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Tennessee Lady Vols: Kim Caldwell, Danny White make clear plans to win immediately

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Danny White’s track record of hires reveals a clear intention of winning right off the bat rather than selling a rebuilding process. As new Tennessee Lady Vols women’s basketball head coach Kim Caldwell was introduced Tuesday to replace Kellie Harper, that was obvious once again.

“As a women’s basketball program, we want to get back to competing for Southeastern Conference and National Championships,” White said in Caldwell’s introductory press conference. “Our student-athletes have that ambition, and we are not on a three-, four- or five-year plan; they talked about wanting to win next year. We wanted to make sure we are positioning ourselves to be competitive right away.”

As he did with the football program, White went for a young coach who runs an entertaining style of play that could have early success. He also mentioned he spoke to the players first, which may be a huge reason he always has such success for his early hires.

Caldwell may not have the roster right now that’s fit for her up-tempo style of play. She may be inheriting a Tennessee Lady Vols team that loses a ton of talent after getting bounced out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament this past year. However, it’s clear from her press conference she’s already planning to address that.

“There’s a lot to do, so we need to get a great staff put in place,” she said. “I need to form relationships with the current players that are here, and then we need to make some additions and get in the portal and start to recruit, and so it’s all hands on deck right now.”

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You heard her. Get in the portal.

Sure, it’s a new era of college athletics, but that’s not generally what coaches say. They typically talk about recruiting, building relationships with the current players and building a staff. Finding new talent in the portal, though, is something they typically keep to themselves.

In this situation, though, Caldwell is making clear she doesn’t plan on some long-term rebuild with the Tennessee Lady Vols. Winning immediately is part of her history as well. She just won the Sun Belt and went 26-7 with a Marshall Thundering Herd team that had 17 wins the year before.

Going back before that, in her first year with the Glenville State Pioneers, Caldwell went 24-6 and won the Mountain East Conference with a team that again just had 17 wins the year before. Caldwell noted that having just gone through a transition as a first-year head coach at Marshall this past year is helpful to her new job.

“I was planning to be at Marshall for quite some time, and this was not something that we planned to do,” she said.” It does help the fact that less than a year ago, I was doing a press conference, and less than a year ago, I was trying to recruit the roster that we had while recruiting another team and put a staff together. It’s familiar in that sense.”

Taking all this into account, it can’t be more obvious that White and Caldwell have plans for the Tennessee Lady Vols to be a major force in women’s college basketball next year. It will take a lot of help in the portal to do that, but White hires are often as close to miracle workers as they could be.

Remember, when Tennessee Football hired Josh Heupel, the roster was in turmoil, and the team had just gone 3-7. Heupel then went 7-6 with a team that should’ve gone 3-9. If he can do that, then we should automatically trust anybody White decides to hire. Caldwell is no different. Similar to Heupel, White noted the style of play was a plus.

“I think she’s going to really connect with our players, but her style of play certainly¬†makes us very distinctive, and I think that’s where the sport is going,” he said. “The pace of play, both in men’s and women’s basketball, is becoming more and more a factor, and I think that she’s on the cutting edge. We talk about leading the way in college sports here at Tennessee, and I think Kim helps us do that.”

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