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Tennessee promotes Justin Gainey, officially adds Gregg Polinsky to basketball staff

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

After bringing in a few outsiders last season, Rick Barnes will be able to promote from within this time around. Michael Schwartz, a long-time defensive coordinator for Barnes, is officially off to East Carolina to lead the Pirates.

That left a vacancy on staff, and Barnes didn’t have to look far down the bench to find it. Gregg Polinsky, an NBA front office veteran who joined the Tennessee staff as a volunteer analyst this season, got the call for the full-time role.

Additionally, assistant Justin Gainey has been elevated to the title of associate head coach. Gainey was hired last offseason along with Rod Clark to replace the departing Kim English and Desmond Oliver, who each landed head coaching gigs.

“Justin has been an outstanding addition to our program, and his presence and experience have benefited our players and staff alike,” Barnes said in a release. “Just as he quickly earned the respect of everyone within our program, he’s earned this enhanced role through his steadiness, daily approach and work ethic.”

Polinsky is an interesting guy that’s done a little bit of everything in the basketball world. He got his break in the college ranks as a head coach at Georgia Southern in the mid-1990s before making the move to the NBA front office world, serving as a scout for the Nets and even in a Director of Player Personnel role for the Pistons.

He’s now back full time at the college level

“GP added so much to our program this season,” Barnes said. “Elevating him into this role was an easy decision after observing the way he’s impacted our players and staff. His knowledge of the game is so extensive, and he’s spent a large chunk of his career in the NBA, which is the goal destination for most of today’s players. He understands what it takes to make it there—and, more importantly—have longevity there. GP is a world-class talent evaluator and an outstanding relationship builder. He fits the culture of our program perfectly.”

It will be interesting to see how Polinsky’s NBA past spills over onto the recruiting side. His 20-plus years of scouting experience are certainly a unique asset for Barnes now going forward, and his transition to an official assist should be seamless after his work last season.