- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee’s coaching position had just become available when Donnie Tyndall received a text message urging him to pursue the job.

This particular message did not come from Tyndall’s agent. It instead was from his 11-year-old daughter, Grace Elizabeth. Her note said in all capital letters that “THE TENNESSEE JOB IS OPEN. HINT, HINT.”

“Certainly this is a job that was on my radar - and Gracie’s too,” Tyndall said Tuesday at his introductory press conference as Tennessee’s coach.

Tyndall agreed to a six-year contract worth $1.6 million per year to replace Cuonzo Martin, who went 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee before California hired him on April 15.

The 43-year-old Tyndall went 56-17 with a pair of NIT appearances in two seasons at Southern Mississippi. Before going to Southern Mississippi, Tyndall was 114-85 with two NCAA tournament appearances in six seasons at Morehead State, which had gone 4-23 the year before his arrival. His 2011 Morehead State team upset Louisville in the NCAA tournament.

Tyndall called Tennessee a place where “you can compete to go to the Final Four and you can compete to win a national championship. And that’s my plan.”

“Tennessee, to me, is a destination job,” Tyndall said.

The hire of Tyndall continues Tennessee’s recent tradition of selecting coaches from mid-major programs. Martin came to Tennessee in 2011 after three seasons at Missouri State. Martin was preceded by Bruce Pearl, who arrived at Tennessee from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Pearl and Martin helped Tennessee reach four regional semifinals in the last eight years.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart praised Tyndall’s boundless energy and winning history. Hart said Tyndall’s traits reminded him of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones. Tyndall and Jones grew up about an hour away from each other. Tyndall was born in Grand Rapids, Mich. Jones is from Saugatuck, Mich.

Tyndall also has experience coaching in the Southeastern Conference and in the state of Tennessee. He was an assistant at LSU from 1997-2001 and at Middle Tennessee from 2002-06.

Donnie Tyndall fits the profile perfectly,” Hart said.

Tyndall faces some immediate challenges.

Tennessee loses four of its top five scorers from the team that went 23-14 and reached a regional semifinal this season.

Tyndall also must unite a fan base that was divided for much of this season between Martin supporters and Pearl backers. Although Martin averaged 21 wins a year at Tennessee, some disgruntled fans started an online petition to bring back Pearl when the team struggled early this season.

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