Rick Barnes now officially has a second assistant to replace on his coaching staff this year. What had been rumored for some time has now been made official, as Desmond Oliver leaves Tennessee as an assistant to take the head coaching job at ETSU. Kim English also left the Tennessee staff after the Vols were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, moving on to become the head coach at George Mason. The Vols have had to replace multiple assistants under Barnes, with various coaches moving on to other opportunities or promotions, however Oliver may prove a more challenging presence to replace.
Desmond Oliver joined the Tennessee program leading up to the 2015-2016 season. He began his coaching career back in 1994. The Buffalo, New York native has been an assistant at Saint Bonaventure, Cornell, Rhode Island, Niagara, Canisius, Charlotte, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Tennessee. Oliver has recruited many different regions and worked at various levels of programs, from exceptionally small school, to successful mid-majors, and large Power Five programs. Oliver has often been praised by Rick Barnes for his wide contributions to the program. Oliver has succeeded with Barnes in part because he, like Barnes, is noted for his skills as a teacher of fundamentals and technique. In over two decades of experience on the bench, Oliver presents a polished option as a coach that demands respect from players and adds a strong presence in the locker room.
For Tennessee, Oliver also showed his eye for finding and developing talent. Oliver was listed as the lead recruiter for former Tennessee players Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, and Jordan Bone. Those three alone make up quite a resume, with Williams being drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Celtics, while Schofield and Bone were each drafted in the second round by the Wizards and Pistons respectively. All three players arrived in Knoxville as relatively unheralded three-star prospects that were developed under Barnes and Oliver. Williams went on to become a two-time SEC Player of the Year before turning pro after his junior season. Schofield was an All-SEC selection for the Vols and ended his senior year as one of the most beloved players in program history. Jordan Bone was also an All-SEC selection before leaving a year early for the NBA Draft. That core of players, recruited by Oliver, served as the foundation to elevate the Tennessee program to where it is now.
A few names have been associated with the open positions that Tennessee currently has, but none have been solidified yet. Oliver and English leave major voids on the bench and in recruiting for Barnes to replace. It will also be interesting to see how the transfer portal plays out, as several players have already left the program. At this point, ETSU or George Mason could be primed to land those players. The Buccaneers gain a polished coach well-prepared for his first head coaching job, and the Vols need to replace a second highly regarded assistant.