By Steve Megargee
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee is counting on Southern Mississippi’s Donnie Tyndall to make the same solid transition from the mid-major ranks as the Volunteers’ last two basketball coaches.
Tennessee announced Tuesday it will introduce Tyndall at an afternoon news conference.
Tyndall replaces Cuonzo Martin, who went 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee before California hired him on April 15. Martin led Tennessee to a 23-14 record and an NCAA regional semifinal appearance this season.
The 43-year-old Tyndall has gone 56-17 with a pair of NIT appearances in two seasons at Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles went 29-7, tied a school record for victories in a season and reached the NIT quarterfinals this year.
Tennessee has plucked its last two coaches from mid-major programs. Martin came to Tennessee in 2011 after three seasons at Missouri State. Martin was preceded by Bruce Pearl, who arrived at Tennessee from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Pearl and Martin helped Tennessee reach regional semifinals in four of the last eight years.
During a news conference announcing Martin’s departure on April 15, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said he was looking for a coach with a proven track record but didn’t rule out the possibility of hiring a “rising star.” Tyndall could fit the profile of a “rising star” because of his lack of major-conference head coaching experience, but he also has a history of NCAA tournament success.
Before coaching at Southern Mississippi, Tyndall went 114-85 with two NCAA tournament appearances in six seasons at Morehead State. His career highlight came in 2011 when he guided Morehead State to an NCAA tournament upset of Louisville.
Tyndall’s best Morehead State teams featured Kenneth Faried, a first-round draft pick who plays for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.
Tyndall faces some immediate challenges in his new job
Tennessee loses four of its top five scorers from this year’s team. Josh Richardson, who will be a senior guard, is the only returning player who made over 10 starts this season.
Tyndall also must unite a fan base that was divided for much of this season between Martin supporters and Pearl backers. Although Martin averaged 21 wins a season at Tennessee, some fans started an online petition to bring back Pearl.
Pearl led the Vols to NCAA tournament appearances in each of his six seasons before getting fired in 2011 amid an NCAA investigation. Pearl was hired at Auburn last month.
Tyndall’s teams have won at least 24 games four of the last five seasons. He had agreed to terms on a new four-year contract with Southern Mississippi in January.
Tyndall also had plenty of success at Morehead State, which had gone 4-23 the year before he took over the program.
While Tyndall was at Morehead State, the program was placed on probation for two years in August 2010 because of violations related to booster activity. The school’s self-imposed penalties included the loss of one scholarship and other recruiting restrictions.
Tyndall has experience and in the Southeastern Conference and coaching in the state of Tennessee. He was an assistant at LSU from 1997-2001 and at Middle Tennessee from 2002-06.
Tyndall was born in Grand Rapids, Mich. He played at Iowa Central Community College from 1989-90 and at Morehead State from 1990-93.
Southern Miss will now be searching for its third basketball coach in four seasons.
Tyndall’s up-tempo coaching style and engaging personality made him a fan favorite in Hattiesburg, and attendance improved at Reed Green Coliseum.
Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis thanked Tyndall for “two amazing years.” He says he expects the program to build on that success.
McGillis says he had a meeting with the players and has started the search for Tyndall’s successor. He hopes to have a new coach within two weeks.