Vol Hoops Press Conference (4.16.18)

Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer 

Opening statement:
“Who is not proud of the season that we had and the run we had at No. 1 during the course of the year? Watching the energy and enthusiasm our basketball team brought to this community. The environment in the arena was as good as I’ve ever seen it here at Tennessee. Having a person that has made the impact in our community, not just on the basketball court and what they’ve done, but what Rick Barnes has done in the community and the way he goes about his business has made us all proud. The great thing is that we are keeping him here, and that is an exciting thing in itself. The fact that he is looking forward to the future and recruiting to a level that really hasn’t been recruited at before here at Tennessee, and all those things are positives for the future as well as we just enjoyed in this past season. And really the last couple seasons have been special.”

Credit: UT Athletics

On when he found out about Rick Barnes and UCLA: 
“Several of us had spent several days out finding our women’s basketball coach and came back last Friday, and then I was at the baseball game on Saturday when I got a phone call from his financial advisor. I talked to Rick on Sunday and then we met personally Sunday night. We went through a really tough Monday, and he called me on Monday night to say that he was staying. I give great kudos to our administration, to a group of donors and really the people that follow our program. Whether it was on social media or otherwise, all the encouragement that Rick and his family got to stay. I think it was a combination of all those things that helped influenced him to stay here.”

On how the swing of emotions were on Monday:
“A lot of emotion with that because I care very much for Rick as a person and he was so honest and up front as to how he felt growing up as a John Wooden fan like all of us around my age and his age did. (He explained) what UCLA represented for him and from the blue bloods. It was very concerning and apprehension on our part that this was real. It had nothing to do or against Tennessee at all. It was just a feeling that he had that he had a few years left and at the end of his career that he would be at a place that he could maybe win a national championship easier at UCLA perhaps. That’s all it was. After a lot of conversation and I think a lot of prayers on both sides, he came to the conclusion that he can do as well as anywhere here with the recruiting that he’s done. With the foundation that he’s laid here, he can do that here as well as UCLA.”

On what role Randy Boyd played:
“Randy was huge. He took the lead in a lot of ways and asked a lot of the good questions. Being a business person himself was huge. He knew who to reach out to and where to get help. He was crucial in the whole discussion.”

On how caught off guard he was about Rick Barnes being interested in another job:
“I was a little bit. Everybody was caught off guard a little bit. We had such a great year, and he was caught off guard. We just closed the deal with our women’s coach basically. I came home to have little bit of family time at the baseball game and whatever was going on Sunday, but that changed fast. In the end, I think the people of Tennessee and the university and how we went about it, particularly the administration, we got to a good place.”

On why it was important for Rick Barnes to stay at the University of Tennessee:
“He is a quality man and has meant as much to this community as much as anybody that has come through here in some time. We have been through a lot of change and different things. I said it the other day, but we weren’t going to let somebody come in here and buy our coach without putting up a great fight. I think it makes a statement for our programs. We have invested here and in people. We are in this to compete for championships at the conference and national level. We had a really outstanding proven person and we weren’t just going to let him go away.”

On how the pool of money for coaches compare to others:
“I have heard from people that was an issue. That never came up. It came up last year. We did what he wanted to do with his staff last year. That has never been a discussion this year. Rick has a pool of money and with Rob Lanier leaving, he can distribute that pool of money as he sees fit. As always, if we need to do something else, we are going to try and keep our good people. This year it was never a discussion. Last year it came up, but we took care of it.”

Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes

On his decision on staying at Tennessee:
“When the whole situation came up with UCLA, the thing that first came into my mind was the fact that with me growing up with UCLA basketball, back in the eighth grade, my mother and a friend of our family spent $56 to send me to Campbell basketball camp, which was the oldest basketball camp in the country, and it still is. The reason I wanted to go to that camp was because John Wooden and Pistol Pete Maravich were the two people featured there. I can remember staying up back in the late 60s, when UCLA started doing their games late at night with Dick Enberg. Then when I went to college, my college coach also worked at the Campbell basketball camp with John Wooden, and we ran a portion of the UCLA offense. So I was really intrigued when they called, which I was totally surprised about to be quite honest with you. It was the fact that I have so much respect for UCLA basketball and what they meant for me growing up. That was really the sole reason why it all got started. Just because I was intrigued with the basketball part of it.”

On his decision to hire Kim English:
“I really got to spend time with him at Augusta at the Peach Jam. We spent a lot of time together. I knew from that day that if I ever got the opportunity to hire him, he would be a good hire. I have coached against him, but he didn’t remind me until after he got the job that he has beat me five times. He held that card. But the fact is that he has already made an impact being with us. He has a beautiful family and daughter and another child along the way in about five weeks. I was in Missouri last night at the United States Basketball Writer banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club, I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and told me Kim English was their all-time favorite Missouri Tiger. We are excited. I think the players are excited. So I welcome him to Rocky Top.”

On if hiring a younger coach was his goal:
“It had nothing to do with it. I have said this before, but I have always prided myself in thinking that I’m going to hire somebody that is better than me. When I look at Kim, I don’t look at his age. I look at work and the way he interacts with people. I have honestly never thought of (age). I have never hired what I would call a ‘recruiter.’ I have hired guys that want to come into this business and do it for all the right reasons. (Which is) wanting to be head coaches and coach basketball. There is no doubt we all have to understand recruiting. But there is more to this. We want to have our player development program. That program here is the most important thing. Kim, with his age, is going to add to that. He could go out there and play with the guys today. But the fact is, Kim is the total package. When we have to make these types of hires, I want to get somebody that has it all. Somebody who wants it all and understands what this program is about. He fits every part of that.”

On when he first heard from UCLA and how far it went before his financial advisor got involved:
“I want to say around Tuesday of that week. Then we were just talking. But after we met, I called Coach Fulmer and reached out to him.”

On what made him feel assured to stay at Tennessee:
“To be honest with you, a lot of praying went into it. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. The bottom line is, we really just couldn’t work it out with the buyout. After I met with UCLA I told them point blank, I can’t do anything else with you until I get a chance to talk to Tennessee because I said I would not walk out of here and not be with my team. I am not going to walk out of here without talking with people who have been really good to me. That is how I felt about it. I just can’t say, ‘send a plane tomorrow and I am leaving.’ I had to make sure that this was done the right way because of the respect and how I feel for Tennessee and the people here.

“I know there have been rumors out there about Coach Fulmer and I. Coach Fulmer has taught me a lot. About two years before he came back as the athletic director, I knew he was hurt about what had happened when he left here. He taught me by coming back here on what a man needs to do. I guess put aside that hurt and maybe that pride to come back because he loves this university more than anybody I have ever come in contact with. But we talked about it years ago. When this opportunity came back and for him to do this, I think it speaks so strongly about it. Because I know what it feels like to get fired. Even though when I left, I had no bitterness towards the people there because you had your time. But he put a lifetime here and all at once it was taken away from him. The way he talked, he never said he was hurt. Actually, he did one time when we were having a very serious talk. But he always said, ‘I love the University of Tennessee.’ And when the job came up, he was skeptical. He didn’t want to get hurt again. So for anybody to think that he hasn’t supported me since he got here, they are crazy. And where that would come from, I don’t get it. I have watched him come in here and the way he has tried to look at 24 sports, and talk about how he wants every sport to have everything they can to compete at the highest level. We know that he has worked hard with football. But I think he has worked hard with basketball. I think he has worked hard with baseball and everything. I don’t know where that came from.

“People made a big deal about him not going to the ceremony when I was named coach of the year. I get that. He’s out there trying to hire a women’s basketball coach to continue the great program we have here. He has a lot going on. I guarantee you if I told him that I wanted him to be there, he would’ve been there. But I am 65 years old. I don’t need that. That is something that somebody picks up and everybody tries to pick at this and that. It had nothing to do with this situation of me being involved at UCLA. It had nothing to do with Coach Fulmer. It had to do with the fact that as a kid growing up, the way I looked at UCLA basketball and that was simply it.”

On if he’s signed his new contract and the process of making his decision:
“It was tough. You’re pulled into a couple of different directions. There are people here in town that I have gotten to know in my time here that were stellar in the fact that they were there with me. It’s hard to go through something like that by yourself. I have very few people that I lean on a lot, but the people that I did here were unbelievable. It’s very emotional and is hard. You’re torn because you think you’re leaving and then you go back and think about all the things you have to do when you leave. The emotions run far and wide. I didn’t come out of my house for two days, and I lost over five pounds if that tells you anything. You don’t feel like eating because you’re talking the whole time. You’re doing this, and you’re doing that. The fact is that it’s a very emotional time. I have been through it. I said to someone yesterday; I am in the last chapter of my coaching career. I am just glad I won’t have to do it again. It’s a very stressful time when you love a place. I can’t thank the people here enough. It’s been four great years. When I came here, the first couple of the days on the job I was in shock. I was at Texas one day and then Tennessee the next. You wonder how it all happens. I have said it before; I have faith in the God I serve and the God that I love. I believe he’s sovereign. I believe that he made it very clear through the people who were praying for us through this time that I am supposed to be at Tennessee. It’s really above and beyond a basketball program. I am in love with this community. I am in love with this state. I just think we have a lot of great things going on in this town, and I want to help be a part of continuing to make Knoxville one of the greatest places to live.”

On who will take on the title of associate head coach:
“We were talking about it. A year ago, a big part was getting our assistant coaches pool money up there where these guys are very close in what they make financially. My thoughts right now would be that Mike Schwartz would be the associate coach. We are all talking about it. Just being around those guys yesterday, the chemistry they all have. Everyone already knows that Desmond Oliver is waiting a call from Kennesaw State that could change some things. Just seeing those guys and hearing them talk about what we need to do was exciting. That is my initial thoughts right now, but we just have to wait and see what happens with Des before we pursue everything.”

On if he thought he would be the next coach at UCLA:
“There was one time in my mind where I truly felt that was what would happen. The last time I prayed, I asked God for total clarity. I said this is what’s got to happen, ‘If they come back and say they can’t work this out, it’s clear that I’ll be at Tennessee. That’s where I want to be.’ It got to that point where I felt like my prayer had been answered. Once it happened, I called the people I needed to call and told them I would be staying at Tennessee. I haven’t looked back.”

On when he first met Kim English:
“He walked into Peach Jam one night for the last game and it was very crowded and he was looking for a seat. At that time he didn’t have my number, and when he sat down I texted him, ‘hey man, get out of my seat or I’m going to kill you.’ He looked around and then I texted again and said, ‘I’m not kidding, meet me at the front door and we’ll settle this right now.’ This went on for about 45 minutes.”

On his connection with the Knoxville community: 
“I really was not aware of it at the time, because I was locked. There were some friends here in town that I have great respect for that I was talking to, but none of that actually came up to be honest with you. I did not because there were so many things going on at the time and with what was happening, and it was happening quickly. I just know this, a guy that has held my finances for forever was really talking to UCLA. He had talked to coach and they had met last year. They started talking and I was not even a part of the negotiations to be honest with you. I did not want to do anything where Tennessee felt begrudged. Tennessee has been so good to me. When I first got here Dave Hart was honest with me where we were financially. People here have been great, and once I heard all of the stuff that people were talking about, it did overwhelm me. I think sometimes you get so locked into what you are doing, maybe you do not realize the total impact that is going on with our basketball program and it is not just me. It is the kind of players we have here, and the support people give us. Being out in this community, it means a lot. I have fallen in love with the different things that I have gotten involved with, the different people, and my wife has. She is out doing something today that is important in this community. What she is doing needs to be done. She said to me, ‘You do what you want to do, I am going to be with you, whatever you do’. You need to think long and hard about it and make a decision. She finally did say that to me, ‘I am tired of it, just make a decision’. We made a decision pretty quick after that.”

On his relationship with Rob Lanier: 
“You all know how much respect I have for Rob and what he has done. First of all, I admire the way that he has gone about his career, because he has had opportunities in the past where he could have had head coaching jobs. He chose to do things that he felt were best for his family. The fact that we have known each other, the trust factor, the fact that I have total trust in my assistant coaches, and I trust them more than anything. I did not say to them, ‘We have to recruit five-star players’. I did not say that because I have so much respect for Rob and his time in this business and feel for this business. When he got involved with Georgia State, I could tell there was something different in his voice. They got him excited and I did not want to temper that. I told him, ‘Rob you seem excited, if this is what you think you need to do’. There was just something different about it this time, where last year he had some opportunities. This one was one where I could just feel that he knew he needed to take this shot at this. We could lose Desmond Oliver today. The fact is, the same thing about Des and the way he works, I do not worry about anything. I can lay my head down at night with my staff knowing that they are going to do things the right way. Rob had a lot to do with that, because when we got here, we had to restart our program.”

On filling in open roster spots: 
“You have to be ready to fill it, because this process is in place for players to go out and get a feel for what professional teams thing about them. What you hope is that the advice that they get is going to be the right advice. You hope they make the right decisions, because you do not want to see guys make decision that can be life-changing decisions. You also have to think that if they hear what they want to hear, they will be gone. You never stop recruiting. There is not a day in their life that they are not recruiting, ever. You know that they are getting calls about players that are available, and you look now with the transfer portal. Every year you are going to make a new team it seems like. Guys leaving and putting their name in the transfer portal. I do not care where you are it seems like guys are having to think at the end of the year that they are going to have to make a new roster. That is where college basketball has gotten right now. We are going to stay on top of it and we are going to do whatever it takes to support our guys that are going through this. We also have to be in a position to protect our program.”

On how players reacted after hearing he was staying: 
“I had some players reach out to me and they were saying that they knew that I would do what I thought was right. They were saying that they loved me and would support me no matter what. Just like we do that for them, and once we knew that we were staying here, we had a team meeting and the first thing I did was talk to them about it. The first thing I said was, ‘When you win, opportunities come’. That is the truth. Because of our winning, we lost a coach. Because of our success we have had, another one is in position. Mike Schwartz has had some opportunities for some head coaching jobs. That is what happens with success. Grant Williams has a chance to be player of the year, goes to the Wooden Award finalist. All of those are a byproduct of winning. I had an opportunity to interview with UCLA. So, with that said, I was very transparent with them about it and talked to them. I said, ‘This is our team’. We are starting over again, and we are going to move forward. We are going to continue to work as hard as we can, and not try to, we are going to work as hard as we can to take this program to another level. I want to consistently be one of the best basketball programs in the country. To do that, we need everybody to buy in, knowing that if we all do our jobs everybody will have opportunities that they might not even expect. It is all a byproduct of success, and I hit it head on with them when we had that meeting.”

On NBA feedback for Grant Williams and Jordan Bone:
“Once they go through this, the team is going to give them feedback, and any calls we need to make for them we will. I do think they have the right support system around them. If you really want to get accurate reports on what the NBA is telling you then you can do it. You need to keep an open mind to it because there will also be people out there that are saying inaccurate comments. I think we need to give them exactly what they need.”

On the NBA Draft injury policy:
“I think that number is what the NBA puts that value on, but that policy only pays out if it is a career ending injury. I think players that want to be insured can do that, but I think that is how that policy works.”

On his buyout and UCLA:
“If the buyout would of worked out, then I think I would have been the coach at UCLA. I have said that to people before, but with that being said, when it got down to that point and I prayed, Candy told me when you make a decision ask God for total clarity. When UCLA came back with that decision, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be the coach of UCLA. As soon as that happened, I knew I was good with this. God has made it crystal clear that I needed to be at the University of Tennessee. I often wonder why you go through those things, but that’s what life is. The people at UCLA are great people. I have said it at the beginning that it was an intriguing job because I have pictures of myself sitting at John Wooden’s house, I have pictures of me in restaurants with him, and I had gotten to know coach Wooden. Those situations get tough because they probably felt they went as far as they could go, and I felt I went as far as I could go. The fact is that I am here because God wants me here and I believe that with all my heart.”

On roster restrictions:
“You are always looking around for players, but right now I don’t see anything happening with our roster. We have talked to our players, and we have had great meetings with them. We were out recruiting the other day, and Kim made a great point to one of the recruits about the first day he walked into practice when the guys were working out. These guys are jumping right back into it, and the guys that didn’t get a chance to play last year feel like they have a chance. We know we have to be ready for the guys that are looking at the NBA to stay here, and if they do we have to be ready.”

Tennessee Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Kim English

On if there was any irony to him that he ended up at Tennessee:
“I have always had great respect for this university. Coach Pearl, Tony Jones and Steve Forbes recruited me in high school. They were also recruiting Elliott Williams, Scotty Hopson and chose Scotty, who was a great player here. I remember as a kid looking at photos and videos of that great arena over there, Thompson-Boling Arena. I am just really excited to be here. I really felt good about what we were building at Colorado. They were unbelievable student-athletes and great people. Our relationships with Coach Barnes and Coach Schwartz meant a lot. I have watched Tennessee basketball closely since Coach Barnes has been here, but Wednesday when I got to meet those guys, I talked about it for the next two days how blown away I was how good of people these guys are. They are really good kids, and they work really hard. So I am just extremely excited to get the chance to work with them.”

On his emotions going through the process of getting hired:
“It was exciting. I kind of always looked at the University of Tennessee, especially with Coach Barnes, that if an opportunity came up, this would be a place I’d like to be at. We spoke. He asked if I was interested. Obviously, I said yes. Discussions kept going, and then I was here on early Wednesday morning. It was pretty quick. My wife is 34 and half weeks pregnant. She’s from southeast Missouri, so it gets her closer to home. It gets me closer to Maryland, where I’m from. It was a no-brainer on a lot of fronts. I think the thing I do best as a coach is connecting with players. I connected deeply with the guys from Colorado. That was the hardest part for me. But like I said early, I am so excited to get to work with these guys. Obviously, they are great athletes. They were No. 1 in the country for four weeks this year. They have been SEC champions. They went to the Sweet Sixteen. I was blown away by Grant Williams as a person, Lamonte Turner as a person, and so on. That’s what I am most excited about.”

On when he first met Rick Barnes:
“I first heard of him in 2003. I was in my dad’s bed watching the national semifinal, Texas versus Syracuse. Carmelo Anthony was from my hometown of Baltimore. I remember being impressive coach Barnes’ team. Fast forward five years, I’m a freshman in the Big 12 and played four years against Texas and obviously had great respect for their team, their players and coach Barnes and his staff. My senior year, I played for a man by the name of Frank Haith who was on coach Barnes’ staff at Texas. When that happened and then when I started coaching, I felt like I was kind of brought into the Rick Barnes family, being that I worked with Coach Haith at Tulsa. Coach Mike Schwartz and I became close though Tulsa and as I spent time with coach Barnes on the road. (Coach Barnes and I) know a lot of the same players and same people, and our relationship just grew through sitting and watching AAU games together, having dinner together after tournaments. Beyond the basketball stuff, obviously I think coach Barnes is an elite coach in the country, but I’m really impressed by the man and there father and the husband that he is. His son is a missionary, he’s a man of God. So if I don’t learn anything from a basketball perspective, which I know won’t happen, I know that I’m going to take away a lot from the man that he is, the Christian that he is and I’m really excited by that.

“His statute from a player’s perspective while he was at Texas, I held him in such a high regard because to me he was such a regal figure, just this mammoth of a man. Then when I got around him, he jokes and pokes fun and I kind of was surprised that he wasn’t serious, stern person that I thought he was.”

On his recruiting ability:
“I don’t think I can answer a single question about myself as a recruiter, I think it goes to a deeper level to what I feel my role is an assistant coach. I feel like it’s three things. I feel like it’s making the players that you have better obviously with their skills in basketball, but also as people. I feel like it’s game planning, planning for how we’re going to beat our opponent and then evaluating, identifying, recruiting and assigning players. I thin all of those things come together. When I hear that Grant Williamsis one of the best recruiters for Tennessee basketball, I think that’s because of his development here. You can recruit guys that look like him if they see the success he has on the court. If he has a good relationship with his coaches, he’s going to convey that to recruits. In evaluating, I’m evaluating the types of workers, the types of teammates and the types of students these kids are. Not just the shallow, broad base fishing of just talent. We’re trying to find the right guys and recruit the right guys. So recruiting to me goes back to my three core areas as a basketball coach. I’m from Baltimore, so we’re going to be heavily involved in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I played prep school in New England, so I have great connections there. I played college in Missouri, so Kansas City and St. Louis are nearby. I played for the Pistons and have great relationships in Detroit. I worked in Oklahoma, I played basketball in Europe and South America and I feel good about my authentic relationships in all of those places. Obviously Tennessee is so critically important. The players in East Tennessee, the players in Nashville, middle Tennessee and Memphis. Taking care of those players and keeping them home is so important. But I think this Tennessee brand, this Tennessee basketball brand is global. So we’re going to find talent, we’re going to identify talent, we’re going to recruit talent, we’re going to evaluate talent and sign the best players to play for Coach Barnes.”

 

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