Brady knows best; Tyndall praised

InsideTennessee brings readers the most unique coverage of Tennessee athletics. Scroll down to read what John Brady, who Donnie Tyndall called one of his mentors, had to say about the Vols' new coach.

Everyone was exhausted. That's what John Brady remembers.

All of the players on the hardwood at this cramped gym slouched over, hands clinging to their knees as they fought to suck in one huge gulp of air after another.

Each player was drenched in sweat. It free flowed like condensation dangling on a glass of ice water, beading from foreheads and dripping off chins.

Then a whistle shrieked.

The players, who looked like they had nothing left — as if simply getting back to the locker room would be a challenge — snapped up in unison and trotted to the next drill. There wasn't even the slightest of moans.

Brady, who had just recently been named LSU's new men's basketball coach, found himself at this practice in the remote town of Springfield, Ky., because he was in desperate need of help. He was hoping he could find it here.

Brady took over a limping program fresh off four losing seasons and recruiting scandals that resulted in severe NCAAA probations. He heard St. Catherine Junior College had a few players who he needed to see.

But his attention soon shifted from the players running the floor to the man stalking the sidelines.

"This guy, this coach was firm — demanding a whole lot from those guys. He was working them hard," Brady told InsideTennessee. "But the players respected him and responded to him. I was really impressed."

It just so happens that Brady not only had a spot to fill on his roster, but also on his staff.

So, he leaned over to one of his assistants who made the trip up north with him.

"What's his name?" Brady said, pointing to the coach.

"Donnie Tyndall," the assistant replied.

With that, Brady trotted over to the sideline.

A long basketball-driven discussion right there on the court led to dinner later that night. A few phone calls and another trip to Kentucky followed. A job offer came shortly thereafter.

"I liked him right away. He was really smart basketball-wise," Brady said. "He was honest, genuine and really impressed me. He's so down to earth. He can laugh at himself. He had all the qualities I wanted in a coach. So, I hired him."

And the rest, as Brady likes to say, is history.

Tyndall, who fought for his ticket to Division I basketball through two junior college stops, went from a wide-eyed LSU assistant in 1997 to being handed the reins to the Tennessee's program last week.

"It's something else. I hired a guy I liked and thought was a good coach. I saw some great qualities. But he took the opportunity and ran with it," Brady said. "He did it the right way. He built all this for himself. It's a great story. He doesn't have a great last name. You know, his daddy isn't a coach. He did it on his own. Now, he gets the chance to make a lot of money."

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Brady, the current head coach at Arkansas State, is confident Tyndall will succeed in Knoxville because of a his self-made path to his dream, echoing the words of Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart by calling Tyndall a man who "pulled himself up by his bootstraps."

"He's been in some tough situations and he's always won. He's gotten results out of some teams that really seemed impossible," Brady said. "He's always taken tough jobs and done great things.

In that sense, Tennessee should be nothing new to Tyndall.

Brady acknowledged several difficulties that face Tyndall in his newest position, naming the "shadow" of Bruce Pearl and a diminished roster.

"He's got to deal with a lot up there," Brady said. "It won't be easy."

But Brady isn't concerned.

Dealing with difficulties isn't new to Tyndall, but being able to sell an athletics-driven university like Tennessee is.

"He has everything now — I mean everything. The fans, the facilities, the money and all of that," Brady said. "He's never had that before. He'll still work like he doesn't have all that, but he does. He's going to do great things."

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But rather relying solely on words, Brady provided an example.

After stints at Idaho and Middle Tennessee State, Tyndall took over as the coach of his alma mater, Morehead State, in 2006. The Eagles finished 4-23 the previous year.

Tyndall guided Morehead State to two NCAA tournaments, upsetting then fourth-seeded Louisville in the first round in 2011. Brady points to that game and that team's success as proof Tyndall will successfully rebuild the Vols.

"Think about that. Like, really think about that. Most people say would think Morehead State beating Louisville would never happen and they should be right. Donnie had no business beating them. But it happened," Brady said. "If he can construct a team to beat Louisville with what Morehead State has to offer, imagine what he can build at Tennessee."

Brady, who isn't afraid to call himself a "Tennessee fan" now that Tyndall helms the Vols, can rattle off a winding list of reasons why he believes Tyndall will succeed.

There's his work ethic, his larger-than-life personality, his energy. He goes on and on and on.

But in the middle of his pro-Tyndall rant, Brady couldn't help but laugh.

"I swear, I've done more media interviews in the last week about Donnie Tyndall than I ever did when we (LSU) were in the Final Four," Brady said. "It's really funny. Who would have guessed? I've done so many of these phone calls."

Brady is glad to field calls about Tyndall, saying he's "so proud" of all that he's accomplished.

But the phone call he's truly looking forward to is still a handful of months away. But he knows it's coming.

"This separates Donnie from a lot of other people I've worked with: every year after I hired him, he calls me a week before basketball season," Brady said. "And he thanks me for taking a chance on him and giving him the opportunity. He's grateful, and he's a great hire."

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