Q&A with Derek Dooley, Part II

Is Tennessee's football program ready to turn the corner? How tough is it to deal with the pressures of coaching in the SEC? Sign in or subscribe now to get the answers from Derek Dooley's sitdown with InsideTennessee.

Another page flipped on the grind of college football as Tennessee wrapped up its spring practices a few weeks ago.

The head football coach of the Volunteers, Derek Dooley, set aside some time for a one-on-one interview with InsideTennessee this week.

Here's a look at the second portion of that conversation:

InsideTennessee: How much easier was it to fill your assistant coaching vacancies this time around from when you first got the job here?

Derek Dooley: Well it was significantly easier but it wasn't just the timing. The timing was important. You know people forget I got hired two weeks before signing day and that's a tough time to hire coaches because everybody is really looking at the finish line and you can't really wait until signing day to hire them all because you won't even have a signing class.

The second reason that made it easier is I have a good handle on what I want as a head coach, a much better handle, and what Tennessee needs. I have a better handle on this school. I have a better handle on the type of coach that can thrive in this environment. It took some time to do that.

So, yeah I feel good about the staff and I think I've learned a little bit from the hiring process in the last two years and it's helped us on this round.

IT: Was a majority of those assistants having ties or experience working in the south a factor in their hiring?

Dooley: There's a lot of factors that go into hiring a coach and you only have nine of them so you don't want to miss. Certainly, recruiting is a factor and it always helps when they have recruited in this area of the country and if they have recruited in this league or against this league. That's a factor.

But what's also an important factor is, when you talk about geography, that they understand the passion, the scrutiny and the expectations that are associated with a program like Tennessee. Somebody that understands it and wants to be at that kind of place has a better chance to thrive than someone who just sees Tennessee on TV and says, 'That'd be a neat place to coach.'

Safeties coach Josh Conklin is cutting his teeth with recruiting in the Southeastern Conference.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
That was probably a little bit of a symptom of the last staff. There were probably some guys that this was not their cup of tea, this sort of environment. So, you live and you learn.

IT: I know (safeties coach) Josh Conklin is new to it somewhat. Have you set down with him and said, 'When we go up against LSU, Bama and Auburn for a guy, this is what it's going to take to get him?' Have you had to work him into it or is it a work in progress?

Dooley: Josh is a good football coach. He is a very intelligent person. And, he is competitive. So, guys like that — and he wants to be in this sort of environment — usually have a quick learning curve on how to get things done.

I think it's too early to really speak for any of them. They've only been here a couple of months. But, so far I feel like we are further along from a recruiting standpoint, and I feel like we've made more progress the last 12 weeks on our team than we did in two years. That's all I can go on right now.

IT: I'm sure there can be several disagreements over the course of the year given how much time you all spend together, but is there anything you do to help with staff chemistry?

Dooley: I think it starts with the inordinate amount of time that we spend together. It's not a 40-hour work week in this profession. We sit in rooms with each other… during the season you're looking at 100-hour work weeks. You spend a lot of time together working through problems, and if you can't develop a level of continuity then we need to change. So, that's the starting point.

We do some things outside of the office, not a lot. Of course, we have some events and do some things at our house or another coach's house, the coaches do things together. Probably the biggest challenge for me is I want them to spend time with their family. So, when they are not here I hate to pull away more time from them under the guise of team building. I want a guy that is really balanced and happy in their personal life as well.

So, that's what I face. I know a lot of people do cruises and things like that, which they are a good, healthy thing. But, trying to achieve that balance of spending time with your family, which you need to do because if your family life is not in order then it's going to affect you professionally.

IT: Are you a better in-game coach now than when you were when you took this job? Are there any mistakes that come to mind that you've learned from?

Dooley: I think you grow every year as a coach. You should. I know I feel like I have grown each year and have a greater comfort level of situations. It's called experience. The important thing is learning from your experiences.

I always felt like people think that a coach at age 35 or 40 or 45 or 50 or 55 or 60, they are all the same. In other words, they judge you and that's who you are and that's it. They don't really account for professional growth and learning because they want results and if you can't get it done, then get the next guy in here.

But, we grow a lot as coaches. We learn. We make mistakes. It's like anybody in any other profession and the important thing is that you have the self-confidence to be self-critical when you're not having the success you feel like you should have what should you do differently, then make the adjustments and go. The good coaches have all done that. When you look at their careers, there is a select few out there that just won at every stop of the way.

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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