Tyndall reconstructed a roster decimated by transfers, draft entries and graduations after arriving from Southern Mississippi to replace Cuonzo Martin, who left for California. The Volunteers return only four scholarship players from a team that went 24-13 and reached an NCAA regional semifinal last season.
"I like my team because they are very, very coachable," Tyndall said. "We've only had one or two guys the entire summer through preseason who have had bad body language or maybe copped an attitude during a practice or two, which in my opinion is a credit to their character, to the returning guys. It's a credit to Coach Martin and the way he probably coached them and prepared them for the way we coach. So the bottom line is, I like my team.
"With that being said, I don't like that we're the least experienced team in the league. I don't like that we don't have a point guard in our program and I don't like that we're going to play three true freshmen on our front line."
The coaching change has the Vols switching from Martin's man-to-man defense to Tyndall's up-tempo approach and matchup zone. It also means adapting to the outspoken nature of Tyndall, who isn't shy about saying publicly who's stepping up and who's struggling.
"I don't think you can have real relationships with people—whether it's a spouse, a girlfriend a daughter, your boss, your players, your (coaches)—if you are not real with them, if you don't look them in the eye and tell them the truth," Tyndall said. "A lot of times when you tell young people the truth, it can hurt their feelings. I am not worried about hurting these guys' feelings. I tell them that we are going to be friends for 50 years when you are done. I'm not trying to be your friend right now. I'm trying to help you be the best student-athlete that you can be."
Tyndall's players say they've learned to adjust.
"He's not going to sugarcoat anything," senior guard Josh Richardson said. "He's not going to hold back anything. He's going to tell you straight-up how it is, and you just take heed to it."
"A lot of times when you tell young people the truth, it can hurt their feelings. I am not worried about hurting these guys' feelings."
Tennessee's returning players say their practices under Tyndall feature more scrimmaging than before and their meetings include more film study. Junior forward Derek Reese called Tyndall a numbers-oriented coach who often uses statistics to make his point.
Tyndall says he's most concerned with making sure his players are blocking out correctly on at least 80 percent of their opportunities, that his teams have about 1 ½ times as many assists as turnovers and that they minimize the number of contested shots they attempt.
"The statistics, he gives them to us every day, all the time," Reese said. "You need that. It helps you better understand what we're doing, what we're doing wrong, what we need to do better, what we're improving on."
Without any proven point guards or post players, Tennessee does have much room for improvement. Tyndall at least has a team willing to work to get better.
"Those guys are all busting their tail for us," Tyndall said. "They're working extremely hard, they're coachable. I love their attention to detail in the film room. When I ask them questions, they answer and then they ask some questions on their own, trying to get better. It's a good group thus far. It really is."