Voice of the Tennessee Vols, Bob Kesling, was in Greeneville Tuesday afternoon to begin planning for the 10th annual Bob Kesling Boys & Girls Club Celebrity Golf Classic.
UT’s Director of Broadcasting spent time with Greeneville Sun Sports Editor Darren Reese, and gave his thoughts on several hot topics within the Tennessee Athletic Department.
Kesling on Pat Summitt’s new book, ‘Sum It Up’
Coach Summitt sent me a copy early, and I was able to look through it. It’s pretty remarkable. It brings back a lot of good memories, because I called her first six national championships.
what Kesling will remember most about the Pat Summitt coaching era
When Pat came back from coaching the 1984 Olympic team to a gold medal, many people thought she was going to retire right then.
She hadn’t won her first national championship at Tennessee, but a lot of people felt like, ‘How much higher can you go than winning a gold medal at the Olympics.”
We thought she would retire and start a family and do some other things. But Pat said, ‘No, I’m going to keep coaching for a while and see how it goes’.
And even after that, she still had a few more years to go before she won that first national title in 1987. And when that happened, I just remember the relief. I remember the jubilation.
They had been to the championship game a lot of years. I remember going to places like Eugene, Oregon and Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Finally, she was able to break through. We are certainly glad she decided to keep on coaching.
Kesling on the growth of women’s basketball
I think Pat was the main reason for the rise in women’s basketball. And she will be the first to say it, but it had to do with the support the university gave her.
The University of Tennessee bought into women’s basketball long before a lot of other schools did. They were committed to it, and they made sure Pat always had the resources she needed.
I remember we went on the road to Starkville (Mississippi) in the early 1980’s, and when they tipped off I counted 16 people in the stands. Back in those days, we took vans to games. There were no luxuries like chartered airplanes.
I had to drive to games and had to pay my own gas money. If it was a long trip down to Florida, then I lost money.
Kesling on the recent improvement by the men’s basketball team
It’s taken a while for this team to click. The thing about Coach Martin, he doesn’t change his philosophy. If you want to play for Coach Martin then you have to buy into his philosophies.
And he’s rock solid. If they lost to Georgia or beat Florida, lost to Kentucky or beat Kentucky, he’s the same every single day. I think the players respond to that. They embrace it. They know he’s got their back no matter what. Yesterday he came out pushing Jordan McCrae for Player of the Year, talking about how this team deserves to be in the NCAA tournament. The players really feed off that.
It took Cuonzo a while to tinker with this team, but I think since they went to a four-guard line-up the defense has gotten a lot better, they push it a lot more, they play more up-tempo. It’s helped Jordan McCrae and Trae Golden play better, it’s helped space things out for Jarnell inside.
Kesling on the Vols’ NCAA tournament chances
I think they are in a playoff every game. If they lose in the next couple of games, they are probably out. If they win, they have a chance. One thing that is the saving grace for them right now is their RPI keeps getting higher and higher. It’s in the mid-50s right now. They probably need to get it into the 40s to make sure they are locked in. But from where they came from to where they are now is pretty remarkable. They just can’t stub their toe anymore.
I think if they would have beaten Georgia, that might have put them in.
The players understand that. Tennessee was pretty much in the same position last year, if you look at it. They finished second in the conference and everyone thought that was good enough. But they had a couple of bad losses during the regular season – Austin Peay, Oakland – and that really came back to bite them. One thing about this year, they don’t really have bad losses.
But the strength of the conference is bad, so they can’t afford to lose anymore.
Kesling talks about the atmosphere surrounding the new football staff
Things are upbeat. I think they are all excited. They are tired of talking. They want to go out there and see what they’ve got on the field, and we’ll see Saturday when they open up spring practice.
I think Butch Jones has done a masterful job, as far as convincing players that his system works. He’s connected with the alumni and former players. Now it’s just time to see how everything comes together on the field. I think Butch has got them headed in the right direction.
Kesling talks about the recent struggles with the UT athletic department
That’s kind of the ups and downs of college athletics. When I was a player at UT, Coach Battle was my coach on the freshman team in 1972. Tennessee was coming off the Doug Dickey years and had been really, really good. Then suddenly, there was that dip in the mid-1970s, then Coach Majors came along.
It goes in cycles. The programs that have great tradition and great facilities, they bounce back.
If you look at Tennessee history, there have been lulls, but Tennessee has always came back.
Now is the time for Tennessee to come back.