Let me say up front that Tennessee’s dismissal of Butch Jones on Sunday was the right, and in many ways, the humane thing to do. Jones had lost the fan base long ago. Some would argue that it should have been done after the thrashing by Alabama on Oct. 21. Jones looked like a man who was trying as best as he knew how. But the time had come to put him out of his misery.
I’m not going to quibble about the timing. I just want to say that even if you’re a long-suffering Tennessee fan this is no day to celebrate.
Relief? Perhaps. It’s been a tough, tough ride for the Tennessee people, who can now rally behind the new coach and start the healing.
Determination? Sure. New AD John Currie needs to get this hire right.
Hope? That’s okay too. I’ll raise a glass to better days for the Tennessee football program.
But no celebration, please. Butch Jones and his family will be fine. Jones was a successful coach before he got to Tennessee and will be again. But it will be away from the glaring lights of the SEC.
When a head coach gets fired I always think of a day in 2000 that Jim Donnan was let go at Georgia. Donnan, of course, got his settlement. But later that day I went to his house. His wife, Mary, greeted me at the door with a sad expression that broke my heart. Then I walked to the Donnan’s home to see every assistant coach with their wives. It felt like a reception after a funeral. They would all soon be looking for new jobs and new homes because Donnan did not coach again.
That’s the part of the coaching carousel that never gets talked about. Behind the win-loss records and all of the drama that comes into a play when a coach is fired are husbands, wives, and children whose lives are changed. Yes, it is part of the job. But it still hurts.
So take a moment today to think about the assistant coaches at Tennessee and all of the other staff members in Knoxville who are going to have to pick up and start over.