JOE BIDDLE: Vols starting all over again

Donnie Tyndall was doomed.

Even though he was Tennessee’s first-year basketball coach this season, storm clouds were closing in on Tyndall.

He had been found in violation of NCAA rules at Morehead State. He hightailed it to Southern Miss. When word seeped out that the NCAA was digging up dirt on Southern Miss, the clouds got even blacker. And closer.

Two of Tyndall’s former assistants at Southern Miss resigned. Some players left. The fingers were pointing at Tyndall.

Fortunately for Tennessee, AD Dave Hart had the sense to put a clause in Tyndall’s contract that if he were found guilty of breaking major rules at Tennessee, the school could cut him loose without paying him one thin dime.

The rumors have been plentiful, spreading like wildfire. It came down early Friday morning when Tyndall learned his fate from Hart.

In fairness to Hart, the timing of Tyndall’s hire prevented him from going the extra mile to uncover anything at Southern Miss. Remember Cuonzo Martin left the Vols to coach at California. No warning.

Hart had to go into damage control. He had to help keep a few players from leaving. He was up against the clock as the season was fast approaching.

Here came Slick Tyndall. Tyndall was able to patch together a roster. It didn’t have a true center, nor did it have a true point guard. Those are the two most important positions in college basketball, especially if you are to build a strong program.

Team Tyndall was predictably all over the map. They did play hard. They never quit. They were a .500 team that had some high spots, but those were overshadowed by some extraordinary low times.

It seemed the NCAA investigation in the Southern Miss program was crawling at a snail’s pace. The farther Tyndall was away from Southern Miss, perhaps the NCAA could not link him to the charges that would drive the final nails in his coaching coffin.

Tyndall is now a marked man. Nuclear. No D-1 team will touch him until he proves he is changed.

So God’s speed, Slick. We hardly knew you.

Names to possibly follow Tyndall are filling talk shows, blogs, tweets, and other assorted unreliable social media.

A popular choice is Belmont’s Rick Byrd, a 61-year-old coach who joined the career 700 wins this season. He has taken Belmont to four of the last five NCAA Tournaments.

How many times Tennessee played in the past five Big Dances? Let’s just say the Vols have had more coaches recently than NCAA Tournament appearances.

Byrd won’t take the Tennessee job even if offered. That ship has sailed. There was a time he would have taken the job. After all, it’s his alma mater, located in his hometown and his parents still live there.

But Tennessee big-timed Byrd. They turned their noses down on little Belmont, thinking their fans wouldn’t stand for it.

Byrd’s comfort zone is on Belmont Boulevard. He knows what type player he wants and is able to attract smart players who know the game and want to play in a running, 3-point bombing offense.

He and his wife Cheryl love Nashville. Byrd has his choice of off-season golf courses. He has his country music pals, some of whom he plays golf with.

Rick Byrd’s not going anywhere. He didn’t tell me that. He didn’t have to.

So cross that one off.

Dave Hart will hire a search firm for the first time. He said the unnamed firm will explore backgrounds on names he provides. Hart needs to get a younger coach with charisma, coaching and recruiting chops. He needs someone who can relate to today’s players, many of who lack fundamentals or knowledge of the sport.

They are out there.

Here are some names to ponder:

Bobby Hurley, Buffalo. Duke pedigree. Dad famous icon at St. Anthony’s high school. Coach K. would likely advise him to not take UT job and wait for something better.

I like Steve Prohm, Murray State. His team should have made the NCAA Tournament if it wasn’t for a Taylor Barnette triple to send Belmont dancing.

Will Wade, Chattanooga. Homegrown. Young, energetic, breathes basketball. Assistant under VCU’s Shaka Smart, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker. Could be the next Billy Donovan.

Tad Boyle, Colorado. Former Jerry Green assistant. Made three NCAA Tournaments in four years.

Dream on candidates:

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State. Vols snubbed him when he was at Winthrop.

Shaka Smart, VCU. Still waiting for something better.

Tom Crean, Indiana. Hoosier fans soured on Crean, but he’s making a mountain of money. Tennessee is not in his plans.

Dave Hart is going to earn his money on this one. If he misses on this hire, he may be the next one to leave Rocky Top.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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