ASHEVILLE, N.C. — John Shulman chatted privately with a group of family and friends following his basketball team’s 76-70 loss to Georgia Southern in the Southern Conference tournament Friday.
And the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach is aware that he may not have many public supporters at this point in his career.
“I’m not an idiot,” Shulman said. “I’m expecting that myself and [athletic director] Mr. Rick Hart will meet here soon and we’ll talk.
“There’s the glamour part of the job, and there’s the bad part of it. I’m man enough to take the blame. It’s my fault.”
Shulman’s Mocs went 11-21 this season with a 5-13 mark in the Southern Conference and exited the tournament in the first round.
“A lot of this stuff is out of your hands,” Shulman said. “But remember this. There has to be somebody to blame. And it’s me. I’m in charge. I understand that.
“If a kid misses five 3s and we lose by one point, it’s my fault. I understand that. It’s my fault even if I got him five great looks.”
Hart said he and Shulman will meet later this week to discuss the season and facets of the program.
“We’ll evaluate everything,” Hart said. “I talked to him after the game, about the game. There’s nothing really new or different to share. After I talk with John, I’ll be happy to share an update.”
Shulman’s career record is 132-127 after eight seasons. His teams are 71-71 in SoCon regular-season games and won the league tournament in 2005 and 2009.
“There’s a fine line between good and great, between winning and losing,” Shulman said. “We were on the wrong side of it. If that makes me a loser, it makes me a loser.”
Freshman Ronrico White, who scored 12 points in the first half Friday, signed with UTC to play for Shulman. He plans on playing for Shulman next season, too.
“I’m not worried,” White said. “He’s going to be back.”
White said he will evaluate his individual performance and that of his team in the coming weeks with a couple of guys very familiar with college basketball — his father Tony White Sr., who starred at Tennessee and played in the NBA, and his brother Tony White Jr., who played point guard for the College of Charleston from 2007 to 2010.
“Coach Shulman is who I came to play for,” Ronrico White said. “I signed to play for him. He wants to be here. I want to be here.”
White said he figured every other player in the UTC locker room had similar feelings about Shulman.
“I do believe so,” he said.
Senior Omar Wattad said he will be checking in on the Mocs next season no matter what team he’s playing for overseas — with or without Shulman as their coach.
“I hope the best for him,” Wattad said. “I hope the best for anybody in a tough situation. He’s been a good guy to me since I’ve been here.”
Wattad transferred to UTC after two seasons at Georgetown. Graduating point guard Keegan Bell transferred from Vanderbilt, and departing senior Jahmal Burroughs came to UTC via Neosho Community College.
He’ll be the last of his kind.
“Our program is changing,” Shulman said. “Next year will be the first year in over 30-something years that UTC will not have a [junior college] transfer. You want the truth? That’s a pretty significant change.
“Plus, now you’re dealing with the APR that you didn’t have to deal with before. For the health of our program, bringing in junior college guys doesn’t fit anymore. This isn’t 1993.”
This past season seemed to be the perfect time, Shulman said, to alter recruiting practices because he entered the year with five experienced seniors. He dismissed Chris Early during the season but started the other four the rest of the way — except for Burroughs missing three games due to injury.
“We had some horrendous shooting nights and still had chances to win,” Shulman said, noting Friday’s game in which UTC shot 6-of-24 in the second half.
“I can’t judge my coaching on wins and losses,” he said. “I’m as disappointed as everybody else is. Give me another play in each game and we’re happy.”
But he is not.
“My wife loves me. My children love me,” Shulman said. “I’m sorry the ball bounced left. I wanted it to bounce right. I’m sorry it bounced left.
“The people that are important to me love me whether we win a game or lose a game.”
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...