Work in Sports
Last season the Vols showed they were good. Now they have to prove they believe it
Amid a torrent of criticism, Green quipped that his popularity had dropped from "where I could've been elected governor to where I couldn't get elected dogcatcher." Frustrated guard Tony Harris publicly questioned the Vols' heart, suggested that he was "too coachable" and said he thought about leaving Tennessee for the pros. Green chalked up the turbulence to the growing expectations being placed on a program that for years skulked in the shadow of the Lady Vols and their six national titles. "Building a team is as much a battle of the mind as of the body," Green says, "and sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back."
Tennessee's inconsistent 1998-99 results were due partly to the fickle jump shooting of the Vols' two starting guards, who combined to make just 38.6% of their shots from the field. Green will adjust by playing Harris more at the shooting guard spot and handing the point to transfer Jenis Grindstaff, who will distribute the ball better to slashing 6'9" forward Isiah Victor, a potential NBA lottery pick. C.J. Black, Charles Hathaway and Vincent Yarbrough are all capable of breakthrough seasons that would help compensate for the loss of guard Brandon Wharton, who led the Vols in scoring the last three seasons.
Green's goals are to set a Tennessee single-season victory record by winning at least 23 games and to advance more than one round in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. A rededicated Harris vows he won't allow this year's Vols to take a step back. "When I look up at all the championship banners in our gym, I think that time waits for no man," Harris says. "The Tennessee boys are ready to raise some banners of our own."
Issue date: November 15, 1999