Woody's Ward: Blame Lane Kiffin
Safe and predictable.
I blame Lane Kiffin. That seems to be the standard thing to do as a Vols fan.
Is the NCAA barking up your tree? Blame Lane Kiffin.
Did the savior of your basketball program commit a series of violations that cost him his job? Blame Lane Kiffin.
Did you get a speeding ticket on your way to work this morning? Heck, you might as well blame that on Kiffin too.
The average Big Orange fan has pegged Kiffin as the root of all evil since his 15 minutes at UT were up, and while most of the loathing may be warranted, most of the blame on Kiffin is NOT.
However, there is one thing that you can certainly blame on Lane Kiffin, and that’s the new safe and predictable nature of Mike Hamilton and the athletic department.
When Hamilton was pegged as Doug Dickey’s replacement in 2003, he had already earned a reputation as a savvy business man. However, it didn’t take long for Hamilton to prove that he also had the knack for making big splash hires.
In 2005, Hamilton took a flyer on a coach who was once blackballed from all major head coaching jobs. That man was Bruce Pearl, and all he did in his time in Knoxville was turn a perennial doormat into a bonafide winner.
Pearl showed big time personality in both the way he dealt with the media and in the way that he conducted his business and in the end he made Volunteer basketball more visible than it had ever been before.
In November of 2008, Hamilton snatched up another big time personality when he hired Kiffin to be the Volunteers head football coach.
Kiffin fired shots at some of the SEC’s top dogs and gave the Vols a swagger that it lacked in the latter portion of the Fulmer era, but when Kiffin fled town just 13 months after he arrived, things began to change on the hill.
Mike Hamilton and the athletic department began to shy away from the trendy and bold hires that it had become known for and began to shift its focus to a more safe and predictable way of thinking, and we have Lane Kiffin to blame (or thank depending on who you’re asking) for that.
When the Vols hired Derek Dooley it was quite obvious that the administration was looking for the anti-Kiffin. Not to say that Dooley is lacking in the personality department, because he most certainly isn’t, but gone were the trash-talking ways of Tennessee’s previous head man.
And Hamilton’s latest hire appears to be along those same lines of safe and predictable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Cuonzo Martin was a bad hire for Tennessee -- safe and predictable isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you consider the current state of the program -- however, you have to question the timing of this thing.
Hamilton made this hire a week before the conclusion of the NCAA tournament, where the two of the best potential candidates (in my opinion) still have their teams competing in the Final Four (VCU head coach Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens.)
It beckons the question; did Mike Hamilton really exhaust all of his resources to make this hire?
I’m not saying that it was necessarily realistic for the Vols to ink either coach, but you absolutely have to, at the very least, throw a boatload of cash at Smart or Stevens -- or any other big name candidate for that matter -- and force them to turn the job down and I’m not sure that Hamilton did that before settling on Martin.
The University of Tennessee may not be viewed as an A-list basketball job, but the bottom line is that we do have A-list facilities and A-list money, and there is simply no excuse for the Vols not to make a big time hire, even in the face of pending NCAA issues.
Maybe I’m wrong and Mike Hamilton did attempt to make inroads with Stevens or Smart and was simply shut down, but if he didn’t you have to wonder if the Vols aren’t still left with the lingering feeling of being jaded by Lane Kiffin.
I hope Cuonzo Martin is the answer to all the Vols problems, and as I’ve stated I think it’s a good hire, but is it a great hire? No.
And now Mike Hamilton finds himself in a position where his job likely rides or dies based on the success of his last two hires. If either Dooley or Martin fails to turn around their respectful programs, then Hamilton likely faces the prospects of being sent to the unemployment line.
Then maybe Mike Hamilton can “Blame Lane Kiffin,” too. Everyone else does.