Mocs, Shulman parting ways after 9 seasons - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Mocs, Shulman parting ways after 9 seasons

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- John Shulman is fond of one particular charcoal suit.

It's his lucky suit, and he always wears it with the same blue-and-gold tie.

He's worn the outfit while sweating out every one of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's highest moments in the last decade, and he's worn it while consoling emotional players after some of it's most disappointing postseason losses.

The suit made its final appearance at McKenzie Arena Wednesday afternoon, when Shulman was ousted as head coach.

UTC interim athletic director Laura Herron announced the university and Shulman are parting ways after nine seasons, inviting more transition to an athletic department and university already in flux.

UTC will buy out the final year of Shulman's contract, a cost of $138,000, to avoid going through the next year with a lame duck head coach.

"We understand the difficulties coaching collegiate men's basketball under such conditions, so we feel it's in the best interest of all parties that this course of action take place," Herron said from the podium in UTC's Hall of Fame Room at McKenzie Arena.

Shulman approached Herron for an extension to his deal, but the request was denied after Herron met with interim chancellor Dr. Grady Bogue and newly-hired chancellor Dr. Steve Angle.

"This team has exciting future. It made great strides academically and made great strides on the basketball court. We're excited about the signing class we have and we have some momentum, but then you've got a coach with no contract," Shulman said. "It shuts it all down and it's a distraction for your players. You can't continue that momentum.

"I'm so appreciative of the opportunity I got here, but I want to see (that momentum) keep going. Without an extension, it would be too difficult to keep that going."

Shulman leaves with a 145-146 overall record as the Mocs' head coach, including a 13-19 mark in his final year. UTC celebrated two NCAA Tournament appearances and four Southern Conference North Division titles in his tenure, but the program has failed to finish above .500 in each of the last four years.

"I'm very proud of what we accomplished," Shulman said. "My family and I have put everything we have into this deal. We've had our memories, and we've had some great ones.

"I was never coaching for my job. I was coaching for those kids. Isn't that a unique concept? I was coaching for the right reasons and it wasn't a job, so I didn't worry about this and that (this past year)."

Assistant coach Casey Long, a former UTC player under Shulman, will serve as the interim athletic director. Fellow assistants Brent Jolly and DeAntoine Beasley will also remain on staff, but were not made interim coach to allow them the option of applying for the permanent job.

Long just finished his first season on Shulman's staff, and had the task of informing many of the players about the decision.

"I really haven't thought about it yet, to be honest with you, because I played for him as well and took it hard like our players did," Long said when asked about his responsibilities moving forward. "I'm a more professional rank as an assistant coach, but as a former player who had Coach Shulman play such a huge role in getting me here, I'm still taking it kind of hard."

Herron said the search to replace Shulman will take some time, considering UTC has not yet hired an athletic director. The university hopes to have a new AD by the end of April, at which point the new hire will have a say in hiring a new men's basketball coach.

"The new athletic director will set the criteria (for the new head coach search), but here we always pursue comprehensive excellence academically, athletically and socially," Herron said. "We have a young and talented team that really does a lot of those that, but again, we need to do better on the court.

"We need to get our wins up, get the community excited and get our attendance back up."

Shulman does not yet know what's next for his professional career, noting that "breathing" was the next immediate thing on his to-do list.

He voiced pride in all of his program's accomplishments over the past nine years and said he's leaving with no regrets about the way he directed it -- outside of a few game management decisions.

He may have done his best coaching job this past season with a team that relied heavily on five true freshman and two sophomores after a career-ending injury to starting senior point guard Dontay Hampton.

It's those moments molding young men that he'll miss the most.

"I got into coaching because I love young people and wanted to make an impact with young people, but college athletics got screwed up somewhere along the way and now if you don't win enough you don't get to make an impact on young people. How silly and how stupid that is," Shulman said. "I wanted to help young men grow and become better players and people. That's why I coached, and that's what we did.

"I'm awfully proud of what we did, and now it's time to say goodbye."

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