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Hart Press Conference Transcript

April 15, 2014

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart addressed the media about the future of the men's basketball program on Tuesday.

Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart

(Opening Statement)

"Afternoon and thank you for coming on what has been very short notice for all of you and we appreciate very much your quick response. Let me reiterate what I said at the end of the basketball season. We had a great run, through the tournament and I want to again recognize the job that Cuonzo Martin did as our head basketball coach and that his staff did making the contributions that they collectively did in order for us to end with a very memorable basketball season.

"Cuonzo Martin is an outstanding person; he was a terrific role model for our student-athletes, specifically our male basketball players. I know I and everybody connected with the athletics department, university, wish him nothing but success at Cal. I would be happy now to, in just a few moments, try to answer questions that you have. Obviously we will immediately get into a national search seeking a replacement for Cuonzo as our head basketball coach.

"No searches are ever identical in nature, I said this when we were in a football search. That is just a statement of fact. We will move as quickly as we can, as quickly as we reasonably can to get a replacement on board. To what the timetable is, is often times difficult to nail down. We are late in the sense that we are right on top of signing day and the Final Four has come and gone. But we will immediately get in now to that search process.

"Let me just open it up for your questions."

(On when Cuonzo Martin came to Dave Hart with this information)

"I did not know Cuonzo was involved in the California job until this morning. We did have a conversation, he was very emotional, bottom line is he said in his heart he believed that that was best for he and his family."

(On telling Cuonzo Martin he wanted him to stay at Tennessee)

"When we returned from the tournament, we got in that Saturday afternoon, and as soon as the bus was unloaded Cuonzo and I spent about an hour and a half in my office talking about the future. He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that we wanted him to remain here. We offered Cuonzo a significant reward for what he had accomplished and that obviously will be available at your request to all of you. But we offered Cuonzo close to half a million dollar raise and a two-year extension. So that part had already been addressed. He would have been at 1.8 million with the two-year extension."

(On Cuonzo Martin's buyout)

"The buyout would have been a million dollars. In this industry you guarantee money on the front end when you hire someone. Cuonzo took over a tough situation that he inherited when he took this job. Typically, the risk is at the beginning, the risk is not in your fourth, fifth or sixth year. So traditionally that buyout goes down. Matter of fact, Cuonzo's buyout next year would have been $850,000. But what we had packaged for him, the buyout would have been a million dollars."

(On seeing this coming during negotiations in Cuonzo Martin's contract)

"Not from my perspective."

(On being surprised not agreeing to contract earlier)

"It is a fair question, in the sense that I didn't put a specific, `Hey, I have to this tomorrow,' type of a timetable on it. I wanted him to have time. In one man's opinion, I don't think Cuonzo's decision was driven by dollars or was driven by necessarily number of years. I don't know. It was a tough year. I don't want to speak for Cuonzo. It was a tough year for Cuonzo and Roberta. There were a lot of distractions, you know what they were, you reported on them. Pretty tough for those young men and I talked to them and they have unsolicited, as the end of the year was progressing, made comments about how tough that was. It was a tough situation."

(On moving forward)

"I don't have any problem moving forward. There will be interest and we will hire the very best person that we can. I don't think there will be issues in that regard. What we offered Cuonzo would have made him a top-30 coach in the country."

(On Cuonzo's buyout)
"That won't be negotiated, that is part of the contract."

(On the distractions playing into Cuonzo Martin's decision to leave)

"I don't know and again, only Cuonzo can speak to that."

(On if the passion of the fan base was misguided and led to Martin leaving)

"Again, I have too much respect for Cuonzo to speak for Cuonzo. So I don't know. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to speculate in what in his heart and what he is thinking. Again, we hope he will continue to be very successful in his new opportunity."

(On concern of the attractiveness of the job)

"I think this is an extremely attractive job. We have history, we have tradition, we have one of the finest venues in the country to play college basketball. So no I am not concerned about that."

(On what he will tell the signees)

"I had an opportunity, just an hour and a half or two hours ago at the most, to meet with our team and to talk to them. I have been through this scenario a number of times and it is always very difficult because the players are always very emotional, they become very attached to the head coach for all the reasons you would expect. So that is always hard to visit with those young men. We also reached out to the four prospects and tried to reassure all of them that we know it is tough. You are 17 to 22 years old and you get a surprise, they did not expect that we would be dealing with a transition today. So that is difficult for them. We have reassured them they we understand that, that my door is open, Jon Gilbert's door is open, that they should come to us, call us, we have all their numbers, they know how to reach us, that we would be happy to have those conversations with them and to the extent possible keep them in the loop of the search process. In terms of the timing, what is going on, we won't talk about candidates, those types of things. But it is a tough day for the young men who are involved in this transition. It is a tough day for the families. You have heard me say this when we went through the football transition."

(On being willing to pay more for a new basketball coach)

"That is a good question too. We will go into the search process with a very similar profile that we discussed when we were in the football process. Now again, we would seek as a priority someone with head coaching experience. That does not eliminate people, it just says that is our initial priority. We are looking for a track record, you have heard me talk about this, you don't always end there. Perhaps at the end of the day we don't attract someone with a significant track record, perhaps we attract a rising star. I don't know, all of that is hard to forecast.

"But to answer your question, the rising star is different in terms of the financial package than the person with an outstanding track record. I am looking for somebody who is a winner. Somebody who has won where they have been. You just don't know until you conclude the process what you are going to be looking at in terms of your priorities and who rose up. You know, you could be sitting in front of somebody that maybe is not the number one target but they come across as so impressive that you just know, that this is the person. You have heard me talk about it. I think fit is important, I have always felt that in my entire career. I think fit is critically important and we will look for someone who we deem to be very good fit."

(On today being surprise)

"Yes. I think we both thought that at that time. That is a fair question. Yes, today is also a surprising day for me. I did not think that we would be back into where we find ourselves today."

(On Tennessee's passionate fan base)

"Cuonzo said it and he meant it, we have a phenomenal fan base. You have heard me say this many of times, give me the passion, we have a very passionate fan base. I think Rick is the one who said this early, can passion sometimes be misdirected? Sure, it can at times. But we are very blessed with a very passionate fan base."

(On conversations with Cuonzo Martin)
"I would not share conversations that I've had with any coaches. We had a great relationship and we had a very open relationship. The dialogue was very consistent, so we talked about everything- good, bad, indifferent, and that's what you should have in terms of AD to coach dialogue."

(On coaching search)
"I don't know that in terms of the geography would be critically important. I think anytime you're in the search process, knowledge of not only the game you're coaching, the knowledge of the environment, the conference, what's going on nationally is always important."

(On Tennessee fan base selling coach position)
"I don't have any concern about that being a problem."

(On coaching search firms)
"No. I want to build a relationship with the head coach and the coaches know this. In my mind, agents talk to attorneys about language and so on, but I'm not coaching Buddy Baker or any other agent, or I'm not working in an AD/coach relationship with agents, so my conversations weren't extensive at all, nor have they been throughout my career with agents."

(On having a coaching search firm)
"I would think we would not have a search firm."

(On current team being informed of Martin leaving)
"I addressed that earlier. We met with the team maybe an hour and a half ago."

(On four signees' status)
"We fully expect those young men to be a part of our basketball program- tough time for everybody in terms of our current players and those signees, because right now there is a void for them. That's difficult to handle. It would be difficult to handle for any of us, even more so for young people."

(On transfer opportunities)
"We're not even in any of those conversations right now. We have a lot to do and we'll deal with the various elements within the process as they come along."

(On coaching search process)
"Same way I've done it my entire career. I know people in the basketball industry that I trust and respect, so I'll talk to them, then I'll reach out personally to candidates."

(On coaching search this late)
"One time. It's tough. That was in July if you can imagine. It makes it harder. It makes it tougher, but the timing is what it is and you deal with it and you move forward.

"That was just a case of a coach taking a job in July. The criteria as I mentioned earlier, the profile is very similar from my perspective. You look for the track record. You look for somebody that can recruit. Our life blood is recruiting in all of our sports. When you go into a process like this, you want to be sure that the person you're hiring is an outstanding recruiter. You also want a person that brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Transitions aren't easy, regardless of the circumstances that may have brought you into a transition. They're difficult. You want somebody with knowledge of the game and you want somebody that can attract a very high quality staff. Consider your own job- if you don't surround yourself with high quality people, you're not going to separate yourself. Those are the same qualities that I articulated prior to Butch Jones and our coaching search."​

 

 

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