Vols will honor Ray Mears at Wichita State game

University of Tennessee basketball Coach Ray Mears in action on Feb. 17, 1970.

Photo by News Sentinel archive photo

University of Tennessee basketball Coach Ray Mears in action on Feb. 17, 1970.

Tennessee basketball will honor the memory of one of its great coaches on Dec. 13 when the Vols play host to Wichita State.

"A Tribute to Ray Mears Night" recognizes the coach and master promoter who energized the program from 1962-77.

Mears is UT's winningest men's basketball coach with a record of 278-112. His teams won the 1967 SEC title outright, tied for two other titles and finished no worse than second place in 11 of his 15 seasons.

He coached eight players who earned some form of first-team All-American mention, including Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld. Thirteen of Mears' players were first-team All-SEC picks.

"Ray Mears was such an admired and respected man and I think Tennessee fans view him as much more than a basketball coach,'' UT coach Cuonzo Martin said in a Tennessee press release.

"I want to ensure that we never overlook his contributions.''

UT is rolling back selected concession prices. Popcorn and 12-ounce drinks will cost $1 each. Some merchandise will reflect a 15-percent discount.

Mears came to UT from Wittenberg University in Ohio and by his second year had the Vols challenging in the SEC. He enjoyed intense rivalries with Kentucky's Adolph Rupp and Vanderbilt's Roy Skinner.

Mears was forced to retire after the 1976-77 season due to health issues. He later served as athletic director at UT Martin.

Mears passed away in 2007.

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Comments » 5

johnlg00 writes:

Hard to believe that no one has posted on this article after it has been up almost two days! Mears was the coach during my undergraduate days. Although his teams played a somewhat boring style, it was highly effective and Mears' showmanship made Stokely Fieldhouse THE place to be when the Vols were in town.

He was a very complex character, very tightly wound in some respects and a perfectionist in his approach to the game. Despite his showmanship, he was also rather tightly guarded as an individual. His players mostly think well of him even years later, but he was rather hard for outsiders to get to know.

Some younger fans today put down Mears for only taking a couple of teams to the NCAAs, with scant success, but they forget that under today's selection criteria nearly EVERY ONE of his teams would have made the Big Dance. Also, in those days, nobody had a chance to warm up on creampuffs in the early rounds of the tourney; for much of his career, just making it into the tournament in the first place put you in the Sweet Sixteen right off the bat. So belated congratulations to the man who created the name, if not the reality, of Big Orange Country. He should never be forgotten.

FanNotSheep writes:

Not sure this team is capable of honoring Mears.

The man put UT basketball on the map, and his teams were always entertaining. I know the current squad misses Maymon but I'd rather watch paint dry. It takes them 40 minutes to put a decent halftime score on the board.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

Not sure this team is capable of honoring Mears.

The man put UT basketball on the map, and his teams were always entertaining. I know the current squad misses Maymon but I'd rather watch paint dry. It takes them 40 minutes to put a decent halftime score on the board.

This is an opportunity for the FANS to honor Mears. I agree that it was something of a chore to watch the Vols the last couple of games, but I think they will get better. As long as they keep up their morale and continue to fight on defense, the shots will start falling.

johnlg00 writes:

BTW, sorry for the name I gave the Vols' home arena in my first comment. The building was first known as the Armory Fieldhouse, where Mears began his Vol career. Following its extensive renovation, it was renamed Stokely Athletics Center; I inaccurately conflated the two names.

John_10065 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Hard to believe that no one has posted on this article after it has been up almost two days! Mears was the coach during my undergraduate days. Although his teams played a somewhat boring style, it was highly effective and Mears' showmanship made Stokely Fieldhouse THE place to be when the Vols were in town.

He was a very complex character, very tightly wound in some respects and a perfectionist in his approach to the game. Despite his showmanship, he was also rather tightly guarded as an individual. His players mostly think well of him even years later, but he was rather hard for outsiders to get to know.

Some younger fans today put down Mears for only taking a couple of teams to the NCAAs, with scant success, but they forget that under today's selection criteria nearly EVERY ONE of his teams would have made the Big Dance. Also, in those days, nobody had a chance to warm up on creampuffs in the early rounds of the tourney; for much of his career, just making it into the tournament in the first place put you in the Sweet Sixteen right off the bat. So belated congratulations to the man who created the name, if not the reality, of Big Orange Country. He should never be forgotten.

Well, it's been all about the coaching search for the past few days. Add one of the most anemic offensive efforts over a couple games it is really hard to get excited about BB.

Mears was a great caoch and he should have been honored years ago but UT has been fixated on football mentally for so long the fans tend to overlook any other sport.

Also no one really understands the history of the NCAA tournyment. Some of us realize that the NIT was THE one to go to for a very long time and even now that 66 teams wasn't what was invited. And the NCAA wanted to expanded it out to 128 a couple years back! LOL

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