New Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall was a recent guest on "Press Row" on ESPN Chattanooga's 105.1 The Zone. Tyndall's first month resulted in eight new signees as well as the departure of all four signees who had been compiled by predecessor Cuonzo Martin.
Q: They've already printed the T-shirts. Do you like the name "Donnie Knoxville"?
A: "I've certainly been called worse, and I do like it. It has a positive context or tone to it, and as long as there are not bad things said or written about me, I'm fine with it. I think it's pretty cool."
Q: In a sport with 13 scholarships, you've obviously undergone quite the overhaul with eight new scholarship players. Did you envision it being this big of an overhaul when you accepted the job?
A: "I don't know about eight, but I certainly planned on six or maybe seven guys. In today's day and age of college basketball, people would like to believe that guys sign with a school, but in reality these young people are signing because of the coach. I don't take it as a slap in the face, so I never took things personally, and that's why I gave those guys their release. I understand the climate and how it works.
"All the guys I signed at Southern Miss wanted to come to Tennessee, and it's because of the relationships that have been built, so I did expect it."
Q: Tennessee's Sweet 16 team had some big bodies with Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. You've added some needed height, but you don't have the same size as last year's team. How important is it going to be getting some beef on these guys you are bringing in?
A: "It's imperative, and you're dead on that we've got some height and some length but that we need some guys to put on some pounds and some muscle. We would like for these guys to be a little bigger and stronger, but it was the nature of where we were in the recruiting process being as late as it was. I was pleased with some of the guys we were able to get, but summer and fall are going to be imperative as far as our guys getting in that weight room.
"We're not going to be as strong or as physical as we need to be moving forward, but our style of play as far as being able to press back and do a matchup zone will help a little bit, because we're not going to be playing man-to-man in a half-court setting against a 6-10, 260-pound guy who would certainly cause us problems."
Q: How do you plan to develop chemistry in such a short amount of time?
A: "When we had our first team meeting, I told our guys that there was only one jerk in this room and one jerk in this program, and that was going to be me. I told our guys that they had to be good teammates or that they would not be a part of it. They understand through recruiting how we plan to do things, but I know there will be bumps in the road.
"I think we will have great competition at every position, and I think we'll be a balanced team. We'll play anywhere from eight to 10 players, which I think will be important due to our style of play."
Q: How would you describe the reception you've gotten from the returning players?
A: "It's been great. All these guys have bought in and want to be part of it and have shown some excitement about a new system. They've been great, and their families have been great as well."
Q: Josh Richardson really came on in the NCAA tournament. Is he a guy you've studied enough already to know he'll be a primary option on your first Tennessee team?
A: "No question about it. Josh had a great second half of the season and was fantastic in the NCAA tournament. He should have a ton of confidence right now with the way he ended the year. He's a senior, but he needs to get stronger in the weight room, too, and all these guys in a few days are going to start working harder than they've ever worked in their life.
"Josh will be a captain on this team, and I expect him to be a great leader."
Q: When you were at Southern Miss, did you ever view Tennessee as the SEC's third-best program behind Kentucky and Florida?
A: "I really did not, because I think there are some schools with great recruiting back yards like Georgia and Alabama, and then you had Texas A&M and Missouri coming into the league. I thought it was an upper-half-of-the-league type of job for sure, but now that I've been here for a month, I don't think there is any question it's an upper-echelon type of job in the SEC.
"In due time, I think we can be competitive for an SEC championship run each and every year."
Q: What's the CD in your car player right now?
A: "Darius Rucker's 'Wagon Wheel,' brother."
Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: "It's going back a while, but I think 'The Silence of the Lambs' is an unbelievable flick."
Q: If you win at Rupp Arena, will you perform a "Harlem Shake" that tops the one you did at Southern Miss?
A: "We're going to expect to win at Rupp each and every year, and we're going to expect to beat the Kentuckys and Floridas each and every year. Let's save that for a Final Four appearance or something like that."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...