Louisiana Tech's Michael White was the front-runner in Tennessee's coaching search for more than a day, with numerous outlets reporting the negotiations had moved to the contract stage. And many Vol fans seemed to be getting on board with this move - White's Bulldogs took the second most threes in the nation last year, a style of play certainly appealing especially when it comes with the high winning percentage he had enjoyed thus far.
But now it appears Tennessee and White will not be joining forces: Gary Parrish has reported Michael White has turned down the Tennessee job. Parrish and several others have reported the buyout was a key point of disagreement, so much so that White ultimately passed on the chance to coach the Vols to remain at LaTech.
The "What Next?" question works on two levels. First, Tennessee still needs a basketball coach. Parrish named Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall as the next likely candidate, who has a very similar resume to White in the last two years in the same conference, plus six years and two NCAA Tournament appearances at Morehead State before that. To pull again from Gary Parrish:
By the way, if Tennessee hires from C-USA, Donnie Tyndall is the better fit anyway. Check his credentials here: http://t.co/zbr8HDS8EK— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) April 21, 2014
But also, "What Next?" applies to the Tennessee athletic department and the way it handles itself in coaching searches once more.
We're all thrilled with Butch Jones, and Dave Hart deserves credit there, but this was after the Vols got Charlie Strong to the altar but came up empty. Not all, but some will argue the Vols got more lucky than good ending up with Jones.
The basketball program carries far less appeal and needs as much positive PR as possible after the Bruce Pearl/Cuonzo Martin ordeal of this past year. So whatever went down between Dave Hart and Michael White, it ends with the Vols apparently not getting their "first choice", and Tennessee's basketball program taking the additional hit in perception of being turned down by the head coach at a Conference USA program not named Memphis.
There's also this:
Butch Jones has taught us just because you don't get your first choice doesn't mean your next choice can't be successful. This isn't the end of the Tennessee Basketball world, although it should teach us a thing or two about trying to get an "upgrade" or how much the administration is will to commit to being a winning basketball program. But the administration at UT is not gaining any love with the fanbase, the media, or other candidates with the way it continues to swing and miss at less established names. And it continues to invite questions about its ability to lead going forward.
Where will the Vols go from here? It continues to depend on Dave Hart and the administration's ability to sell the job to the candidate it believes to be the best hire, and then close the deal. Stay tuned.