Like Pearl, Tyndall loves fast-paced basketball.
"He's very up-tempo," Drew White, publisher of Scout's Southern Miss website, told InsideTennessee. "He loves to run, and loves aggressive chaotic-style defense. He plays a match-up zone 100 percent of the time and will go full court with it, as well. Offensively, it's run and gun whenever possible."
Like Pearl, Tyndall is intensity personified.
"Coach Tyndall is as nice as a guy as you'll ever meet off the court, and as intense as you'll ever see on it," White said. "He's very intense with his players, but he builds a strong relationship so they will run through a brick wall for him. The players always say the games are a breeze after making it through one of Coach Tyndall's practices. He has them extremely mentally tough."
"He's fantastic with the media and knows us all by name," White said. "One quick example: After asking him a question or two after practice one day, he had to go to film study. He called me back that night to see if there was anything else I needed from him and say he was sorry he had to go quickly. That's just the type of person he is."
Like Pearl, Tyndall will get creative in order to market his program. Taking a page from the Pearl playbook, he has visited the school cafeteria to lobby for student support. Tyndall also achieved Internet infamy by joining his team in a 2013 "Harlem Shake" video that has nearly a quarter of a million views. Here's the link:
Like Pearl, Tyndall understands that connecting with the fans is an integral part of the job.
"He is absolutely loved," White said. "Our stadium has been nicknamed 'Tyndall Town.' The students chant his name. Our basketball hardwood club membership has tripled in his first two years. He's as sociable and accessible as any head coach I've ever seen to a fan base."
Like Pearl, Tyndall recognizes that relentlessly promoting your product is critical.
"He's tireless," White said. "In two years he has people saying USM is a basketball school. He makes every public appearance he can. He mingles with fans, he talks to fraternities and sororities. He even made an impromptu appearance in the cafeteria with a megaphone to try and get students there."
Like Pearl, Tyndall realizes the importance of national recruiting. Luring prospects to Hattiesburg, Miss., is no simple task.
"He has connections all over the country," White said. "He's had to be creative in getting players to Southern Miss, and he's found the right pieces each year. We know if we can get a kid on campus Coach Tyndall can close on him."
Like Pearl, Tyndall is pretty good with the X's and O's. He has an imposing 56-17 record at Southern Miss.
White calls him "a tireless worker – watching film, studying his team and finding any advantage he possibly can."
Tyndall's initial head-coaching gig saw him lead St. Catharine College (Springfield, Ky.) to a 30-5 record in 1996-97 and the school's first-ever appearance in the Junior College Nationals. After nine years assisting at LSU, Idaho and Middle Tennessee, he got his first Div. I head coaching job at his alma mater. Assuming a Morehead State team that had gone 4-23 in 2005-06 under Kyle Macy, he opened the 2006-07 season ranked 321 in RPI.
Tyndall promptly made an eight-game improvement to 12-18 in Year 1. After going 15-15 in Year 2, he went 20-16 in Year 3 and earned an NCAA Tournament bid. The victory totals continued to rise as he went 24-11 in 2010, then 25-10 in 2011, setting a program record for single-season wins and earning another NCAA bid. He then posted a signature win by shocking Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals in Round 2.
Following an 18-14 rebuilding year in 2012, Tyndall left Morehead to take the reins at Southern Miss. Despite fielding the youngest team in Div. 1 hoops he went 27-10 overall and 12-4 in Conference USA en route to the NIT quarterfinals. He improved to 29-7 overall (13-3 CUSA) in 2013-14, losing 81-73 in the NIT quarterfinals to Minnesota, coached by Richard Pitino, Rick's son.
Counting his stints at Morehead and USM, Tyndall's Div. I record is 170-101, a winning percentage of .627. If you throw out his first three years at Morehead, a massive rebuilding effort, he stands 123-52 the last five years for a winning percentage of .703.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tyndall turns 44 on June 14.
Obviously, there is only one Bruce Pearl, and to expect Donnie Tyndall to be a Pearl clone would be unfair. Still, Tyndall seems to have many of the traits that made Pearl enormously popular during his six-year stay on The Hill.
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