(WBIR - Knoxville) University of Tennessee basketball fans and players may wonder what to expect from newly-introduced head coach Donnie Tyndall. Who better to ask than a man who spent four years as one of Tyndall's players at Morehead State University?
WBIR met up with former player Ty Proffitt on Tuesday and interviewed him as he drove along Interstate 75 south of his hometown of London, Kentucky.
Proffitt's drive for college basketball glory began with a slew of scholarship offers as a state champion with a sweet shooting stroke. After spending one year at Notre Dame, Proffitt's path took a u-turn back to Kentucky when he transferred to Morehead State to play for head coach Donnie Tyndall.
"He [Tyndall] was extremely genuine. He didn't seem like he tried to make things sound better than what they were. He was extremely truthful with you. More or less, it was just a gut feeling that I wanted to play for him," said Proffitt.
Proffitt said every year under coach Tyndall was a gut check for players at Morehead State.
"When I first got to Morehead, I actually got to realize how demanding and how hard he was. I didn't like it at first. I wasn't used to having someone push me and hold me accountable for every action I ever had. Not only on the floor, but off the floor for the smallest things. Even in conditioning, if you miss the line by an inch, you're running again," laughed Proffitt. "It is just his attention to detail. From day one, Coach Tyndall has this saying. It's called B-HAT: Be humble, attentive, and thankful. Coach Tyndall, he obviously does it himself."
Web Extra Video: Watch full interview with Ty Proffitt about UT coach Donnie Tyndall
Proffitt is thankful his gut feeling about Tyndall paid off with a great deal of collegiate success. Morehead State made a couple of NCAA tournaments and pulled a major upset by defeating Louisville in 2011.
"I was a junior when we beat Louisville. I was scared to death he [Tyndall] was going to leave then. But he luckily stayed around another year and I got to finish my career with him. His last year [before going to Southern Miss] was my senior year," said Proffitt.
Although Tyndall strives for perfection, Proffitt says the coach does not place unrealistic expectations on his players.
"Coach Tyndall understood you're never going to be perfect on a basketball floor. As long as you're giving great effort, he allows mistakes. But if it is a mistake due to a lack of effort, that is unacceptable to Coach Tyndall."
Proffitt says fans can see a clear example of Tyndall's effort in a mistake-filled exercise by watching videos of the coach attempt to dance.
"Very randomly, whether it be after a big win or something like that, he'll step in there and try to do something with his dance moves. I don't know if you can call it dancing or not," laughed Proffitt. "Hopefully, this year you'll get to see Coach Tyndall dancing. Because usually when Coach Tyndall is dancing, he is winning."
Tuesday's drive for Proffitt was more than a trip down memory lane. Proffitt decided on a whim to make the drive from Kentucky to Knoxville to see his beloved former coach take over "Big Orange Country."
"It's just a love for Coach Tyndall. Indirectly, when you ask someone what kind of coach they are, you're asking what kind of person they are. Obviously, he's a great basketball coach. What he did at Morehead was amazing. The basketball stuff is a no-brainer for Coach Tyndall. He knows what he is doing," said Proffitt. "The fans and people of Tennessee need to know that you're putting someone in your community who is irreplaceable. It's incredible what Coach Tyndall means to me, how much we love him, and the kind of character he instilled in me. And he wins games. What more do you want in a coach?"
Proffitt said Tyndall also places a great deal of emphasis on philanthropic service in the community. At Morehead State, Proffitt said those activities ranged from picking up trash along roadsides to charitable benefits for Wounded Warriors.
Reporter's note: Thanks to WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky, for providing file footage of Donnie Tyndall at Morehead State University as well as the archive video of Ty Proffitt as a high school player.