Think back. It's 2005 and the big news in Knoxville is that the new athletic director at Tennessee has just fired the basketball coach at Tennessee. Four years after being hired, Buzz Peterson was let go in a wake of controversy.
A lot of fans were very vocal in voicing their disapproval of this move. Let me share with you some quotes from message boards on the Knoxville News Sentinels web site back in August of 2005:
"I think UT should have given Buzz at least one more year! It's not like the Vols lost games by large margins..."
"With the way Jerry Green was treated, and now Buzz, we will not be able to attract another good coach. He was bringing integrity first to our Bball team and given some time would have brought the winning record. Mike Hamilton will see him down the road and wish he had done things differently."
"Do the research, Mike Hamilton has NEVER COACHED ANYTHING according to his positions history on utsports.com. How does he know what it takes to hire and fire a coach?"
"Mr. Hamilton just made the biggest blunder of his career."
"Honestly, I don't know why UT keeps a men's program. It's like having a bird dog that can't point. Sooner or later you either get him fixed or your put him down. 6 coaches in 16 years was the getting him fixed part...it's time to put him down."
...And that is just a few of the comments made, and that is just online. That doesn't even touch what people were saying on TV, radio and even in the Tennessee coaching fraternity. If you remember, Pat Summitt and even Peyton Manning came out saying they didn't support the decision and that they were behind Peterson all the way.
Just for the record, I was part of the "let him go" crowd, because he had done nothing to further Tennessee basketball. All he did was bring false hope as had many before him. When it came to wins and losses, Tennessee stayed the course of being mediocre.
It's amazing what a few years can do as far as perception goes huh? I wonder what all of those naysayers have to say now? I would love to hear what they think. For the first time in history, the Vols are ranked #2 in the nation, are a projected #1 seed in the tournament and riding the 4th longest home winning streak in the country. They have a multi-million dollar practice facility and by far the best on campus basketball arena in the country. They are selling out games, and leading the nation in attendance. These aren't opinions now folks, they are facts and it's all because of 2 people. 1. Mike Hamilton (who was said to be making the biggest blunder of the year by hiring a no-name from Wisconsin Milwaukee and getting rid of Buzz Peterson.) and #2: Bruce Pearl. Quite possible the best coach to grace the University of Tennessee campus since the General.
Pearl has proven to be the real deal and has silenced all of the naysayers from years past. He has turned false hope into real, honest to goodness basketball. He has shown that he is a man of character and charisma. Someone who cares about basketball and someone who saw a chance to do something big for a University that had never tasted basketball quite like this. This guy gives his all to this University and to the ball team, and he does it all the time, day in, day out. He has gained the respect of the whole campus, and the whole Vol Nation. In hind site, it looks like Mike Hamilton knew what he was doing after all.
Vol fans are now turning out in droves to see what no other coach could do at Tennessee. Win, and win big.
This Saturday, the vols will take on the #1 team in the land. Undefeated Memphis. But this time, they will be right there with them with the #2 ranking. Thats right. There is no Duke, or North Carolina between them. It's Tennessee and Memphis. 1 vs 2 in an in-state rivalry that has the biggest of implications.
Win or lose, I'll be happy. Disappointed, but happy. Not because we might lose, but because we were in a position to be playing the best team in the country in February and we were doing it as the 2nd best team in the country...and I'll take that any day over any team coached by Jerry Green, Kevin O'neill or Buzz Peterson.