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Ben Garrett

Write. Hike. Eat. Repeat.

I am a 30-something journalist from East Tennessee. My wife and I (and our twins, and dog, and 3 hermit crabs) reside on the eastern boundary of the Big South Fork, where I am editor-publisher of the hometown newspaper and she is an elementary school teacher.

This man for UT hoops?

Wade will 2013 06 1

As Tennessee’s basketball coaching search begins, don’t be surprised if it centers on this guy: UT-Chattanooga’s Will Wade.

Don’t scoff. Wade can coach, and despite his youth he has some pretty serious experience.

First, we should establish that Tennessee is not going to land a top shelf coach. Bruce Pearl isn’t coming back to Knoxville. Gregg Marshall isn’t going to leave Wichita State for Knoxville, and Brad Stevens isn’t going to leave his lofty NBA job to come back to the college ranks. Those “other names” that always seem to come up — like Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and Xavier’s Chris Mack — aren’t coming to Knoxville either. (Neither is VCU’s Shaka Smart, in case you’re wondering.) 

So where does that leave Tennessee? Looking for a mid-major (or even low-major) up-and-comer. Think guys like Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood. Or Chattanooga’s Will Wade.

Wade is a young guy (he’s younger than me, so that makes him really young) , but he had already made his mark in college basketball before he became the head coach at Chattanooga in 2013. He spent four years on Smart’s staff at VCU, where he helped Smart build VCU into a national brand. In fact, he was Smart’s first hire after Smart took the head coaching job at VCU in 2009. The two had gotten to know each other during their time together at Clemson, where Smart was an assistant coach and Wade was a staff member at his alma mater.

While at VCU, Wade earned a reputation as a tireless recruiter, helping Smart and VCU lock down some of college basketball’s top recruiting classes outside the Power 5 conferences. During his time as an assistant there, VCU won more than 70 percent of its games and advanced to the 2011 Final Four.

Wade took over the Chattanooga program in 2013 and immediately made it better. The Mocs finished 13-19 the year before he arrived. In his first season, they finished 18-15 and earned an invitation to the CIT. This season, the Mocs finished with a 22-10 record, including 15-3 in conference play.

Wade is a Tennessee guy, having grown up in Nashville. His brand of basketball is fan-friendly — up-tempo, in-your-face. 

And he’s cheap. He makes less than $200,000 at Chattanooga.

Earlier this month, Wade was linked to the job opening at UNC-Charlotte. But he ultimately turned down the school.

A lot of UT fans aren’t going to be happy with any coach not named Bruce Pearl. Even a lot of more reasonable UT fans aren’t going to be happy with a coach who doesn’t have national name recognition. But don’t be too quick to roll your eyes at Will Wade. A lot of programs could do worse. And given the current state of affairs in Knoxville, Tennessee could do much, much worse.

Tyndall is out at Tennessee


The Donnie Tyndall era at the University of Tennessee is over.

The move comes on the heels of UT administrators’ meeting with the NCAA yesterday regarding its findings in the Southern Miss investigation. Here is a brief statement tweeted by the official account of UT basketball: 

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Tyndall’s contract with UT allowed him to be fired with cause — meaning Tennessee will not owe him a buyout — if he was found guilty of Level I or Level II violations.

More on that in a moment.

I’ve said all along that Tennessee should fire Tyndall if he was implicated in the NCAA’s findings in the Southern Miss investigation. Even if it was obvious he would not receive a show-cause penalty, he should’ve been fired because he placed both of his two previous coaching stops in NCAA hot water. That’s a dangerous behavior pattern that would suggest it’s only a matter of time before he gets Tennessee in NCAA hot water as well. So while the UT basketball program could easily withstand a suspension of Tyndall for several games or even up to half a season, it would be better to be proactive.

So I don’t have a problem with the university’s decision. Still, it is a very unfortunate situation for the basketball program. Tyndall’s team proved this season that he is a very good Xs and Os coach. Given the talent that Cuonzo Martin left in Knoxville when he bolted for California, it’s a minor miracle that Tyndall was even able to assemble a competitive team. But he did that, putting a product on the court that defeated No. 15 Butler, a Top 25 Arkansas team and finished with five road wins in SEC play. And, as pointed out this morning, did it all with the cloud of NCAA uncertainty hanging over the program. Had Tyndall been able to stay in place as UT’s coach, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have returned the program to the level Bruce Pearl had it at before his run-in with the NCAA. As it stands now, the program is looking for its third coach in three seasons, with a roster that is short on talent, and there aren’t going to be many top shelf coaches who are willing to even take a second look at the job.

With all that said, let’s point out a few obvious takeaways from this morning’s development: 

1.) Although Tyndall’s contract allowed him to be fired for a serious violation, consistent reports all along had indicated that UT athletics director Dave Hart and the school’s key boosters (think Haslam) were willing to stand by Tyndall even if he was to be forced to serve a suspension. So what does that tell us? That the NCAA indicated to Hart that Tyndall will receive a show-cause penalty that effectively bans him from coaching for a period of time? If so, the NCAA double standard has again reared its ugly head — not that any of us should be surprised. Remember, Missouri coach Frank Haith lied to the NCAA about far more serious violations than Bruce Pearl lied about; Haith received a five-game suspension and Pearl received a three-year show-cause penalty. Just last month, the NCAA found Syracuse guilty of a decade’s worth of rules violations — on the whole, much more severe than even the cumulative findings from Southern Miss and Morehead State, Tyndall’s two previous stops. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was hit with a nine-game suspension, and now Tyndall has been show-caused? We don’t know for sure Tyndall will be hit with the show-cause penalty, but it’s probably a fairly safe assumption.

2.) The armchair quarterbacks (armchair point guards?) are quick to levy blame on Hart this morning. That was a given, since this thing blew up under his watch, but it’s probably also unfair. I was skeptical from the beginning of UT’s hire of Tyndall due to his NCAA troubles at Morehead State. But here’s why I can’t blame Hart: I would’ve been perfectly OK, as would most other UT fans, with bringing back Bruce Pearl. Pearl himself was an NCAA felon, who had the exact same number of NCAA run-ins as Tyndall did at that point. Remember, the Southern Miss allegations didn’t surface until last fall; no one saw that coming. It’s easy to say that Tennessee should’ve gone after someone with a squeaky clean record, but all of us who wanted Pearl back lose the right to make that argument.

3.) It’s not going to be Pearl this time, either. Let’s face it: that ship has sailed. It’s left the harbor. Nothing would delight me more than seeing Pearl come back to Knoxville. And as someone who believes in second chances (but not third chances), I would be okay with it. But a.) I don’t think Pearl would leave Auburn at this point; if we know anything about him from his time at Tennessee, it’s that he’s loyal, and b.) Hart just isn’t going to hire him. Hart can’t hire him — not from a public relations standpoint. Can you imagine the stigma that would be attached to firing one NCAA felon so that you can go and hire another? I love Bruce Pearl, but it ain’t happening, and any UT fans who get their hopes up are conducting an exercise in futility…not to mention prepping themselves for another letdown. 

4.) It isn’t going to be Gregg Marshall, either. The Wichita State coach has rebuffed a number of major programs — including Tennessee. If he wouldn’t come here last year, he certainly isn’t coming here this year.

5.) So who does that leave? Good question. Chances are, Tennessee will have to dip deep into the bottom of the barrel. The best name left on the board last year was Louisiana Tech’s Michael White. And it’s still a good name. LaTech finished first in Conference USA in the regular season again this year, and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals, with an overall record of 27-9. If you believe numerous reports, Tennessee could’ve landed White last year, but Hart fouled things up. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. But once you screw the pooch, you typically don’t get a second chance. And if Hart didn’t mess it up, that means White wasn’t too interested in Tennessee in the first place. Either way, if he didn’t come last year’s he’s probably not coming now — and that goes for several other coaches whose names we’re likely to hear mentioned, including guys at places like Cincinnati and VCU. 

Yum, yum


Merganser? Shad? Bowfin? Groundhog? Possum? Field & Stream seeks to broaden our culinary horizons:

Our grandparents didn’t turn their snouts up at some of the lesser creatures to wind up in a cooler. Maybe it’s time we all threw a possum on the grill if for no other reason than to see what we’re missing.

Do you notice the common ingredient in more than one of those recipes? Bacon! What is it with bacon? Is that like the end-all, cure-all for bad meat? Want to make goose taste better? Wrap it in bacon! Dove? Wrap it in bacon! Why don’t we just skip the less-than-savory meat and eat bacon for supper?!? 

Men arrested for firing on officer

From the Orlando Sentinel comes a name that’s familiar to this area and familiar to the comments section of this blog. From Oneida to suburban Orlando, he seems to manage to turn up in the thick of things:

At about 3:30 a.m. Friday, Officer Gerry Garrett was watching traffic on Vine Street when he noticed a man holding a rifle in a black Mustang convertible with its top down, records show.

“I observed the back seat passenger … point the long barreled rifle directly at me in the parking lot,” Garret wrote. The other two males were also pointing directly at me and my marked patrol vehicle. I then heard a loud bang.”

Garrett dropped on the seat for protection.

“As my heart pounded, I looked up and (saw) the Mustang rapidly speeding away,” wrote Garrett, who chased the fleeing car north across Kissimmee as other police cars rushed to assist.

‘No longer on top’

For a Cumberland Plateau community besieged by a terrible unemployment, a positive step forward . . .

A’hiking we will go…


Who’s hiking? The young, the old, the in-between, the pregnant (and the crippled, and cancer patients, unpictured), business owners, doctors (and lawyers and such), and community groups. 

By my rough estimate, more than 400 made the hike to Sunset Overlook, and hikers have already started making the trek to this week’s destination — Yahoo Falls.

Facebook wants to own everything you do on the internet

With the changes announced Wednesday at its F8 conference — a stand-along Messenger platform, video sharing to rival YouTube and more — Facebook has officially declared that it “wants to own every single thing you do on the internet”:

Here’s the thing: with Facebook’s announcements today, it’s suddenly significantly harder to avoid the service at all. If you didn’t have a Facebook already, like 1 billion other people, you’re going to find it even harder to avoid in the future with these changes. It’s now becoming the easiest way to do anything on the internet.

And the down side to that:

The problem is that Facebook controls what you see and when. If it becomes the primary way to consume news and watch videos, what happens when a news story is controversial about the company itself? Or isn’t within its content guidelines (like pornography)? You’ll be receiving a filtered version of the internet that’s controlled by one company.

That has already happened. Because of Facebook’s overwhelming audience, many news organizations — including ours — launched pages on the network to help push traffic to their stories. Then Facebook went public, needed to shore up revenue, and began placing a much higher emphasis on paid ads. In so doing, it changed the algorithm it uses to deliver page content to its users. 

Our newspaper spent quite a bit of time building an audience of several thousand on Facebook. But once the changes took affect a couple of years ago, fewer than 15 percent of that audience — on average — sees our content. Even a popular link, which is shared and commented on, resulting in a larger audience, tends to draw somewhere between 1,200-1,500 views.

I can ensure that more people see content by posting it to my own wall, where it will be delivered to my 2,000 friends. It’s a bit of a work-around Facebook’s page limitations. But what happens when Facebook decides to start limiting who sees what from personal accounts as it already does from business pages? 

It’s never a good idea to have too much power in one company. Can Facebook accomplish what AOL was unable to pull off in the ‘90s? I wouldn’t bet against it. And while that won’t be altogether different from what Google has been able to accomplish, Google has been largely responsible with its stranglehold on the internet (not perfect, but “largely”), Facebook’s track record doesn’t make me hopeful that it will follow in Google’s footsteps.

McCreary County Record ceases publication

One of this region’s oldest newspapers, the McCreary County Record, has closed its doors.

The newspaper announced on page A1 of this week’s edition that this edition is its last, citing declining revenue streams. 

The McCreary County Record was established in October 1919 by Oneida-based Bell Press, Inc., which also published the Scott County News. It was sold soon thereafter to the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company, which used the newspaper as the primary source of news for its employees and their families in the mining and timber camps throughout what is today the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area and Daniel Boone National Forest.

The newspaper has changed hands a number of times over the years and has long since been corporate-owned. It is currently owned by Community Newspaper Holdings, which also owns the Somerset Commonwealth Journal. 

The Record has been under stiff competition in recent years from a locally-owned newspaper, the McCreary County Voice. The Voice was founded by prominent Whitley City businessman Richard Stephens.

ISIS = police = ISIS

People like this have no business holding elected office.

“If I was going to carry a weapon, it wouldn’t be against you, it wouldn’t be against these people who come here that I might have a dispute with. Mine would be for the police,” he said. “And if I carried a gun I’d want to shoot him first and then ask questions later, like they say the cop ought to do.” 

WBIR coverage of Scott’s ATV bill

WBIR-TV was apparently hard up for an interview subject today:

Posts on this page
  • This man for UT hoops?
  • Tyndall is out at Tennessee
  • Yum, yum
  • Men arrested for firing on officer
  • 'No longer on top'
  • A'hiking we will go...
  • Facebook wants to own everything you do on the internet
  • McCreary County Record ceases publication
  • ISIS = police = ISIS
  • WBIR coverage of Scott's ATV bill
Posts on this page
  • This man for UT hoops?
  • Tyndall is out at Tennessee
  • Yum, yum
  • Men arrested for firing on officer
  • 'No longer on top'
  • A'hiking we will go...
  • Facebook wants to own everything you do on the internet
  • McCreary County Record ceases publication
  • ISIS = police = ISIS
  • WBIR coverage of Scott's ATV bill