John Shulman dismissed as Chattanooga Mocs coach (with video)

John Shulman dismissed as Chattanooga Mocs coach (with video)

March 21st, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Local Regional News

John Shulman could have coached basketball for one more year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

But, as a lame-duck coach with one season remaining on his contract, Shulman said it wouldn't be fair to anyone.

So, interim chancellor Grady Bogue, chancellor-elect Steve Angle, interim athletics director Laura Herron and the coach decided Wednesday to part ways for the best interest of the school's tradition-laden program.

"We needed to make a change to propel the program forward," Herron said in an exclusive interview. "I think we're leaving the next coach with a good group of student-athletes on this team."

Shulman had one year remaining on a contract that paid him $138,000 per season and will be paid for the final year in monthly installments.

Shulman said he asked for an extension of the contract beyond the 2013-14 season.

Shulman said the decision not to grant the extension would halt momentum built from a young team that went 13-19 this past season -- better than the 11-21 year a season previous with a squad stuffed with seniors -- and leave him in the same position as former football coach Rodney Allison who went 1-11 in the final year of his contract.

"There's no way without an extension you can keep that momentum going," Shulman said at a news conference. "It's not fair to me, not fair to our players, not fair to our coaches, not fair to our fans and not fair to the program.

"So once it became clear no extension was an option, we mutually agreed that this was the best action."

Assistant coach Casey Long, who played point guard for Shulman and helped lead UTC to a Southern Conference tournament championship and the NCAA tournament in 2005, has been selected to be the interim coach.

"It's almost a day of mourning for us," Long said. "He's a great coach, and he did it the right way. We're forever grateful for him."

Shulman, 46, concluded his UTC career with 145 wins and 146 losses over nine seasons. He led UTC to the NCAA tournament in 2005 and again in 2009.

UTC men's basketball coach John Shulman looks down as he steps to the podium to give his final press conference Wednesday at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

"Although I did not get to know John Shulman personally, I know that he did a lot of good things for UTC," Angle, the incoming chancellor, said in a release. "For that, we applaud his efforts."

The Mocs haven't had a winning season since the '09 season and were eliminated from the SoCon tournament in the first round the last three seasons.

And season ticket sales have dwindled during Shulman's tenure, which sent a message to Herron and other administrators. When Shulman started in 2003, there were 1,430 season-ticket holders. There were 841 this past year.

"I've told John repeatedly that he did not let us down," Herron said. "He did his best. He understands that it is a business, and it was a business decision that needed to be made."

The process for selecting the next coach begins with UTC advertising the position and laying groundwork to meet state requirements. The next step is for UTC to hire an athletics director. Then, Herron said, the new athletic director will make the decision on who will become UTC's next basketball coach.

"We will be waiting until a new AD is hired before the true process begins," she said. "We're not even going to narrow down the selections. We'll let the new AD make those decisions."

The decision didn't seem to sit well with the players who gathered for the news conference in the back of UTC's Hall of Fame room. They wore solemn faces and looked more hurt than when they lost 87-81 to UNC Greensboro in the first round of the SoCon tournament.

None of them elected to speak with media on Wednesday. But senior captain Dontay Hampton said after that loss in Asheville, N.C., that ended their season, that the players love Shulman.

"With everything that's happened, he keeps coaching and he still has a positive attitude," said Hampton who played in only four games this season due to knee injuries. "I think the program is going in the right direction with the young guys. They take after Coach Shulman because he's a fighter."

But Shulman lost his fight for a contract extension and settled for being released.