Funky (adjective): stylish and exciting; cool.
Remember back when we were the best team in the Big East? When our question mark of a team headed up to the Big Apple to play in the prestigious preseason-NIT tournament at the World's Most Famous Arena -- host to, among other things, the greatest sporting event of all time -- and then we came back with....hardware. Remember when we traveled up to Pittsburgh and made the present #1 seeded Panthers look like a JV team? Remember when the only thing garnering more national press than Scotty Hopson's ridiculous basketball skills was his sweet sweet high top fade?
Even as Winter approached, man oh man was the grass looking mighty green on Rocky Top. We had a ball-of-muscle point guard on a mission to prove that he was the best defensive guard in the country. We had a big man in Brian Williams quietly establishing himself as one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. We had Cameron Tatum, just another dynamic, athletic wing with no shortage of offensive skills. We had Tobias Harris, a blue-chip recruit out of New York City who fit in perfectly with all our existing pieces. And he was thriving.
And we were thriving. Was this potentially a final four team? Of course it was, remember? These guys had us fans feeling kinda funky, kinda fine.
Funk (noun): a state of nervousness, fear, and depression.
Sometimes things fall apart. With each additional mediocre performance against another mediocre SEC opponent, frustration seemed to grow among the fanbase. And, hold on, we lost to Charlotte? And you're sure it wasn't the Bobcats? Flounder was the word of the day. We were in a funk.
Explanations abound for why this team was in such a funk. Was it merely the distractions from the off-court issues involving their head coach? Had Pearl given up on the team? Had the team given up on Pearl? Was it just that maybe we were never all that good in the first place? Was the early hot streak a fluke? A bunch of lucky games, improbably strung together? Why do I hear gears grinding when I watch us play halfcourt basketball? And where oh where can we locate the necessary lubrication? Because, Vol fans, this just wasn't looking promising.
But hey...then we made into the NCAA tournament. Release the pressure. Now we just gotta play basketball -- and we do soooo well when we don't think, but just play basketball. We're in a single-elimination tournament, and so distractions aren't an option. They can't be. And that previous funk we were in -- irrelevant now. Just survive and advance, baby. Just play ball.
Funk (noun): a bad odor; a stench.
And then there was Mike Hamilton. I can say with confidence that Mike Hamilton is not a utilitarian. John Stuart Mill is not his homeboy.
Listen, Mike, anybody and everybody who has followed Tennessee basketball this year already knew that "the jury was out" on Bruce Pearl's continued status as our head coach. We were already aware of the distinct possibility that this year's tournament might be Pearl's last hurrah at the program he took to previously-unknown levels of success. The fans knew it. The players knew it. So what exactly was there to be gained through your comments? What is it that you were trying to accomplish that couldn't have been accomplished the day after our last game in the tournament?
Mr. Hamilton: I am bewildered. In no way do I understand your motives here, but I do understand the practical consequences of your actions. A sideshow. A redirection of the attention of fans and media alike away from the athletic performances by the players on the court -- and especially contributing seniors like Brian Williams, Steven Pearl, Melvin Goins, and Josh Bone, who won't have an opportunity to try this again next year -- and towards the issue of Bruce Pearl's future coaching status at the University of Tennessee.
Hamilton's horrible timing may or may not have an adverse effect on the play of the team in their first round game. But it could. And why shouldn't these players have an opportunity to redeem a rollercoaster season by coming out of their on-court funk at the most opportune time? Why should their singular focus on winning basketball games be unavoidably interrupted by a foul odor that, in Charlotte, will never stray from their immediate vicinity.
Perhaps I'm overreacting. Perhaps I'm being overdramatic. But, to me, something here just smells really really bad. And Mike Hamilton didn't help matters at all -- he didn't shut the funk up.