Mike Strange: Butch Jones dreamed of a job like Tennessee

Mike Strange

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He grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, the son of a small-town police chief.

He didn't venture far away to play college football at Ferris State. Then he decided to pursue a career in coaching.

So, naturally, his dream job was ...

"Tennessee's been my dream job for a while,'' Butch Jones said Friday, sporting his orange tie and Power T lapel pin. "I grew up watching Tennessee football.''

He was full grown by the time he watched Tennessee football in Neyland Stadium. The Vols handled his Cincinnati team 45-23 in 2011, but Jones left thinking it might be a heckuva place to work.

"This is the greatest venue in all of college football,'' he said. "When we came here last year that just solidified everything.''

Kids growing up these days in Saugatuck, Mich., probably are not watching Tennessee football. Jones has accepted the challenge of restoring the Vols as a national brand.

And speaking of national brands, UT did not succeed in its pursuit of Jon Gruden.

Success the past three seasons at Cincinnati has familiarized Jones to most college football fans. Still, one UT player, Tiny Richardson, turned to Twitter to seek info on the guy he was hearing was about to become his new coach.

Not since Johnny Majors in 1977 has UT made a splashy hire. Phillip Fulmer was in-house and obvious. Lane Kiffin was recently fired from the NFL. Derek Dooley wasn't on the high-beam radar.

As for Jones' dream job, I would have guessed nearby Michigan or Notre Dame. Actually, a Cincinnati player said Jones informed the team Friday in an early-morning meeting that Tennessee was "one of his dream jobs.''

Kentucky, Purdue and Colorado were presumably not on his list. He could have likely had any of the three.

Given UT's whirlwind courtship, there is much to learn about the man to whom athletic director Dave Hart handed the keys. From first impressions, energy won't be an issue. And he was working with virtually no sleep.

He claims to have developed thick skin. He'll need it by the time the Vols get back from Oregon and Florida next September.

"I'm from a pro town,'' Jones said. "I'm used to anything and everything.''

He says he's a CEO, not a micromanager. He vowed to hire the best coaches and let them coach.

He gets it that the survival in the SEC means being physical on offense and stingy on defense.

He will embrace Tennessee's past. Lettermen are welcome back on the practice field.

"I had 18 text messages from Charles Davis,'' Jones said.

His obvious coaching influence is Brian Kelly, who preceded him at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

But there's also Rich Rodriguez, for whom he worked two years at West Virginia. The state of Tennessee was part of his recruiting territory on behalf of the Mountaineers.

And here's a clear distinction from Kiffin:

"Urban Meyer is a very close friend. We talk a lot.''

Wonder what Meyer might have told Jones about Tennessee in particular and the SEC in general? Buckle up your chinstrap, pal?

"Nick Saban and Les Miles had zero SEC experience when they came into the league,'' Jones said. "That's all I'll say,

"They had Michigan ties, too.''

I never heard either refer to Tennessee as their dream job. In fact, I suspect Tennessee might have been a relative newcomer to this small-town Michigander's dream list.

"At the end of the day,'' said Jones, "it's about the fit.''

In any case, this dream came true.

---

Related:

Butch Jones biography

Butch Jones' Memorandum of Understanding with Tennessee

Butch Jones press conference transcript

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Videos

Butch Jones introduced as the new head coach of the UT football team

Dave Hart answers questions about the coaching search and Butch Jones hire

John Adams on the Butch Jones hire

Evan Woodbery on the Butch Jones hire

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 92

TKO writes:

Good luck Coach Jones and welcome to you and your family to Tennessee. Go Big Orange!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

I like the fact that Tennessee was his "dream job"!...And the fact that he turned down other jobs hoping to get this one! Get those coaches in place and recruit, recruit, recruit! GBO!

willphill#241787 writes:

What kind a jerk writes a sarcastic column like that?

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

And this could be a dream hire. Make it happen Coach.

wazzya69vol writes:

I'm excited with hire after watching Press Conf. I like his intensity and what he did at Cin. Welcome to Big Orange Country Coach Jones.

creekroad writes:

Good luck & welcome to Tennessee

BigCityVol writes:

Strange might as well call Jones a full blown liar. Crappy article. Jones had a great press conference and is obvious embracing the Vol nation. Get on board.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

What Vol fan wouldn't love a coach who only a few days ago was "half bear the other half cat!"

rbwtn writes:

I like his enthusiasm seems like he's a really up for the Job. I think he's already got a good crop of players they just need motivating and direction. I just hope he's got time to get some good recruits! out of rating of 1 to ten I give him 8.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

Strange, you lost points on this one bub. Not your best work. Your disdain for UT is palpable.

MemphoVol writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodberry:

What Vol fan wouldn't love a coach who only a few days ago was "half bear the other half cat!"

Now THAT is good! Wish I'd thought of it.

born2ride writes:

We have some gullible fans.

DalTexVol writes:

Sarcasm is the vernacular of the sports writer these days. I don't know when that happened but it wasn't long after ESPN began 20 something years ago. I guess they think it makes them stand apart--it doesn't.

As a young Vol fan growing up in Dallas, I fondly remember my grandmother mailing me Tom Siler articles from the KNS. Unfortunately, that era of sports writing is long gone.

MikeTheVolsFan writes:

Born and raised in KTown. Now I live in Mayberry, NC. My blood still runs BO though, and always will. Great, good, bad, or ugly, Tennessee will always be my team. Period. I've lived through the bad and ugly the last 3 years (Coach Dooley, God Bless you and your family, thank you for trying Sir)I was raised a Southern gentleman, where you thank someone for trying, even if they did not get the job done (unless they screwed you on purpose=Hart...verdict is still out) Coach Jones, welcome to Big Orange country. The die is cast, the verdict is out, and the decision made. Next year I expect to see the good, and in 2 or 3, we had better see the great. If not, well, I hesitate to say. This armchair QB will just sit back and wait...and hope...as always
Go Vols!

racvol#234960 writes:

in response to born2ride:

We have some gullible fans.

Do you ever say or post anything positive? Not that I have ever seen. It must just plain to suck to be miserable all the time and to be jealous of people who really want us to win and love to support their team whether we win or lose.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to DalTexVol:

Sarcasm is the vernacular of the sports writer these days. I don't know when that happened but it wasn't long after ESPN began 20 something years ago. I guess they think it makes them stand apart--it doesn't.

As a young Vol fan growing up in Dallas, I fondly remember my grandmother mailing me Tom Siler articles from the KNS. Unfortunately, that era of sports writing is long gone.

Agree! All these no talent hacks see what a star the lazy eyed no talent gator became on espn and figure, why not me?

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to MikeTheVolsFan:

Born and raised in KTown. Now I live in Mayberry, NC. My blood still runs BO though, and always will. Great, good, bad, or ugly, Tennessee will always be my team. Period. I've lived through the bad and ugly the last 3 years (Coach Dooley, God Bless you and your family, thank you for trying Sir)I was raised a Southern gentleman, where you thank someone for trying, even if they did not get the job done (unless they screwed you on purpose=Hart...verdict is still out) Coach Jones, welcome to Big Orange country. The die is cast, the verdict is out, and the decision made. Next year I expect to see the good, and in 2 or 3, we had better see the great. If not, well, I hesitate to say. This armchair QB will just sit back and wait...and hope...as always
Go Vols!

Mt. Airy used to be in my sales territory. Love the picture of Barney the Hampton Inn has in the lobby.

ROCKYnROCKFORD writes:

It has been a tough day....for many Vol fans, their 1st drink
was surely a double.

Derek Dooley was born on 3rd base, thinking he hit a triple
high off the center field wall. Butch Jones lined a double to
right-center, stole 3rd and came home on a short sacrifice...
the catcher left on a stretcher. Sorry for the baseball analogy,
but I will forever see Dooley standing on 3rd with that smug look.

Integrity, family man, leader, motivator, communicator, young men who eagerly want to run thru brick walls.....throw me in
that briar patch.

Within 2 years we will know if he can coach...can recruit....can
WIN. Coach Jones has 24 mos. of unconditional support.

Go Vols

Theo writes:

in response to BigCityVol:

Strange might as well call Jones a full blown liar. Crappy article. Jones had a great press conference and is obvious embracing the Vol nation. Get on board.

Agree, the cynicism that Strange, Adams and Climmer have all exhibited regarding this hire is revolting but, alas, not unexpected.
The phrase "too cool for school" applies to these hacks.

frblalack writes:

6 years, 4 conference titles!!! HOME RUN!!!

Welcome Coach Jones!

And for the record, the best sportswriter the KNS ever had was a guy named Al Dunning; the best sportscaster EVER was named John Ward!!! I suspect Coach Jones heard some of these guys growing up in Michigan.

I don't know about the rest of you true Vol fans, but I am FIRED UP!!! Loved Coach Fulmer annd Coach Dooley, but We've got to now support Coach Butch 100%!!! And at this point I have to retract my criticism of Coach Hart! I BELIEVE we've hit a GRAND SLAM!!!

All Vols - All the Time - Vol for Life

budvol writes:

in response to BigCityVol:

Strange might as well call Jones a full blown liar. Crappy article. Jones had a great press conference and is obvious embracing the Vol nation. Get on board.

Agree. They should call this the troll report

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to MemphoVol:

Now THAT is good! Wish I'd thought of it.

So does Chuck. Apparently, the "half bear, other half cat" thing is the new "first."

I think I was the first one to post it on ths site this morning, and I wish I'd thought of it. My daughter read it when somebody tweeted it, and I just had to pass it on.

It is a dang good one.

Somebody also said, "You can't spell Butch without UT."

I think "Butch-slap" is going to be popular too.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

So does Chuck. Apparently, the "half bear, other half cat" thing is the new "first."

I think I was the first one to post it on ths site this morning, and I wish I'd thought of it. My daughter read it when somebody tweeted it, and I just had to pass it on.

It is a dang good one.

Somebody also said, "You can't spell Butch without UT."

I think "Butch-slap" is going to be popular too.

Actually, it would have been awesome if CBJ had said it in the press conference.

jack4444 writes:

Butch has proved he can make dinner. But can he buy the groceries?

jt45 writes:

What are trying to say Mike ? Surely your not implying that the new coach is lying about UT being his dream job for awhile are you ?

Why they even let you guys into the press conference is beyond me, when you turn right around and put a John Adams twist on the story.

I guess good news is bad for business if your a sports writer these days.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Maybe we are just further into the twitter age, but I thought it was pretty interesting to hear and see on twitter, that several top recruits and former players embraced him. He has not signed a class yet, but it seems publicly a few talented kids want to play for him.

allvol32 writes:

in response to born2ride:

We have some gullible fans.

What's this "we" stuff troll?

Vols_For_The_Win writes:

in response to allvol32:

What's this "we" stuff troll?

He has a rat in his pocket.

hateNCloveTN writes:

in response to born2ride:

We have some gullible fans.

go back to tuscalooser

movol77 writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

I like the fact that Tennessee was his "dream job"!...And the fact that he turned down other jobs hoping to get this one! Get those coaches in place and recruit, recruit, recruit! GBO!

We needed someone who sees UT for its heritage brand, greatness, and opportunity. We got that in Jones. The fact that he turned down Colorado and Purdue and then jumps at UT is indicative. Apparently the timing of Strong turning us down caused him to believe that he should remain open to a shot at UT. I like that. He thinks big about UT.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to willphill#241787:

What kind a jerk writes a sarcastic column like that?

Someone who has a dream job of being a good journalist. Maybe he'll realize that dream one day.

hateNCloveTN writes:

you know, i think i can really support this guy, you know.

BolivrBob writes:

Liking this hire more every day. There is no doubt he's a good coach. Hiring a very good DC will be key. Sure would like to havw Wilcox back.

wbsmd1 writes:

Immediately with the Dooley hiring I let my season tickets go. I felt the coaching search was poorly executed but I like the look in Butch Jones's eyes.I think UT football may be headed in the right direction.

cltvol writes:

in response to frblalack:

6 years, 4 conference titles!!! HOME RUN!!!

Welcome Coach Jones!

And for the record, the best sportswriter the KNS ever had was a guy named Al Dunning; the best sportscaster EVER was named John Ward!!! I suspect Coach Jones heard some of these guys growing up in Michigan.

I don't know about the rest of you true Vol fans, but I am FIRED UP!!! Loved Coach Fulmer annd Coach Dooley, but We've got to now support Coach Butch 100%!!! And at this point I have to retract my criticism of Coach Hart! I BELIEVE we've hit a GRAND SLAM!!!

All Vols - All the Time - Vol for Life

if you mean Al Browning I agree. He also wrote a very good back bout UT AL rivalry http://www.amazon.com/Third-Saturday-...

ajwlfw#574737 writes:

A man named Butch with a flat top has to be a good coach. Did you notice he said that he would go back to the 4-3 defense. I guess that's a bad omen for Sal Sansieri.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Best of luck, coach. Welcome to the Hill.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Whatever reasons CBJ ended up at Knoxville can only be speculated. However, it is fact that CBJ turned down a lucrative contract with Colorado hours before Strong declined UT's offer. If he didn't really want the UT job I don't think he would have waited to see if UT still had a vacancy. This was fate in a lot of ways and UT ended up with the best coach at the perfect time. GBO!

SummittsCourt writes:

After watching his press conference yesterday I am more impressed with the man as a coach than his record or his accomplishments.

I believe he will be a winner at Tennessee. Looking at the schedule next year with some improvement on defense this team can win 7-8 games with or without the big 3.

I believe he will be able to recruit in the south. I believe he will be able to recruit the state of Tennessee. I believe the former Vols will get behind him 100%. I believe he will get UT back into the thick of things in the SEC.

He wants to be here! He wants to rebuild UT into the powerhouse it once was. He is committed to UT - Lets go Coach Jones and Lets go Vol Nation!

Volmerle writes:

I don't understand the some of the so called real VOL fans. Everyone complaining about the hire wanted this coach hired or that coach hired.. How can you hire the so called homerun hire if they don't want to be hired. I believe this is a better hire than the last one, Coach Jones has an energy about him we haven't seen. I know he is from the Big East but lets give the man a chance he seems passionate and hungry to prove himself! GBO!!!! VFL!!!

repoob writes:

This is the closest thing to an objective SEC-town column about the hilarious hire of the man Cincinnati calls "Mr. Commitment." Choice # 6 takes his "dream job," lucky for him a bunch of others turned it down. I wonder if his kids had a chance to talk to Dooley's kids about these wonderful Vols fans? The honeymoon goes on for 9 more months, while BJ remains undefeated. Just wait 'til September....

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Whatever reasons CBJ ended up at Knoxville can only be speculated. However, it is fact that CBJ turned down a lucrative contract with Colorado hours before Strong declined UT's offer. If he didn't really want the UT job I don't think he would have waited to see if UT still had a vacancy. This was fate in a lot of ways and UT ended up with the best coach at the perfect time. GBO!

Interestingly, I read where Peyton was texting CBJ on the virtues of coaching at Colorado up until CBJ turned it down. Guess Hart and Peyton aren't text buddies.

CoverOrange writes:

I wonder if he has talked to Bray, Hunter and Patterson about staying an extra year? Or would that be a lower priority than building a staff or glad-handing the donors that are paying his and Dooley's buyouts?

movol77 writes:

in response to repoob:

This is the closest thing to an objective SEC-town column about the hilarious hire of the man Cincinnati calls "Mr. Commitment." Choice # 6 takes his "dream job," lucky for him a bunch of others turned it down. I wonder if his kids had a chance to talk to Dooley's kids about these wonderful Vols fans? The honeymoon goes on for 9 more months, while BJ remains undefeated. Just wait 'til September....

Perhaps you need to poob again?

SandySpringsVol writes:

My dream is for GVX to have a sportswriter that can writing meaningful columns without being a snarky jerk.

Mike Strange doesn't fit the bill.

tulelakevol writes:

Just read Adams latest column, then I clicked Mike's column. Adams was like drinking bourbon straight out of the barrel, some burn to it. Mike's was smoother, like a single malt scotch. Good column Mike.

Navaloranges writes:

in response to born2ride:

We have some gullible fans.

Actually we have fans that are ready for a change in a positive direction. We have fans that respect and appreciate everything Fulmer did for the University... then there's 'fans" like YOU. You're bitter and "surprised" that we didn't bring Fulmer back. What a JOKE. What a JOKE you, and the rest of the fanbase (small percentage of old timers that are resistant to change) that believes going BACK to Fulmer is the answer.

You're whined and cried that Dooley's record wasn't there. Well, Joneses IS there, everywhere he's been. You got LUCKY in the fact that Dooley couldn't cut it. You didn't make a prediction out of football knowledge, you made it out of the belief that NOBODY should be allowed to coach at UT except Fulmer. Which is SIMPLE minded. Fitting for you.

Calling UT fans "gullible" because they would get behind a winner, who COULD turn this ship around, is Simple minded. YOU, and the rest of the "Fulmer or nobody" crowd need to shut the he!! up, turn in your Orange, and go buy some black and gold, and get the he!! off of the UT FAN sites.

CBJ looks like a candidate that COULD be what we need. I don't know, YOU don't know, NOBODY knows. But a lot of fans trashed Dooley for his record, and now some of those fans are finding a new reason to trash Jones because he has a VERY GOOD record. It seems to me that ol Johnny was right about so-called "fans" like you.

UT fans, Butch Jones IS somebody we should get behind, he will have more success if we get rid of all the FAKE fans like this SIMPLETON that been running his yap on this board under several screen names for YEARS, just to trash everything UT. SIMPLETONS like YOU, borntowhine, are what gives real UT fans a bad name.

PS: keep HIDING behind your keyboard and running that yap little man.

tulelakevol writes:

Merry Christmas Naval Orange!

lemme_axya_this writes:

in response to allvol32:

What's this "we" stuff troll?

He's got a mouse in his...

Navaloranges writes:

in response to SandySpringsVol:

My dream is for GVX to have a sportswriter that can writing meaningful columns without being a snarky jerk.

Mike Strange doesn't fit the bill.

WHEN Butch Jones turns this ship around, these Hacks will be skipping and fetching to jump back on the ship. CBJ has as good a chance as ANYBODY. These "writers" are in a contest right now to see who can kick UT the hardest while they're down. The more I look a Jones' history, the better he looks. There really is a basic difference between him and our last two coaches, he has the record as a head coach, and he acts and looks the part as well. He's a real, bare-bones football coach.

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