'It's hell'

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Being part of a fired coaching staff is nothing new for Tennessee's football assistants. Most have been there and done that ... several of them multiple times.

Still, the experience isn't easy to manage.

"No. It's never easy for anybody that has to go through this," said wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw, who was on the Memphis staff when Tommy West was fired in 2009. "It's hell. But the point is: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You keep fighting through it and get ready for the next adventure in your life, whatever it may be. I hope it's here at Tennessee."

Seeing his boss canned is nothing new for defensive line coach John Palermo, who has spent nearly four decades in the profession. He knows all too well how assistants feel as they play out the string following the firing of their head coach.

"In 39 years I've been through this particular situation twice before this," he said. "The first time I was kept at Memphis State when Richard Williamson was let go and Rex Dockery became the head coach. The second time was at the University of Miami, when we actually went to a bowl game and won the bowl game but Coach (Larry) Coker was relieved of his duties.

"That had to do more — not with winning and losing — but with all of the things that had happened during the season. I had a defensive lineman that got murdered. Then there was a fight in the FIU (Florida International) game, so I think there was a lot of other things that went into that other than winning and losing.... This is the third time in 39 years I've had to go through this."

Tight ends/special teams coach Charlie Coiner must feel as if he's caught in a recurring nightmare. He has been part of a half-dozen staffs whose head coach was dismissed.

"This is my sixth time total and my third time when a head coach was let go before us (assistants)," Coiner said. "I've grown callous to it, and rightfully so; I understand how it works. But you've got to get with the players and make sure they understand: 'This is what's going on. This is why it's going on.' And you've got to be professional about it."

Some players hurt when their head coach is fired; most understand that college football is big business and that bosses who fail to achieve positive results get fired.

"Kids are more world-savvy now than they probably used to be," Coiner said. "It's not a deal where 'I'm going to walk away from the program because the head coach is gone and because you (position coach) are gone.'"

Palermo also has grown callous to the lack of job security in the coaching profession. He shrugged when a reporter asked if this week has been an emotional roller-coaster.

"It's not been emotional whatsoever," he said. "I come to work at the same time. I do the same things in meetings. I do the same things in practice. It's not been all that emotional for me. It's the reality of things like this happening. It's a business. They pay us a lot of money. We're professionals. When things like this happen you don't like it but you've got to live with it. "

Asked if that philosophical approach is part of his personality, the 60-year-old Palermo shook his head.

"It's not my personality; I think it's my age," he said. "Twenty years ago I'd be pi--ed off at the world. But I'm not by any stretch of the imagination bitter about anything that transpired here. We did not do a good enough job to keep our jobs this year. That's the reality of it. We could've done better. We didn't. That's just the way the cookie crumbles.

"This is a great place. There are good people here. Whoever comes in next hopefully will get it turned around and headed in the right direction."

Hired by Central Florida last December, cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley left after just three months to join Derek Dooley's Tennessee staff. Unless Dooley's successor retains him, Ansley's next job will be his third in 13 months. Still, he has no second thoughts about his chosen profession.

"No," he said. "I've been playing football for a long time and this is my eighth season coaching. This is what I'm going to do until I can't do it anymore."

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