On the same day that Tennessee lost an assistant to another in-state school, Desmond Oliver leaving the Vols to become the head coach at ETSU, they also added an assistant coach from an in-state school. Tennessee has announced that they have hired Rod Clark to be an assistant coach for the Vols. Clark will fill one of the two assistant coaching voids for Rick Barnes that were left by the departures of Oliver to ETSU and Kim English to George Mason.
The 28-year-old Clark is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and is entering just his third season as a college assistant. In his lone season in Clarksville, Clark saw the Governors post a winning record and impressive defensive stats. Clark also spent his first season as a college assistant in 2019-2020 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While Clark may have limited experience in the college ranks, he spent time as an assistant at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas from 2017-2019. Sunrise is one of the elite national powers in all of high school basketball. The Buffaloes are perennially in the discussion for the best high school basketball team in the nation, and that was also the case while Clark served as the top assistant at Sunrise. If Sunrise Christian sounds familiar to Tennessee fans, that is because Tennessee’s top signee, Kennedy Chandler, just finished his senior season at Sunrise. Clark has additional ties to Chandler as well. Clark served as the head coach of the prestigious MoKan Elite program in the Nike EYBL circuit, which Chandler played on. Clark also played college basketball himself, graduating and finishing his playing career at Lindsey Wilson College in 2015.
Describing his new hire, Rick Barnes had this to say. "We had an opportunity to be very selective in making this hire, and I couldn't be more excited about adding Rod to our staff," Barnes said. "We weren't the only high-major program who wanted him, but thankfully he wanted to be at Tennessee. He fits everything we prioritize in our program culture, and I know he is going to connect with our players in a special way."
When talking about his new partner on the bench, the only returning Tennessee assistant coach, Mike Schwartz, had this to say. "Rod understands how to develop college players and make them better. Before transitioning to the college game, he proved himself at the highest levels of high school and grassroots basketball. In doing so, he developed a powerful recruiting network built on genuine relationships."
It will be interesting to see how Barnes chooses to fill the remaining spot on his staff. Clark is certainly viewed as a bright, young coach that is on the rise. However, he comes in to replace Desmond Oliver who had over two decades of coaching experience at the college level, and Kim English with six years of experience as a coach and NBA experience as a player. Clark is a bright and energetic coach. He has large shoes to fill and major expectations, but he should attack the role with his characteristic passion.