Donnie Tyndall was handed the reins to the Tennessee program on April 22, 2014, and is now in his second year with the Volunteers. In his 10 seasons as a head coach, he averages 21.6 wins per year.
“Donnie Tyndall is a very good fit at the University of Tennessee,” UT Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart said. “He has had success everywhere he has coached, and his players graduate and grow as people under his leadership. Donnie brings stability and energy to our men’s basketball program.”
Tyndall’s first Tennessee squad was among the youngest and least experienced in the nation—boasting only four returning scholarship players and just one player who had ever scored in double figures in an SEC game. Due to injuries, the Vols entered SEC play with just nine healthy scholarship players.
Despite its challenges, that 2014-15 Tennessee team finished 16-16 overall, and its 10th place SEC finish was three spots better than where the team was picked to finish in the preseason. The Vols defeated a pair of top-20 opponents in No. 15 Butler and No. 19 Arkansas, and senior point guard Josh Richardson earned first-team All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press and the league’s head coaches.
Tyndall’s Division I head coaching record currently stands at 186-118 (.612), which also includes six stellar seasons at his alma mater, Morehead State, where he played from 1990-93.
Immediately prior to his hiring at Tennessee, Tyndall's championship-winning, two-year run as the head coach at Southern Miss was highlighted by a remarkable 56-17 (.767) overall record.
The 2013-14 season saw Tyndall guide Southern Miss to a share of the regular-season Conference USA championship, a school-record 29 wins, an unblemished 15-0 home record and a year-end RPI of 29.
The Golden Eagles under Tyndall played an up-tempo brand of basketball that in 2014 ranked first or second in C-USA in efficiency (110.0), points per possession (1.1), steals per game (8.2, 17th nationally), assists per game (14.1) and field-goal percentage (.463).
Attendance at Southern Miss home games rose 23 percent in Tyndall’s first season. And in his second year in Hattiesburg, season-ticket sales saw a spike of more than 20 percent as well. Tennessee then tabbed Tyndall as the 19th head coach in program history.
His inspiring climb up the collegiate coaching ladder was underscored by a tireless, blue-collar approach and a commitment to building relationships and comprehensive excellence.
In 2006, Tyndall took over a Morehead State program that finished 4-23 the previous year. He improved the Eagles’ record in each of his first five seasons and led the school to 20-win seasons from 2008-11 – MSU had reached the 20-win mark just twice in its history before his arrival.
Tyndall also guided Morehead to NCAA Tournament berths in 2009 and 2011. His 2011 squad, led by first-round NBA Draft pick and current Denver Nuggets star Kenneth Faried, knocked off No. 4-seeded Louisville in the Big Dance.
When Tyndall was named head coach at Southern Miss prior to the 2012-13 campaign, he took over a team that was the youngest in the country and led it to a 27-10 (12-4 C-USA) record and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals.
The 12 C-USA victories were the most since USM joined the league, and he was honored by his peers as the NABC District 11 Coach of the Year.
Tyndall’s squad only continued to reach new heights in 2013-14, breaking the previous year’s C-USA wins record by going 13-3 in league play – 29-7 overall.
Tyndall took over at Southern Miss after leading Morehead State to a 114-85 record, including a 70-40 mark in Ohio Valley Conference games, from 2006-12. In the season immediately prior to his arrival, the Eagles finished with an RPI rating of 321. Five years later, his efforts yielded a year-end RPI of 77.
His first MSU team tripled its win total from the previous year. And in year-two, despite being picked to finish 10th in the OVC, Tyndall’s team finished third in the conference and he garnered OVC Coach of the Year acclaim.
The Eagles’ trajectory skyrocketed during the 2008-09 season, as Tyndall led his alma mater to a 20-16 finish, an OVC championship and the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 1984. Morehead State defeated Alabama State before falling to Louisville in the second round.
Tyndall followed that effort with a 24-win season in 2009-10 and then a 25-win campaign in 2010-11. That 2011 team captured the second OVC title of Tyndall’s tenure, and he was once again tabbed as the NABC District Coach of the Year as the 13th-seeded Eagles shocked Rick Pitino’s fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the second round of NCAA Tournament.
Faried’s impressive development under Tyndall shined that year, as he won his second consecutive OVC Player of the Year award, earned consensus All-American status and broke Tim Duncan’s career NCAA rebounding record before being selected 22nd overall by Denver in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Former Vol and current Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris trained against Faired and the U.S. Men’s National Team prior to the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“Coach Tyndall is the perfect guy for Tennessee basketball,” Harris said after working out with Tyndall. “(Coach Tyndall’s) energy and passion to help the young men in orange on and off the court is what impresses me the most. He wants the best out of everyone around him, which is great to see.”
After honing his craft in the junior college ranks in the mid-1990s, Tyndall landed his first Division I assistant coaching position at LSU in 1997. He later served in the role of associate head coach at Idaho (2001-02) and Middle Tennessee (2002-06).
Tyndall’s tenure on John Brady’s staff at LSU included the assembly of three top-25 signing classes – including the No. 1-ranked class in 1998. He coached five LSU players who earned All-SEC honors and four players who went on to play in the NBA. In 2000, he helped guide the Tigers to the SEC Championship, the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament and a year-end ranking of No. 10 nationally.
At Middle Tennessee, Tyndall helped usher the Blue Raiders to four consecutive winning seasons. As recruiting coordinator, he built a pair of national top-25 signing classes in 2003 and 2004.
His recruiting prowess had been previously put on display during his lone year on staff at Idaho, as the Vandals’ 2002 recruiting class was rated 15th in the country.
Tyndall’s first head coaching experience came at St. Catharine College near Springfield, Ky. He coached the team to a 30-5 record and the school’s first-ever appearance in the NJCAA national tournament. For his efforts, he was recognized as the 1997 Region 7 National Coach of the Year, the Kentucky Junior College Coach of the Year and the Kentucky-Tennessee Junior College Coach of the Year.
Academic achievement has always been a cornerstone of Tyndall’s coaching tenets. That has been proven by the fact that, during his head coaching career, 24 of the 25 players who exhausted their eligibility graduated on time. His 2012-13 Southern Miss team posted that program’s highest team GPA in 18 years.
A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Tyndall graduated from Northview High School and played one season of junior-college basketball in Fort Dodge, Iowa, before transferring to Morehead State to join its basketball team from 1990-93. He earned his bachelor’s degree from MSU in 1993.
Tyndall later received his master’s degree from LSU in 2000.
He has two daughters, Taylor Elise and Grace Elizabeth. And on Aug. 2, 2014, he married the former Nikki Young.
In the summer of 2014, the Tyndalls established The Tyndall #Family Foundation, a pending 501(c)(3) public charity that facilitates the family’s involvement in philanthropic causes throughout the state of Tennessee.
Some of the first events associated with the TFF include the annual Donnie Tyndall Golf Classic at Williams Creek Golf Course (benefiting the First Tee of Greater Knoxville and the United Way) and the inaugural Donnie Tyndall Run for Veterans (benefiting HonorAir Knoxville and the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial).