What if ... Lawrence Frank?

When Kevin O'Neill bolted the UT basketball program to become head man at Northwestern following the 1996-97 season, school officials never considered elevating assistant coach Lawrence Frank to fill the void.

Maybe they should have.

Frank recently became the first coach in the history of the National Basketball Association to win his first 10 games. Since assuming the reins of the New Jersey Nets on Jan. 26, he has yet to lose as a head coach.

Frank was just an obscure aide when O'Neill departed, so he never got serious consideration for the Vol opening. Instead, UT brass spent several weeks pursuing some of the game's bright young head coaches. Spurned at every turn, Vol athletics director Doug Dickey finally wound up hiring Jerry Green.

Inheriting the quality talent O'Neill had recruited, Green won 20 games per year for the next four seasons. He gradually lost control of the program, however, and offended many fans with some snide comments. Moreover, Tennessee's recruiting slipped under his watch and the Vols regularly choked in postseason play.

When the 2000-01 Vols lost 10 of their last 16 games after a 16-1 start, Green was canned and Buzz Peterson was hired to succeed him. Peterson went 15-16 in 2001-02, 17-12 in 2002-03 and stands 13-9 thus far in 2003-04.

Perhaps Peterson can clean up the mess left by Green and get the Vol program back on solid ground. Given the events of the past two weeks, though, you have to wonder: How might UT basketball be different if Tennessee had turned to Lawrence Frank in 1997, instead of Jerry Green?

Inside Tennessee Top Stories