March 07, 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) New Tennessee athletic director John Currie has some shopping to do.

When he left Tennessee's athletic department in 2009 to become Kansas State's athletic director, Currie gave about 60 orange ties to his younger co-workers thinking he didn't have any more use for them. That changed last week when he rejoined the Volunteers.

''One of our staff members came up to me at a staff meeting we had last week and pointed out that his tie was one of the ones I had given him when I'd left in 2009,'' Currie said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. ''I've got some wardrobe conversion to do.''

Currie might not look the part yet, but he believes he is ready for his new role.

He said his time at Kansas State showed him how to deal with adversity and the value of building solid relationships.

''You deal with some crises here and there, coaching transitions and all that kind of stuff, I think you learn from all those things,'' Currie said. ''You also develop a sense of maybe calmness about when you get in something, you've kind of been in this situation before now, and you know that as long as you stick to your values and principles, it's going to work out the right way.''

The knock against Currie during his Kansas State tenure was his working relationships with coaches, particularly after the Wildcats were unable to keep men's basketball coach Frank Martin from leaving for South Carolina.

Currie said Monday that he is ''proud of the relationships I've had with our coaches.'' He also has said his first priority at Tennessee will be to listen to as many people as possible.

He said that he called each of Tennessee's coaches in the first 48 hours after getting hired. Currie also wants to meet with each of Tennessee's deans in his first 60 days on the job.

''I've learned a lot from all our coaches both at K-State and at Tennessee and at Wake Forest before that,'' Currie said. ''I'm not an NFL general manager. I'm an athletic director, which means my job is to support coaches. I'm not the football expert. (Tennessee football coach) Butch Jones is. I'm not the women's basketball expert. Holly Warlick is.''

Currie quoted Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder about how to move forward.

''It's like Coach Snyder always talks about: Are we better today than we were yesterday? Are we going to be better tomorrow than we are today?'' Currie said. ''Hopefully today I'll be better than I was yesterday. That's always going to be a focus for us.''

Currie inherited a financial mess at Kansas State and turned things around while establishing a reputation as an expert fundraiser. He launched several major building projects at Kansas State, including an overhaul of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

He brings all that experience to his new job, which begins April 1 on his 46th birthday. Currie will replace Dave Hart, who announced in August he was planning to step down .

Currie initially joined Tennessee's staff in 1997. After spending two years as Wake Forest's assistant athletics director, Currie returned to Tennessee in 2000 and remained at the school until 2009 in a variety of roles, including a stint as the chief deputy to former athletic director Mike Hamilton.

Currie is on leave from Kansas State while preparing for his new job. Laird Veatch has taken over as Kansas State's interim athletic director. Currie said he hopes Veatch becomes his permanent replacement.

In the meantime, Currie has big plans for his new assignment. Currie will replace Dave Hart, who announced in August that he would be stepping down.

At his introductory press conference Thursday, Currie said Tennessee ''can and should be the very best athletics program in the country.'' That's a pretty tall order for a school that hasn't finished in the top 30 of the Directors' Cup all-sports standings since 2010-11.

Currie understands the difficulty of achieving such ambitious goals. That's one thing he's learned since his last stint in Knoxville.

''When I was a young guy, I'd go into my boss Mike Hamilton's office and say, `We've got to do this and this,'" Currie recalled. ''Sometimes, he'd have to look at me and say, `Hey, Currie, this job's not quite as easy as you think it is.'"

After a few bumps and bruises, Currie seems prepared to handle the tough tasks ahead of him.

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Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee

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