After weeks of speculation and debate, Tennessee head basketball coach Buzz Peterson has been fired. Even a late rally by his team in the SEC tournament couldn't save Peterson's job. (Though I do wonder--had Peterson beat Kentucky on Friday evening, would they have been able to fire him?)
Peterson has been at Tennessee for four years, taking a team that went to the NCAA Tourney for four years prior to his arrival and putting them into the NIT. This year, the team was a Jeckyll and Hyde affair--beating Florida on the road, taking out the (then) highly ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs at home, losing to Nebraska and UT-Chattanooga. Peterson had a lot of support from such people as Peyton Manning, Doug Dickey and Pat Head Summitt.
But, in the end, atheletic director, Mike Hamilton looked at where the program was and where it was going and made the decision to let Peterson go. At a press conference earlier today, Hamilton had this to say:
"In fairness to Buzz, I did not feel that I could step to the podium today with confidence and say that Buzz will be our coach two, three or five years from now," Hamilton said. "The inability to do so has dire consequences on recruiting, the stability of staff, and ultimately, results on the floor."
Really, this was a Kobyashi Maru situation for Hamilton--no win. Peterson is a good man who loved the job at Tennessee. He didn't see it as a stepping stone to prove himself and then move on. He was a man who well-liked by most people who came in contact with him. Problem was, he couldn't translate his magnetic personality and charisma into wins on the basketball court. So, Hamilton let him go and now faces a defining moment in his tenure as athletic director--who do you get now to lead the Vols?
Because let's face it--the state of UT men's basketball isn't really that hot. There have been a lot of mis-steps of late and it seems as if every time we make what seems like a good decision at the time (firing Jerry Green, hiring Kevin O'Neill, hiring Buzz), it's turned out to not be the best decision for the program. It seems as it's a downward spiral and one that we can't seem to pull ourselves out of, despite the four year run of success under Jerry Green (who lost his job because he couldn't get along with the fans, media, players or university brass). As much as it pains me to say this, the men's basketball situation at UT is a lot like the football situation at Kentucky. It's not exactly one of those hotbeds for a winning program, nor am I convinced that the groundwork is in place for any kind of turnaround--quick or longterm. As a Tennessee fan, it's frustrating that we have a lot of other great sports that are competitive year in and year out, but yet the men's basketball team continues to languish and not really make any substantial strides toward being consistent.
All that said, I'm not sure firing Buzz was the best solution to the problem. Like I said before, it's a no-win scenario. And it's going to take someone thinking way outside the box in order to to beat this thing.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 3/14/2005 03:12:00 PM