KNOXVILLE -- Jim Chaney's career as a football coach began more than 25 years ago.
The longtime offensive coordinator never has been a head coach during that time, and he's not claiming to have all the answers as he serves as Tennessee's interim coach this week in the wake of third-year coach Derek Dooley's dismissal.
Yet Chaney isn't viewing the opportunity to coach the Volunteers as an audition of any kind.
"I'm humbled by the fact that Dave [Hart, the athletic director] thought I would be a good candidate to do this," he said Monday morning after Tennessee's first practice since Dooley was fired Sunday.
"I'm excited about the opportunity. As far as auditioning or something like that, I haven't thought about that. I'm trying to help some kids heal from some wounds and put a team on the field with a right attitude to go win a game.
"As far as me personally, that's my only goal. I have no objectives or nothing here. I just want to do as good as I can to represent the university, the community and this program the best I possibly can."
A holdover from Lane Kiffin's 2009 staff, Chaney has the task of holding the team together as it prepares to host Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville. A loss would give the Vols a winless season in the SEC and be the first eight-loss season in the program's history.
Ohio State is the only another program to avoid such a year.
"Coach Chaney's a steady guy," right tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "He's always the same, and he's just had to play a different role, just addressing the whole team. He's a great coach, he's a great guy and he let us all know that this is the game we love, so don't listen to the distractions."
Managing the Vols through the situation this week is easily his biggest challenge.
"If you're preparing hard, your mind's in the right spot," he said. "If you're not preparing hard, your mind's not in the right spot, and that would not be a good situation. I'm hoping through hard work and preparation, we can occupy their minds away from some of the distractions that are going on right now and put a product on the field we're proud of."
A fixture in the coaching booth, Chaney will move to the sideline for Saturday's game. Blake Roland and Joe Bernardi, two interns, will remain in the booth while Chaney calls the offense from the sideline, something he's not done since his eight-year stint at Purdue (1997-2005).
That instance, though, was caused by malfunctioning headsets.
"That happens once in a while in Columbus [Ohio]," Chaney deadpanned. "We had to go down on the field, and I had to call it from the field that time. It's a little different setting, but at the end of the day, you're calling plays and getting them in as you communicate as fast as you can.
"I don't see any issues with that as far as the logistics of me going on the field."
Chaney said he'll have little involvement with the defense and lean on the rest of Tennessee's staff to help him on the sideline.
After he was pulled amid his worst game as Tennessee's starting quarterback, Tyler Bray will start Saturday against the Wildcats. Chaney said it was his recommendation to Dooley to pull Bray in favor of Justin Worley in the second quarter against Vanderbilt. The two quarterbacks combined to throw three interceptions that led to 17 Commodores points as the Vols fell behind by 31.
"I thought we needed a change and let Tyler sit down, calm down, watch the game and basically get his hiney in his pants a little bit," Chaney said. "I thought it helped a little bit, but at the end of the day, it wasn't all about the quarterback play. I don't believe any area of our offense produced the way they customarily have been doing it all season."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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