You wouldn't think there would be any way to spin the departure of seven assistant coaches in one offseason -- at a program already plagued by coaching and roster turnover, no less -- as an unqualified positive. But don't tell that to Derek Dooley.
The third-year Tennessee head coach called the loss of seven assistants a simple "correction" in a Monday interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, blaming the "fear" of Dooley's unsettled job status for several of their lateral moves to other programs.
And as for that "fear," Dooley came up with a highly colorful metaphor to describe it.
“I think some left because the fit wasn't right,” Dooley said. “I think some left because they maybe allowed the fear … the fear made the wolf a little bigger than it was."
Here is one artist's interpretation of how the wolf-of-Dooley-getting-fired-while-assistants-hung-out-to-dry might have appeared to those assistants:
All joking aside, though, Dooley can gripe about others' perception of his Tennessee tenure all he likes, but it won't change the fact that that perception has helped force the "correction" on his staff. What's really going to prove whether that "wolf" was real or not is winning games--and showing that Dooley's claim that his overhauled staff is an improvement on the former one is legitimate, and not a last-gasp Baghdad Bob moment.
Of course, with coaches like new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and running backs coach (and beloved former Volunteer star) Jay Graham, Dooley may be vindicated, and this isn't the first time he's vouched for the new look in Knoxville; he said after spring practice that despite the wave of new faces, the program was "the most settled" it had been since his arrival.
But the jury remains well out.
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