Moore on the subject

Many observers think Tennessee basketball coach Buzz Peterson must make the NCAA Tournament this spring to save his job. I tend to disagree.

Based on my conversations with Mike Hamilton, plus what I've heard and read elsewhere, the Vol athletics director seems doggedly determined to establish some stability in a UT basketball program that is on its fifth coach in the past 16 years.

Don DeVoe got the boot after the 1988-89 season. Wade Houston lasted five seasons (1990-94), then Kevin O'Neill bolted after three (1995-97). Jerry Green was shown the door after four years (1998-2001), bringing Buzz on board in 2002.

I suspect the LAST thing Hamilton wants is to make another coaching change and start another rebuilding process. That's why I think he will retain Peterson if Tennessee simply posts a winning record this year. I believe the A.D. will base his decision on the following:

1. The need for stability. Consider how much continuity has helped the UT football program in recent years.

2. Buzz inherited a mess. The hoops program already was on a downward spiral (6-10 in its last 16 games of 2001) and was beset with disciplinary problems. (Buzz had to dismiss Harris Walker and Terrence Woods, then Marcus Haislip missed two months of action with academic issues.)

3. The November signing of Tyler Smith, coupled with the likely spring signing of Jamont Gordon, suggests Tennessee's recruiting is on the upswing.

To make this year's NCAA Tournament, Buzz probably needs a 17-12 record. That appears unlikely to happen. But if you lower the standard to 15-14, the Vols (8-5) have a shot. They could achieve that by winning seven of their eight SEC home games ... even if they lose all eight of their remaining road games (seven SEC foes, plus Louisville).

I know I'm in the minority here, but I really believe a winning record keeps Buzz on the UT payroll.

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