1 6 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

As much as he wanted the Tennessee coaching job, Donnie Tyndall didn't jump at the first memorandum of understanding that was placed on the table.

UT athletics director Dave Hart offered a five-year contract. Tyndall wanted six years.

If he was committing to UT, Tyndall wanted to make sure UT was committing to him.

Smart man. The way the Vols have gone through basketball coaches in the last quarter century — six since 1989, with an average tenure of 4.2 years — Tyndall did the prudent thing by getting all the commitment he could.

It's a positive sign for UT. While we can debate whether the Vols should have been able to attract a higher-profile candidate, there is no disputing that Tyndall wants to be in this for the long haul. And in the current college basketball environment, six years is the long haul.

RELATED: Tyndall happy to be at UT and ready to get to work

TIMELINE: Coach Tyndall's career

If nothing else, it's nice to know UT has a coach who is not looking for the nearest escape hatch.

Based on buyout numbers, Tyndall and UT are in this together. If he is fired before March 15, 2017 — three years into his contract — Tyndall is owed a $3 million buyout. The number drops to $1.75 million in 2018 and $1.5 million after that.

It's a two-way street. If Tyndall leaves for another job, he would owe UT those same buyout figures.

With that, Tyndall can get down to the business of providing stability to a program that has been in a state of flux since the 2011 season. During Cuonzo Martin's three years as coach, there was never the sense that he was all in. He was never comfortable in Bruce Pearl's shadow.

Martin got cold feet when Hart approached him with a revised contract after the Sweet 16 run this season. While Martin would have received a two-year extension and a $500,000 annual raise, he also would have had to agree to a reduced buyout if he got fired. The lower buyout made Martin wonder — correctly — just how committed the university was to him, moving forward.

When an offer came from Cal, Martin bolted. Earlier, he had tried to get the job at Marquette.

In contrast, Tyndall appears comfortable in these surroundings. He went out of his way to mention Pearl by name in his introductory press conference on Tuesday. Although he was complimentary of Pearl's accomplishments at UT, Tyndall suggested it's time to move on. He's right.

Granted, Pearl is still around — now at Auburn — but the last of his recruits have cycled through UT's roster. Three years have passed since his departure.

Along those lines, there's a perception out there that you want to be the guy following the guy who followed the legend. But when it comes to college basketball, that doesn't really fly.

At UCLA, Gary Cunningham followed Gene Bartow, who followed John Wooden. At Kentucky, Eddie Sutton was two steps removed from Adolph Rupp. Matt Doherty was second in line after Dean Smith at North Carolina. At Indiana, Bob Knight gave way to Mike Davis, who was succeeded by Kelvin Sampson.

Now Tyndall follows Martin, who followed Pearl.

Just as Martin was a stark contrast to Pearl, Tyndall is a contrast to Martin. In his three seasons as Vols coach, Martin struggled to connect to the fan base. Tyndall's history — albeit at smaller, lower-profile programs — is that he will go out of his way to embrace the fans.

Tyndall's $1.6 million annual salary ranks in the bottom half of the SEC. It is ninth among the 12 SEC coaching salaries that are known. Missouri is currently involved in a coaching search and the monetary details of Mark Fox's recent extension at Georgia have not been released.

Tyndall has a bit of NCAA baggage from his time as head coach at Morehead State, his alma mater. In 2010, the NCAA announced recruiting violations related to booster activity. The program lost one scholarship because of the violation.

Hart said UT looked into the matter "very thoroughly" during the vetting process.

"We were absolutely satisfied moving forward," Hart said.

Time will tell if it's a good hire but early reports are encouraging. Donnie Tyndall is in this for the long haul.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions
1 6 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1iIr3de