Indomitable Dooley

Someday Tennessee again will have an entertaining football team. Until then, the Vols must settle for having an entertaining head coach.

First-year head man Derek Dooley has not let a 2-5 record dampen his enthusiasm or dull his razor-sharp wit. If anything, the worse the Vols' record gets, the funnier their coach becomes. Today's was his most entertaining Monday news conference to date - even featuring a one-man reenactment of the Invasion of Normandy.

Obviously, Dooley is not at all amused that his team is coming off back-to-back beat-downs at the hands of Georgia (41-14) and Alabama (41-10). It's just that there are two ways to deal with trying times: You can laugh about them or you can cry about them. Tennessee's coach is choosing Option 1.

After spending the first 17 minutes of his weekly chat in serious discussion of the Vols' obvious shortcomings, the head man loosened up a bit thereafter. Here's a sampling of his best wisecracks:

- On whether his staff is having to coach technique more than usual because of the inexperience on this year's roster: "That's our job. (Smiling smugly) I tell our coaches that: Why are you mad? If these guys could do it, you wouldn't have a job. You'd have one coach say, 'Hey, go run a post route.' You ought to be happy they can't do it because they need a coach."

- On South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore: "He's watching the film (of UT's run defense) and licking his chops ... can't wait. He's just going to be arguing with his head coach on whether to run it or throw it because both (options) look good."

Dooley then portrayed both sides of an imaginary conversation between Lattimore and South Carolina head man Steve Spurrier: "We ought to run it, Coach. Look at the film." (Spurrier's reponse:) I know. But have you seen the film on throwing it?'"

- On quarterback Matt Simms saying he thinks no one deserves to take his spot (a reference to splitting time with freshman Tyler Bray): "I think Matt has really good character, and the team part of him understands what we're doing and why we're doing it. I wouldn't want him to agree with me saying, 'You need to get out of the game.'"

Again flashing that smug grin, Dooley added: "We'll try to contain his competitive side with you guys (media) a little bit better. I need to talk with him so he'll come out with those canned quotes: 'I'm all for what the coach says. I'm a team player.'"

- On Tennessee's struggles to handle adversity: "You don't want to mess up, so when the bullets are flying you vapor-lock sometimes.... Right now we're like the Germans in World War II. Here come the boats (landing at Normandy). 'Oh, my God! The invasion is coming!'"

When the assembled reporters chuckled, Dooley responded:

"That's what they did. They were in the bunkers. It's coming. They call (field commander Erwin) Rommel. They can't find Rommel."

At this point Dooley curled his hands around his eyes, simulating a pair of binoculars, before continuing:

"What do we do? I'm not doing anything until I get orders. Have you got Rommel yet?"

Following a brief pause to allow the laughter to die down, the coach picked up his re-enactment:

"The Americans were the exact opposite. We hit the beach and we're on the wrong spot. 'What do we do? I don't know but these guys (Germans) are firing. We better hide over there and blow some stuff up to get up there.'"

His story complete, Dooley summarized:

"We've got to make that transition.... You had one group that wasn't worried about what the plan was, the orders and all of that. When the war hit, things change. You've got to go.

"Then you had another other group (saying): 'Now, wait a minute. They told us the invasion was way further north, where we had the empty tanks and we were hiding Patton out. We weren't ready for this. Now what do we do? We better wait till Rommel tells us what to do."

At this point Dooley smiled sheepishly and said, "I hope I got my names right, (so people won't say) 'He doesn't know history.'"

When one young reporter confirmed that the names were correct, Dooley unleashed his final quip:

"Are you like the king historian around here?"

Inside Tennessee Top Stories