With the recent resignation of University of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, UT athletics are at a turning point.
The typically accepted view of new athletic directors is that they want "their guys" coaching the different sports.
Men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin is on a short leash when the new AD is hired due to the sport he coaches and his unproven track record.
This begs the question—if Martin is unable to find his footing in Knoxville, who would be the next person to replace him?
I know. I hate already jumping ahead and assuming Martin's failure in orange.
But it never hurts to prepare.
A little foresight is what the Volunteers have lacked the last several years in their athletic department.
This list is far from perfect, and I would love to get your input.
Without further ado, here are my five dark horse candidates to take over if the new AD wants to make a change. (Keep in mind the term dark horse—Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens don't count.)
Rick Byrd is the head coach of the Belmont men's basketball team in Nashville.
College basketball fans are fast becoming more familiar with the Bruins largely because of Byrd's ability not only to make the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis but also his team's hard play against the top seeds.
Byrd has coached Belmont since 1986. It took many years to establish the program, but things are definitely clicking now. He has led his program to the tournament four of the last six years.
In 2008, his Bruins nearly shocked the world when they lost to Duke by just one point.
Byrd is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, and his father wrote for the Knoxville News Sentinel for years.
He is 58-years old—certainly something to consider when contemplating hiring him.
But he can give Tennessee four to five very good years.
How dark can a dark horse be?
Mark Blevins is the coach of the highly successful boys team at Bearden High School in Knoxville, where he has held the position for 17 years.
Over the past four season, Blevins has compiled a record of 134-13, the best in school history.
His 2010 squad lost by six points to Memphis-based Craigmont in the state championship.
He also posted the highest winning percentage of any coach in Holston High School history before joining Bearden.
I could go on and on about how great this guy has been, but you already who I'd be talking about—he's that coach who dominates high school every year no matter who is on his team.
That's how many great college coaches begin.
And you can't beat that amazing mustache.
If you bleed orange, you love Dane Bradshaw.
While at Rocky Top, Bradshaw was the essence of hard work and determination.
I knew his numbers weren't that great as a Volunteer, but in hindsight I was surprised by just how pedestrian they were.
He averaged under five points and under four rebounds per game during his four years. (Click here for the full stat line.)
But the fact that his numbers feel like they should be so much higher tells you all you need to know about his impact on the game on and the team.
It was immeasurable.
His knowledge of the game was thorough—he was always in the right place at the right time.
Those kind of attributes work well for a basketball coach.
Bradshaw has already started giving back to the game by both hosting and contributing to basketball camps across the state.
He's remained connected to UT basketball by being a weekly guest on FM 99.3 the Sports Animal in Knoxville during the season. Bradshaw also sits courtside at many home games.
Bradshaw indicated interest in coaching at UT one day back in March in an interview with GoVolsXtra. I'd love to see him back on the court.
Could Buzz Peterson return to coach the Tennessee basketball team? Do we even want him to?
He has a history of second stints with former teams—after going 79-39 from 1996 to 2000 with Appalachian State, Peterson returned to the Mountaineers' sideline and led them to a 24-13 record in 2009.
In reality, Peterson has performed at every job he's had except during his time with the Volunteers.
Peterson knows the game of basketball like the back of his hand. Before his coaching days, he learned the game under the tutelage of the great Dean Smith at North Carolina, where Peterson roomed with Michael Jordan.
I can repeat a lot of the same things that were sold to us when Peterson was first hired, but you've heard them all.
But one thing that gets missed is that when he was fired, he was just about to bring in a lights-out recruiting class that would have included former Mississippi State star Jamont Gordon and eventual Tennessee star Tyler Smith.
Having had a taste of the big stage and having learned more about recruiting, I think we could do a lot worse than Buzz 2.0.
Don't laugh. You know she could do it.
Pat Summitt is the best coach in women's basketball history.
She has the court at UT—where both men and women play—named after her, commanding the respect of whomever steps on it.
If any woman could coach a men's team, Summitt would be the one.
I wish I could've seen her lay into Scotty Hopson after a bonehead play. It might've been good for him.
The question would be how to balance coaching both teams.
Summitt could perhaps work the schedule so that her teams would play the same away schedule.
Whatever works best for the boss.
What more can she do at Tennessee than push the men's team to a Final Four?
There are my five dark horses. Some of then are slighter darker than others.
Given the chances, I think that any of these five individuals could build the men's basketball program up to a level where it competes hard every night.
Bruce Pearl's rise to greatness was an enigma. It was also explained by cheating as we now know.
It takes years to build a national program—Mike Krzyzewski didn't win a national title for ten years at Duke.
I truly hope that Cuonzo Martin doesn't allow us to ever access this list.
But if he does, we'll be glad we prepared.