Andy Shupe

John Currie passes first big test

What did Tennessee fans learn from their new athletic director with the hire of new baseball coach Tony Vitello?

John Currie has passed his first test as Tennessee's director of athletics.

A baseball coaching hire in the Southeastern Conference certainly doesn't come with the same high degree of attention as a football or basketball hire but nonetheless this coaching hire should tell us plenty about the new decision maker.

So what did we learn about how Currie conducts business?

Perhaps the most encouraging thing coming out of this coaching search was that Currie ran a tight ship. There were literally no reported leaks coming from the Tennessee side of the search.

Currie called his shot when he sent a letter to Tennessee boosters where he said, "So just as I reminded our players: unless you hear it directly from me, don’t believe or assume any media and internet rumors regarding potential candidates are remotely accurate! We’ll look forward to introducing our next coach just as soon as we reasonably can — thanks for your patience."

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That proved to be true as Tony Vitello got little attention from local or national media. Vitello's name stayed below the surface until the end as evidenced with less than 10 minutes before the official hiring, one prominent Knoxville media member publicly posted that it was a done deal between two other candidates, which proved quickly to be false.

Simply put, none of the media outlets, including InsideTennessee, had any clue that Vitello was going to be the hire.

We also learned that Currie isn't willing to overlook weaknesses in candidates' résumés by succumbing to influential donors and alumni pushing for lesser-qualified candidates.

Currie stood his ground, hiring the more qualified candidate in Vitello, showing the backbone of strong leader.

Vitello owns a track record packed full of success at Missouri, at Texas Christian and most recently at Arkansas where he was known as one of the nation's best recruiters. Teams he assisted only missed NCAA regionals three times since 2003 and he joined the Razorbacks in a trip to the 2015 College World Series.

Currie was able to sell a struggling program to a coach with success at programs that enjoy advantages that simply aren't available in Knoxville at this time.

The other thing Currie showed in this process was to follow a timeline that fits the situation. Currie conducted interviews the week before NCAA regionals, starting with candidates not involved in postseason play, knowing the other finalist would be finished with any luck and could interview immediately after being eliminated.

Currie was also willing to make personal phone calls to signees and assure them he was going to hire the best candidate for the future of Volunteer baseball and do it in a timely fashion.

Lastly, Currie proved he isn't afraid to pay for his guy. Vitello will be paid just south of $500,000 annually, which puts him near the top of the SEC in salary.

It might have only been comparable to a midterm exam but Currie passed his first test with ease. 

The hiring of Vitello is something that should give Tennessee fans confidence that when the time for taking the final exam comes for Currie he will be ready to pass it with flying colors.  

The date and time of that final exam is TBD.

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