Buzz vows to 'be tougher'

No more Mr. Nice Guy. Head coach Buzz Peterson says he's making some changes personally in order to bring about some needed changes in the Vol basketball program.

Peterson, 59-57 in four years at Tennessee, said during his Monday news conference that he will get tougher and recruit harder in order to turn around a program that is floundering. The Vols are 12-15 after losing eight of their last 10 games. In an effort to right the ship, the head man promised to be firmer in his dealings with players and assistants alike.

''I'm going to be tougher and more demanding in different areas,'' he said. ''Everybody says, 'Buzz, he's a nice guy.' Well ... I am to a point, but maybe I need to be a little bit tougher in some different areas, demand a little bit more. If I upset some guys, I can't be worried about that.''

Peterson conceded he has ''some personalities on the team that do not like to be roughed up (verbally) a little bit but I can't worry about that. I've got to run a disciplined program. I know how to run a disciplined program because I played through one (at North Carolina) and that's what I did at other places (Appalachian State, Tulsa). I've got to stick to that a little bit.

''I just need to be more hands-on, a little tougher and more demanding on different things ... whether it's recruiting, academics or whatever. If they're going to be under me -- whether it's player or coach -- I need to expect a little more out of them.''

Peterson said he also plans to be more involved in Tennessee's search for SEC-level talent.

''I personally need to take more of an active role towards recruiting,'' he said. ''I think that's very important to be involved in that -- and I am -- but (I'm) going to have to pick it up in some areas that need to be done.''

To date, Peterson's recruiting has been disastrous. His first full signing class consisted of four busts (Boomer Herndon, John Winchester, Justin Albrecht, Stanley Asumnu) and one starter, point guard C.J. Watson. His second class consisted of two half-decent transfers (Scooter McFadgon, Jemere Hendrix), two parttime starters (Dane Bradshaw, Major Wingate) and a guy who scarcely plays (Jordan Howell). His third class consisted of another transfer (Andre Patterson) and a starting guard (Chris Lofton).

Peterson all but conceded that recruiting is largely to blame for this season's lackluster on-court performance.

''That is the lifeblood of your program,'' he said. ''You can do a lot of things coaching ... but, when it gets right down to it, you've got to have enough talent to go win that ball game for you, especially at this level. I'm going to take a more aggressive stand on that end than I have in the past.''

Peterson, who is to meet with athletics director Mike Hamilton and UT President John Pederson later today, conceded he and Hamilton have discussed the program's direction several times already this season. Despite the mediocre record, the coach believes his struggling basketball program can be successful.

''Do I believe the program can win championships? I do, I really do,'' he said. ''I believe this program can win championships. It takes time, though. It takes a learning process to go through a lot of things where you learn from your mistakes and try to correct those. We have the resources here to get it done but it starts with recruiting.''

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