Transcript from the Brian Pensky Press Conference
Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Dave Hart (Opening Statement):
"Well thank you very, very much for coming out for this very exciting day, as we introduce to you momentarily our new women's soccer coach at the University of Tennessee. Let me say, first and foremost, I want to recognize and thank Tyler Johnson, who is our sport administrator that oversees soccer. He played an absolutely key role in our search process, as did Donna Thomas, who is our senior women's administrator. I want to thank them publicly for their professionalism and their outstanding research and follow through with potential candidates that led us to the hiring of Brian Pensky.
I also, where is Joe (assistant coach Kirt)? He's here someplace. I want to recognize Joe for the job he did in an interim role. A model of professionalism, he communicated with the young women on our team to keep them informed that we would eventually present to them an outstanding coach to continue the success that we've enjoyed and actually even take that to another level. I want to thank you Joe publicly for the job you did in that regard.
I also want to thank our chancellor Dr. Cheek. He's got about 1,000 things on his desk, but he warranted this important enough to come over and join us as we get ready to introduce Brian and his family here in just a moment.
Brian Penskyfit the profile absolutely ideally in the sense that he's a wonderful person, a terrific family person, great husband, great father, deeply cared about the young women on his soccer team, and everyone I talked to said that first and foremost. He cared so much, and I told Brian I admired this, he was reluctant to accept our offer, to leave Maryland because of his strong feelings about the University of Maryland, about his players, his recruits. I told him I thought we would have had the wrong person had he not felt that way, and now I feel these young ladies (at Tennessee) will benefit from his priority on them as students and as athletes.
So I was very impressed when I met Brian and had a chance to spend quality time with him at how sincere that feeling was. I loved the fact that he built that program (Maryland) from the ground up and it was not overnight. He continued to work at it until finally he has his program, running it the way he wanted it run with an expectation for excellence and with the priority on the young ladies as students first, then as people and then as student-athletes. He built the program to a championship level, an elite level.
Brian has been named National Coach of the Year. Brian has been the No. 1-seed in the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament. He's been ranked in the top dozen teams in the country for successive years. He's done all that and provided the leadership and surrounded himself with quality people to build that consistency in the program at the University of Maryland.
He's very humble. He's a very humble person. He gives the credit to his assistants, gives credit to the young women who play for him, to his administrators, but it takes leaders. People make the difference, and Brian is one of those head coaches that, without question, can and will make a difference.
He knows what it feels like to beat the University of North Carolina, the best soccer program in America. He's experienced all of these successes and it hasn't changed him, hasn't changed his core values or priorities that he holds dear.
I'm going to let Brian introduce (his wife) Abby, who played a key role in this too I might add. We were very impressed with Abby. Pam, my wife, and I had a chance to spend quality time with Abby as did some of our other administrative wives. Certainly, when you make that hire, you're hiring a team, so we have the Pensky family to lead this soccer program.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you our new head women's soccer coach Brian Pensky.
Tennessee Head Coach Brian Pensky (Opening Statement):
Hello everybody. This is a great day. I would like to start off by introducing my family, and it's very nice to look at them wearing shorts and t-shirts. As Dave said my wife Abby is a big, big part of this. Everybody's been asking me for the last week or two, how's Abby? Is she on board with this? Is she ok with this? My response was pretty quick, actually she was the one kind of pushing this. Abby was taken pretty quickly, when we came down here, taken by Pam Hart, taken by Dave, taken by Tyler, and just taken by everything there is to offer here at the University of Tennessee. In addition to Abby, my twins Will and Ali, who just turned 10 yesterday, and also my little guy Ben who will be eight next month. After having been in a serious state of shock a couple of nights ago, they actually came to terms with it when I arrived home on Saturday with a duffel bag full of gear. They quickly loved Tennessee. They quickly loved orange, loved the baby blue, loved it all, so as a family we're very happy to be here.
When I just sat and listened to what Dave, Mr. Hart, had to say, that was heartfelt, he didn't have a cheat sheet. He didn't use any notes. It was all genuine, it was all real. I'm here because of people, as he said, because of relationships. I stand here and I look at all of the people here today who care and who are invested on a personal level, on a work level, on a financial level and these student-athletes as people, as players, as students. That again is what it's about. No matter how you want to slice it, we're in the service industry. We're here to serve these kids. They've gone through, since December 17th, a really difficult period of uncertainty. The first thing I said to them when I met them on Friday was I'm happy for them that that uncertainty is over. The greatest part of being a student-athlete is having relationships you have with one another, having the relationships you have with your coaches. It's the best part and can be the most fulfilling, but sometimes when things change, it also becomes the most difficult.
As Mr. Hart said, very accurately, the thing that really almost kept me, came very, very close to keeping me away from coming here were the players and the people at the University of Maryland. I'm going to miss them dearly, and saying goodbye was one of, if not the hardest, things I've ever done in my life. However, I know I'm following my heart in coming here. Our family is following our heart in coming here, and as I said earlier, the level of care, the want to be great, the resources here. I sat and spent hours and hours looking at the University of Tennessee website, looking at the athletic department website, at all that's here to offer these student-athletes. One of my first goals, in dealing with our team, is to make sure they know how lucky they are because life is all about having perspective. I talk all the time about how I wish I could wake up every day and give myself an injection of perspective, because it's so easy to lose it, so easy to get caught up and lost in your life. I look here at what we all have, and I'm in amazement. There's not going to be a day that goes by that I don't feel fortunate to have all these kids in my life, to have these unbelievable facilities and to have this opportunity to be great. We're going to be great. It's all here for us. From an academic standpoint to a personal standpoint when I think about what you guys have at your beckon call from sports psychology resources to the nutrition resources you have here. Sports medicine, strength and conditioning...it's all top class. It's all first class top notch.
Then it comes back to we have all these resources, it comes back to people. I think about the day that Abby and I were here. We had a good day with Tyler. He was probably so glad my visit was over because he was exhausted from answering my questions. I'm sure he's probably happy I'm here, but he's probably figuring he's now going to have to answer my questions all the time. Donna has already started to get a little taste of that because I was blowing her e-mail up all weekend with more questions. Getting to know Tyler and Donna on that day, getting to know Joe a little bit on that day and Abby getting to know some of the wives of the athletic department staff on that day and then my time with Mr. Hart, again it goes back to people and to relationships. Because all the greatness that's going to happen out here someday is going to end, and it's going to be about people. It's going to be about relationships and what do you do for each other, how do you take care of each other, how do you look after each other. Who are you and what do you represent? What do you stand for? I knew that the people here care. I want to be in an environment where everybody takes pride all the time. So now it's our goal and our objective to be great.
I'm inheriting a program that I think in the last 11 years has been in five NCAA Sweet 16's. It's a good program. It's a very good program. As Mr. Hart said we've done pretty well at Maryland. The last few years, our hard work has paid off and we were fortunate enough to beat North Carolina in each of the last two years. We were a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament and made it to the ACC Championship Game just one year ago. We've accomplished some great, great things. I wouldn't be here if we couldn't achieve the same, if not more, at the University of Tennessee. We can be outstanding here, and I'm excited to be outstanding.
As Mr. Hart said, and again this is the type of person he is, the second or third person he acknowledges is Joe Kirt. One of the first things Abby and I did when we were on campus was meet with Joe and in the first five minutes of the conversation with Joe, it's easy to tell how genuine he is, how much he cares. He cares in this process and certainly wants what's best for him and wants what's best for his family as any individual would, needs to feel that. He wants what's best for the kids on this team. He wants what's best for the University of Tennessee Women's Soccer program, and that was so evident and apparent right away. I'm happy, I know I'm going to get these questions, I'm happy that Joe has accepted my offer to stay on with our program as an assistant coach. In the same way that this has been kind of a tumultuous and uncertain time for the players within our program, Joe was charged with leading the program for that amount of time not knowing if he was even going to have a job at the end of all that. That's a tough gig, but again he did it very professionally, cared about each and every one of the kids within the program throughout the process and that tells me everything about who he is. I'm honored and happy that's he's going to stay on with our program.
Lastly, I will say this is a big move for me. It's a life move. I thought, as I was just telling Dr. Cheek, I thought I was going to die in the state of Maryland. I thought I was going to retire at the University of Maryland. He just shared a story with me, how he was at the University of Florida for 34 years. Mr. Hart talked about how he moved back home to Alabama. He was working at his alma mater, where his wife Pam grew up. In the recruiting process everyone kept asking me what my dream job was. I said I'm at my dream job at the University of Maryland. I'll be here forever. I knew at the end of the day, no I didn't, knew deep down that it would take a special person, a special situation to take me away from Maryland. I've been in the state of Maryland for 39 of the 43 years of my life. The four years I've been outside were when I was at Emory University in Atlanta. This is an adventure, an outstanding adventure. I'm just so happy to be standing here in front of everybody today.
Thank you again Mr. Hart for giving me this opportunity and the Chancellor for supporting that, Tyler for your time in this process and for the most important people here...the players. You talk about perspective. Maybe it's normal to you (players) to look out and see all these people here who care. It's not normal to look out and see all these people who care. It's not normal to me. In the bigger picture of life, it's not normal ok. You're not going to go to every program and see this sort of investment, this type of care for the student-athlete. So if we haven't already, we need to embrace it and love it right now, because we're all very, very fortunate. Thank you.
QUESTIONS FOR BRIAN PENSKY:
(on the subject of whether he discussed the Tennessee job with other coaches):"I spoke to a couple of friends, colleagues, within our conference and actually a guy who used to be in our conference who's now in the SEC. They were all aware of several things. Aware of the facilities here and the opportunity here and where this job sort of ranks in this league. Some of them have worked for Mr. Hart and spoke very highly of Jon Gilbert and Mike Ward. Anytime you're making a decision, you can't do it in a vacuum. You have to run it by people that you trust. I have a pretty small circle of friends that I trust, and they said wonderful things about this university and really, honestly most importantly about Mr. Hart."
(on the subject of the moment he decided to take the Tennessee job): "There were a bunch of moments where I decided to take this job. Then there were some moments when I decided to not take this job. The most important moments were a few when my wife said that it was kind of like jumping into a pool. When you jump in it's going to be a little bit cold at first, a little uncomfortable, then it's going to warm up and you're going to be in heaven. You've just got to jump. She was saying all that, and I was kind of like what are you talking about. I thought about that, and thought about taking that jump. I'm still very close with my parents, and my father talked to me about this opportunity. He talked again about how much it seemed the people cared here. So getting over that hump, saying yes and deciding to say yes, and that I was going, emotions were very, very high. Lots of excitement, but I'll tell you honestly, before that excitement came, there was borderline terror thinking about telling the people at the University of Maryland. I was very emotional while having some of those conversations. However, once you do it, you kind of get over a hump and don't look back and feel great about it. That's what's happened to me. I've gotten over that hump. Here we are now and I'm a pretty happy guy."
(on what he wanted to know about the University of Tennessee during the process): "I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know the make-up of the student body. I wanted to know what were some of the first words that came to mind when you thought of this athletic department. I want to know how things worked in academic support. I wanted to know how things worked with the nutritionist. I wanted to know how kids got around campus, where do they live. You think about what are the things that make the current players happy here. What are the things they struggle with here. And you think about recruiting, about how I'm going to sell this place to young women around the country. I'd say the biggest pieces were all related to these kids, the quality of their life and wondering how are we going to get kids to the University of Tennessee."