CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- John Shulman left the Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville at a crossroads last Friday night.
Three days later he returned to Chattanooga with a clear focus for his future.
Athletic director Rick Hart confirmed Friday morning that Shulman will remain the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach. The two met in a "series of discussions" this week before reaching the decision.
"We spoke throughout the week in an effort to assess where the program is, but really where we're going and what the expectations and standards are moving forward, and also to confirm that he is the individual who wants to lead us down this unfamiliar path," Hart said. "This was not about one particular season, it's about where we're heading and our future.
"John left no doubt in my mind when we met that he's up to the challenge of taking us in this new direction and repositioning our program."
Shulman said his meetings with Hart were similar to the ones he always has with the Mocs' AD after the season, though he acknowledged they "were a little more pronounced" after UTC suffered one of its worst seasons in program history.
"Going through the year that we had, you need to give yourself some time to think," Shulman said. "But when I got to real thinking, my thinking was very simple: I coach. I impact kids. That's what I've been put on this earth to do. My passion is still with coaching. My passion is still here at Chattanooga.
"Do people fail? Ya. People fail in coaching, in business, in everything. But a lot of people quit, and that wasn't going to happen here."
Chattanooga finished 11-21 overall, including 5-13 in SoCon play, and went one-and-done in the conference tournament for the second straight year. The Mocs also went winless on the road for the first time in the program's Division I era.
"I'm taking anger and turning into eager, and we're embracing the challenge to go do something really neat." said Shulman. "We're going into unfamiliar grounds now, but what an exciting time.
"When you think about it, there really isn't any new news today. Does Chattanooga have a new basketball coach? No. It's the same old guy, just with great passion."
That passion has produced NCAA Tournament bids in 2005 and 2009 and four North Division titles in the last eight years. However, the first 20-loss season in program history leaves Shulman's career record at 132-127, including 71-71 in SoCon play. Against only Division I competition, his mark dips to 112-127 overall.
Hart said finances were never discussed and did not factor into the decision to retain the eighth-year coach, who still has two years remaining on his contract worth $138,000 a year plus incentives.
Shulman said he isn't worried about his contract status or any tangible goals or numbers he must reach in the coming year. He also doesn't plan any staff changes, noting that assistants Brent Jolly, Rick Cabrera and DeAntoine Beasley will all return.
"We're going to go to work. We're going to get better. We've got new kids coming in who are very excited," he said. "We're going to be extremely talented. We're going to be extremely young, but it's going to be extremely refreshing."
Speculation about Shulman's future arose long before last Friday's season-ending 76-70 loss to Georgia Southern.
There has been growing unrest from many in the UTC fan-base in recent years, and Hart has not turned a deaf ear to them. Still, he believes no one is more disappointed with the sudden downward turn than he and Shulman, and no one will work harder than them to end that trend.
"I understand there are some fans who are not satisfied, but I will tell you there are plenty of supporters, as well, who have been equally as vocal," Hart said. "We want to make sure that is balanced, so we were thorough in evaluating the program while listening to fans and supporters. We feel this is what is best for the program."
"Nobody cares more about this program and this community than Coach Shulman. We certainly want and expect to get back to the point where we're winning championships. He's done that before and he wants to do that again."
Thursday, May 23 2013 7:30 PM EDT2013-05-23 23:30:42 GMT
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