Tennessee fans may not know it, but Dooley is a coaching upgrade
He wore a dark suit and an orange tie. His last name is famous in college football circles. That's where the similarities end between the introductions of
Back away from your message boards, Volunteers. Forget Dooley's record at Louisiana Tech. It shouldn't take long before you realize you've upgraded.
In December 2008, Kiffin sounded like
Dooley didn't make many promises Friday, but he did glance over his shoulder at General
"I'm glad to see I believed in everything up there," Dooley said. "Thank God the general knew what he's doing. He was something special."
Unlike his predecessor, Dooley understands each school has its own culture. "I said from the beginning, this isn't my program," Dooley said. "It's been here a long time. It's going to be here long after I am. The worst thing you can do is come do a canned setup anywhere you go."
Forgive the indulgence, but these are those seven maxims. Whether you cheer for Tennessee, Alabama, Texas or Boise State, if you know football, you'll recognize that
It all sounds simple -- something every coach should know -- but it means something more in Tennessee.
So forget the fact that Dooley went 17-20 at Louisiana Tech. The degree of difficulty there is much higher than at Tennessee; Dooley's 8-5 season with an Independence Bowl win in 2008 is the equivalent of Tennessee winning an SEC title. Or, if this makes you feel better, remember that Kiffin had a 5-15 career record as a head coach when Tennessee hired him.
Like Kiffin, Dooley was born with a silver whistle in his mouth. Unlike Kiffin, Dooley spit his out. Dooley could have gone to Georgia and played for his dad. Instead, he walked on at Virginia. Dooley could have entered coaching after college and ridden his father's coattails. Instead, he went to law school.
Dooley began his working life in 1994 as an associate in the civil litigation department of the Atlanta office of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough. According to
"An associate's life is hard," Millwood told SI.com. "You work long hours. You're expected to do many tasks -- and it's not the glamour work. ... You don't get to do some of the more flashy stuff."
Basically, Dooley was the legal equivalent of a graduate assistant. He wanted to be the head coach.
"You could tell he wanted to do more," Millwood said. "He wanted to do the stand-up and the trial work, which, in a big firm, is hard for an entry-level guy to do."
Millwood had Dooley argue one discovery motion before a judge. Dooley did well, and Millwood insists his choice of associates had nothing to do with the fact that the judge's son played football at Georgia.
Before long, Millwood realized Dooley longed for something different. "It became clear early on," Millwood said, "that his heart was in coaching."
So Millwood wasn't surprised when Dooley came to him in 1996 with the news that he planned to give up his lucrative job. "We overpay young lawyers, unfortunately," Millwood said. "Still do." That's never been a problem for young coaches. Dooley's salary as a grad assistant at Georgia barely broke five figures. Meanwhile, his fiancée toiled away in medical school.
It didn't take Dooley long to impress in his second career. He moved on to coach receivers at Southern Methodist, and in 2000,
Dooley stayed with Saban through a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins. Dooley flirted with the idea of joining Saban at Alabama, but Dooley felt he could learn more by -- to use an attorney's term -- hanging out his own shingle. Dooley understands now that if he'd stayed with Saban, he'd probably be viewed with the same reverence as Texas defensive coordinator
"I'm sure, had I stayed with Nick, that I might have been a more popular candidate for this job now," Dooley said. "I am
In 2007, Muschamp -- or at least the idea of Muschamp -- went by a different name:
So maybe there is something to be learned by tilting at windmills as a first-time head coach. Dooley certainly had a challenge at Louisiana Tech. Terry
Dooley could have reamed his athletic director for that, except for the past two seasons, Dooley
That was about as rowdy as Dooley's introductory press conference got. Dooley didn't call out any conference rivals. He didn't even bite when a reporter asked him if he'd call USC's mid-term recruits and beg them not to attend class. Kiffin's recruiting coordinator,
Dooley has plenty to take care of in his new house. He must put out the dumpster fire Kiffin left blazing. He must salvage the recruiting class. He must calm the nerves of a fan base that expected a big-name hire, not just a big-last-name hire. He won't do any of that by focusing on the past.
"We've got plenty to be feeling good about in this program, and that's what we should focus on," he said. "The times of worrying about what happened are over."
Dooley understands his new program has endured a traumatic past 15 months. He understands his players have watched one coach get fired and watched another walk away. He also understands they can learn from their travails.
"If you think this is as hard as it gets in life, look out," Dooley said. "Because life is tough. You're going to get knocked down a bunch. The quicker you learn to deal with how you react to it, dust your britches off and move on, then the quicker you're going to lead to happiness."
Did he just say britches? Yes, he did. He'll fit in just fine.