By Steve Williams
Dave Hart has a problem.
But Dave Serrano has a bigger problem.
Serrano, in his fourth season as baseball coach at Tennessee, is in danger of seeing his ball club fail to make SEC tournament for the third time. Last year, Serrano’s Vols barely made the post-season field and were eliminated in the first round.
Making matters worse for Serrano is the fact that he was not hired by Hart. Interim athletic director Joan Cronan selected Serrano before Hart took over as UT’s full-time AD.
A coach always feels a little safer — when things are going tough – if he’s working for a boss who gave him the job in the first place.
In most cases, it also seems to be much easier for the athletic director to fire an employee who was hired by someone else.
I can just hear Hart now:
“Don’t look at me. I didn’t bring him here.”
The small sampling of Hart’s hiring and firing ways indicates he might take such a stand. Former AD Mike Hamilton hired Derek Dooley and Cuonzo Martin. Hart fired Dooley and Martin left feeling unwanted.
Hart might have pretended he wanted Dooley to succeed as football coach, but he probably had made up his mind to cut him loose before the team got off the field at Vanderbilt after that embarrassing 41-18 loss in 2012.
The case of Cuonzo Martin should make Serrano sweat more than anything.
Cuonzo led his third team to a Sweet Sixteen run but still was “lowballed” by Hart in a new contract offer. Feeling underappreciated, Martin went all the way across the country to accept California’s offer, and was happy to feel simply wanted.
Hart had plenty of good reasons to support Cuonzo but decided to take the easy way out, instead of going to bat for the coach against a portion of the fan base that still longed for Bruce Pearl and signed a petition to let the world know.
After letting a good man go, Hart hired Donnie Tyndall, and we know how that turned out.
Hart was lucky to end up with Butch Jones and Rick Barnes.
Serrano may not be so lucky in keeping his job.
Like Cuonzo, Serrano may be a good man, but unlike Cuonzo, his results haven’t been good enough at this point.
Four seasons is long enough to see if Serrano can cut it. The second half of season No. 4 is just underway, so it’s not a lost cause, yet. After all, Tennessee only has to finish 12th out of 14 teams to get to Hoover.
As all coaches deserve, and the players even more so, let the season play out.
There doesn’t seem to be as much heat on Serrano as there was on Martin, so that’s to Serrano’s advantage.
Serrano didn’t come here following a tough act. While Cuonzo followed Pearl, Serrano followed Todd Raleigh. That should have been to Serrano’s advantage, too. But so far, it hasn’t been.
Still, some UT baseball fans are so victory starved, they’ve changed how they used to feel and long for the days of former longtime skipper Rod Delmonico.
I can just hear Hart now:
“We can’t bring back Delmonico. UT doesn’t bring back coaches. But what about Phil Garner? I wonder if he would be interested.”