UT men's basketball assistant coach Adam Howard
Al Pinkins: New men's basketball assistant coach
The former coach’s brand was “A Tougher Breed.” Every player he recruited knew that when he signed to play basketball at Tennessee.
The new coach talks about toughness being the great equalizer.
“Talent is important,’’ Donnie Tyndall said Tuesday, “but toughness, in my opinion, is a talent.
“Toughness will be the key ingredient in our recruiting.’’
So if toughness is a common denominator, why the apparent disconnect between Cuonzo Martin’s recruits and Tennessee’s new coach?
In a word, loyalty.
Kids are loyal to the coach who recruited them. If UT’s signees and roster guys are asking out, Tyndall understands it isn’t necessarily because they’re soft and/or have already decided he’s a demanding, hard-nosed SOB.
“I haven’t yelled at anybody yet,’’ Tyndall said. “I haven’t got these guys on the floor so I haven’t been able to challenge or push them whatsoever. Every conversation has been ultra positive and upbeat.
“I just think these kids are very loyal to Coach Martin, which to be honest with you, I love. I respect that.’’
It was the same when Tyndall told his Southern Miss recruits he was leaving for Tennessee.
“Every single one of ’em,’’ said Tyndall. “First question was ‘can we come with you?’ ”
Before it’s over, perhaps one or more will.
Wherever he finds them, what Tyndall needs to first salvage and then rebuild Tennessee’s roster is guys who will be loyal to him. Guys who will hop in his foxhole.
He hopes that includes the players on the roster, even the ones who already have or might yet ask permission to explore other options.
In a media session to introduce his staff Tuesday, Tyndall also shed more light on what kind of prospects he will bring to UT as he puts his stamp on the program.
Yes, he will recruit a higher caliber of prospect than he did at Morehead State and Southern Miss. But with Tennessee’s resources, there’s no reason to think blue-chippers are beyond reach.
Keep in mind what Tyndall said a few paragraphs ago: toughness will be the key ingredient in recruiting.
Start on the national top-50 list, but if you don’t see a good fit, move on to 150.
“I’m going to take a five-star kid if we can get him,’’ Tyndall said.
“But if he’s soft, not very competitive and doesn’t love to play and can’t be coached, I’d rather take the three-star guy that’s unbelievably competitive, wants to be coached and will play as hard as he can every day.’’
Tyndall plans to coach as hard as he can every day. Those who know him confirm as much.
He needs players who don’t get their feelings hurt easily. His coaching style has been described as aggressive and fiery.
“Those are compliments to me,’’ Tyndall said.
Aggression and toughness were necessary for a self-described “grunt guy” to work his way up the ladder. He expects his teams to mirror his approach.
That style and attitude have, in fact, served him well at low-major and mid-major programs.
Kenneth Faried, formerly of Morehead State, currently with the Denver Nuggets, is Tyndall’s poster boy, a slightly undersized, hidden gem with the toughness to flourish in his style.
“Kenneth Faried was a no-star and I think he would have been a pretty good player in the SEC,’’ Tyndall said.
Now he’s trying to find more hidden gems with the requisite toughness to play his style in the SEC.
Maybe there are even a few already on his roster. The ones recruited to build “A Tougher Breed.’’