Homecoming For Pinkins

Tennessee's basketball game at NC State tonight (7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN2) marks a homecoming for first-year UT assistant coach Al Pinkins.

Pinkins was a two-year letterman at NC State from 1995-97. He spent two seasons under head coach Les Robinson--redshirting his first year in Raleigh--before playing for coach Herb Sendek as a senior.

Despite battling injuries, the 6-7, 230-pound Pinkins averaged 9.5 points and seven rebounds per game during his career at NC State. The Wolfpack reached the postseason when he was a senior in 1997, advancing to the second round of the NIT. "My memories of Reynolds Coliseum are of it being one of the loudest places in America," Pinkins said. "Other than (Maryland's) Cole Field House or playing at Kansas, Reynolds was probably the loudest arena in the country."

The Wolfpack's rivalry with in-state and Atlantic Coast Conference foe North Carolina provided the stage for some of Pinkins best performances in the White & Red.

"The home game where we played North Carolina and they were No. 1 in the country," Pinkins said with a grin. "I think it was a Saturday--I remember it like it was yesterday. I had a couple huge 3-pointers in the game, and we won the game. It was a sold-out crowd. Kids were camping out days before the game to get tickets. It was one of those big-time environments.

"That was probably one of my best memories from NC State, other than meeting my wife. We actually met my second day on campus, which is weird. I don't think that happens too often."

Pinkins and his wife, Kara, who studied communications at NC State, now have three sons.

Asked about his best single-game performance with the Pack, Pinkins said it came on the road at North Carolina.

"I don't recall exactly what I finished with, but I think I had something like 15 and six."

The Camilla, Ga., native received his degree in Sociology from NC State in 1998 and went on to play several seasons of professional basketball, including stints in Spain, Qatar and China.

But his first taste of pro ball came in Raleigh in 1998 when he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds for the Raleigh Cougars of the USBL.

When head coach Donnie Tyndall accepted the Tennessee job this past April, he quickly targeted Pinkins for an assistant coaching position. Pinkins was coming off two successful seasons at Ole Miss, but he couldn't turn down the opportunity to join Tyndall's staff on Rocky Top.

In addition to serving as the Vols' recruiting coordinator, Pinkins also works closely with Tennessee's frontcourt players.

"Coach Pinkins explains important aspects of the game in great detail and makes sure his players understand how to execute," junior forward Armani Moore said. "He's an intense teacher, but he stays composed at the same time."

Tonight, Pinkins will provide that intense-yet-composed presence on the visiting bench at NC State. Working as a college coach makes it challenging to find time to return to his alma mater. He guessed that he has only been back two or three times since he graduated.

Pinkins will have close to 30 friends and family members on hand for tonight's game, as Tennessee tries to log its first true road win of the season and extend its current win streak to three games.

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