeptical of the upcoming B-coach selection process headed up by an individual who has not proven to be very successful in hiring longevity nor quality....yet he still seems to hold onto his job despite a less than stellar performance....hey with this kind of lengthy and disjointed response...perhaps I might be qualified for AD public relations editor!!??!!

miketn6 writes:

Hamilton must be fired.
The basketball team is screwed for at least two years either way.
I have no problem with Fulmer as AD as long as they tell him he cannot coach.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to HHUUMMBBLLEE:

the future of UT basketball that's all

Witch Doctor say Hamilton bit dont really work on an anonymous board as no one really cares what you or I think..Witch Doctor say thinking any different is like some on TOS thinking they effected play-calling by their posts on anonymous board(yea really(?)...lets keep it real.
Witch Doctor say someone needed to say that.
Bones never lie.

PANCHO writes:

Great article John.

tomoleigho#364236 writes:

Please Please Please get rid of Hamilton.

UT has become the joke of the nation under his rein.

We will not get the Bball coach we need under Hammy. And, regardless, we will look like fools, cheaters, and "just waiting for the next catastrophe" as long as he is around.

Mike, thanks for raising a lot of money and making the stadium look nice. Now, leave.

onthestrip writes:

This situation could have been handled better, and Hamilton's statement in the interview was just plain dumb. We do have to keep in mind that Pearl is who started this mess though. If you are a Pearl fan(and I am) you have to at least give Hamilton the credit for hiring him in the first place. I think calling for Hamilton's head is probably a bit over the top, there have been some things that haven't gone UT's way and it's been a tough three years for UT mens coaching but the facilities are the best ever and the athletic department seems to be a great profit center UT. All and all other than a terribly mistimed and plain dumb comment before the tourney I just don't see how Mike Hamilton is the bad guy everyone seems to want him to be.

With that said, I really hate that it all came to this. CBP has been a great coach and a great citizen of Knoxville, I will miss watching him on the sidelines and will always remember the unbelievable way he turned the program around.

Go Vols!

JBruce writes:

If Tennessee athletics is to have any real future you must FIRE HAMILTON NOW!

goknox writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say Hamilton bit dont really work on an anonymous board as no one really cares what you or I think..Witch Doctor say thinking any different is like some on TOS thinking they effected play-calling by their posts on anonymous board(yea really(?)...lets keep it real.
Witch Doctor say someone needed to say that.
Bones never lie.

At least he didn't give BP a fat raise and extension 8 months ago.

nwcs writes:

I think this is the most comments I've seen that don't rip Adams. What's the matter? I always found them pretty funny.

rockytopwestone writes:

First the buyout of the Series with North Carolina, then $4.00 popcorn, now the total mishandling of this entire situation with Coach Pearl.... Mike Hamilton may be a good guy and a great money maker but he has proven time and again by these acts and numerous others he has no business being the UT AD. FIRE HIM NOW !

formerflgranny writes:

Just call them cheek and chong!

twhite#364344 writes:

its amazing to me that half of the people on here would like john adams gone. everyone has forgoten that hamilton brought pearl in. so now everyone wants to blame hamilton for pearl lying and trying to cover it up. i loved pearl also but i love integrity more. we need a lot more of it. the program is not dead. it may take a couple of years but this is pearls fault not hamilton.

plumcreekfarm#234902 writes:

As AD, Hamilton's job description is simple: oversee compliance with NCAA and SEC rules, financial management, competitiveness of Tennessee teams , graduation of student-athletes, and service to the university and community. Since he took the job in 2003,he has hired and fired UT into a cesspool...I'm tired of hearing how good a fund-raiser he is. The rest of his tenure has been an epic failure. Better get rid of him fast and hire someone who can guide this program through the purgatory of NCAA sanctions without further damage.

BleedsOrangeinMO writes:

The Knoxville lawyer from UT - - Tim Irwin , I believe is his name. He should be the next AD.

rockytopnation16 writes:

Why is Hamilton still here? Is as.s should have been out of here as soon as he questioned Bruce Pearl's job two days before the tournament. UT will never progress with this weasel as the athletic director. Oh, and thanks for bailing out of the UNC match-up. Pathetic.

tmassey1#639578 writes:

If the hamster (an appropriate name) is not out by weeks end, the rock may as well be painted red as thats where the a.d. will be going.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Rarely will I agree with Adams but I do so with this article.

One thing that seems to matter a lot with Hamilton is $$$$$$$$$$.

Unless he hits a home run with this hire ( if he is still AD ) TBA at this point looks like 10-15,000 fans diguised as empty seats.

The remaining 5,000 will have to face ticket increases to make up the diff.

Sorry, just being cruel. Who knows, somehow we may survive. Remember the quick hire after Fulmer and the quick hire after Kiffin. Based on that.........don't be surprised if we don't get another quick hire.......hope he's a good one !

dvols writes:

why do you folks want Hamilton fired, he gave you a full arena and got you to the dance for six straight years, give the man some credit!!!

mhsvol writes:

I don't understand why no one is talking about the leadership void at the highest levels at UT. We've heard precious little from Jimmy Cheek - except to echo what Hamilton has said. And we've heard almost nothing from Joe DiPietro. He IS still President, isn't he? Seems like the university has been without any true leadership since Andy Holt, and that's not an exaggeration. Perhaps these men don't want to soil their hands with trivial athletic department problems. But while they're busy attending to whatever it is they do that they think is more important than their university being dragged through the mud 24/7 by every major media outlet in the country for months on end, that university is suffering irreparable damage to its reputation. And the Board of Trustees - forget it. They've just sat on their hands and said they expect the Athletic Director and Chancellor to handle it. Somebody need to grow a pair at the very top and get this thing under some kind of control.

OTPVol writes:

in response to Lean_and_Hungry:

I'm sure qualified coaches are lining up to work for this confederacy of dunces.

Ignatius P. Reilly for AD!

smokeybitesback writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Jury is still out on Hamilton. Just because Cheek supports him for many years to come doesn't mean he won't be fired next week. The total administration at UT is a joke, and I have been a UT supporter for 40 years. I do not support any of the administrative personnel, this is the worse I have ever seen backstabbing and double standards (not to mention lying).

I will still support all the Volunteer sports programs but will never believe anything coming out of the mouths of anyone in the administrative area again.

PHIL FULMER FOR AD!!!

I COMPLETELY AGREE, 100% I AGREE..GET RID OF HAMILTON..FULMER WOULD BE A GREAT AD....HE BLEEDS ORANGE..

Couchdummy writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say Hamilton bit dont really work on an anonymous board as no one really cares what you or I think..Witch Doctor say thinking any different is like some on TOS thinking they effected play-calling by their posts on anonymous board(yea really(?)...lets keep it real.
Witch Doctor say someone needed to say that.
Bones never lie.

TOS? I am too tired to decipher.

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