Chattanooga Mocs host Legends, Cougars

Chattanooga Mocs host Legends, Cougars

February 9th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.

Photo by Contributed Photo

Pictures of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball teams that played in NCAA tournaments hang in the Mocs' meeting room in McKenzie Arena.

They're a reminder to the present team of UTC's past success -- including the two teams that current coach John Shulman guided through the Southern Conference tournament and on to the Big Dance.

All former players, coaches and staff members have been invited back to campus for the 2012-13 Legends Weekend that culminates with the Mocs (9-14, 4-6) facing the College of Charleston at 7:30 tonight after the Lady Mocs face Elon at 5 p.m.

"They did wonderful things here. We're glad that they're coming back and they're comfortable coming back," said Shulman, who began his coaching career at East Tennessee State, a UTC rival. "I know how good some of those guys were by sitting on the other side."

Said former coach Mack McCarthy, who guided the Sweet 16 run in 1997: "It's really nice that they've made us feel welcome and invited us back. It's fun to not only to see all of the changes, but to remember the great times and great relationships we had here."

The celebratory weekend began with a private dinner and reception for former and current players Friday night.

Shulman said before Friday's practice that he needed a few minutes to work on his speech for the event. He said he had spent most of his time preparing for tonight's game, including some review of UTC's 89-76 win Thursday against The Citadel in which UTC trailed only at 2-0.

"It was good winning last night, so I can hold my head up a little bit," Shulman said Friday afternoon. "There are a lot of legends. Some have gone to the NCAA tournament and some haven't. It really doesn't matter -- winning or losing -- these guys coming back are something more than W's and L's.

"They've gone through the journey," he added. "The destination is the NCAA tournament, but the journey is going through the wars. You can't tell me guys like Keith Nelson didn't have a great career because he didn't get to the tournament. He had a great career."

Since taking over the program in 2004, Shulman has an overall record of 141 wins and 141 losses with SoCon tournament titles in 2005 and '09.

Former Mocs carried UTC to eight NCAA tournaments from 1981 to '97.

"All of the former guys are basketball guys, and they understand that programs go through ebbs and flows," McCarthy said. "The standard was set high. They understand that times change, the league changes, the rules change and basketball in general has changed. They want what's best for the program like the guys in charge now want what's best for the program."

The Cougars had a similar celebration of basketball alumni before walloping the Mocs 86-59 in Charleston in December.

"So many schools, and that's what's interesting, is that they don't have any continuity in coaching and they let guys go so quickly," first-year Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said. "So former players never have a feel for a program or not a true reason to come back because their coach isn't there.

"But Coach [John] Kresse -- the court is named after him and he still works there -- he's an unbelievable ambassador for Charleston basketball.

"I think, for UTC with it being a special weekend, that makes [tonight's game] more exciting."