Strange but true: A Dooley now coaches the Big Orange

The intrepid Dooley men: David, Daddy and Derek. (Special to the AJC)

The always intrepid Dooley men: David, Daddy and Derek. (Photo special to the AJC)

A strange postseason (Urban Meyer, Mike Leach, Jim Leavitt) led into a stranger week (Lane Kiffin), capped by the strangest of days: Georgia and Georgia Tech hire defensive coordinators hours before the son of the Bulldogs’ greatest coach becomes the new lord of Rocky Top.

Thus does Tennessee move from one coaching scion to another, with this difference. Lane Kiffin was, is and will forever be a brat, and he traded on his dad’s name — he even brought Monte Kiffin to Knoxville to coordinate the defense that was the one and only good thing about Li’l Kiffy’s one and only band of Volunteers — to get the Vols’ job. Derek Dooley has always made his own way.

He played at Virginia, walking on as a wide receiver while his famous dad was still coaching Georgia. Vince would retire as coach after the 1988 and, while still the Georgia AD, would try to attend as many Cavalier games as possible the next few years. But Barbara Dooley, Vince’s almost-as-famous wife, would be in Charlottesville whenever UVA teed it up. Her husband still worked for Georgia, but that was her baby playing.

Derek Dooley  spent only one year with the Bulldogs, that as a grad assistant under Jim Donnan. Coaching wasn’t originally Route 1 on Derek’s career path — he graduated from UGA’s law school and went into practice in Atlanta — but eventually he felt the pull.

Turned out he was pretty good at it. By 2007, barely a decade after he’d left lawyering, Dooley had a program of his own at Louisiana Tech, where he wasn’t just the coach but eventually the athletics director as well. Which only made sense, given that his father was every bit as good an AD as he was a coach.

And now, stunningly, he’s the head Vol. Reached early Friday in St. Simons — he was attending a meeting of the Georgia Historical Society; on Thursday he’d received the Bear Bryant Award for distinguished service at a banquet in Houston — Vince Dooley gave no hint of what would happen before nightfall. He thought there still might be someone ahead of Derek in the line of Vol possibilities.

Turned out there wasn’t. Turned out Dooley the Younger is now an SEC head coach, just like his daddy was. Derek’s introduction in Knoxville late Friday was as gracious as Kiffin’s exit was grating. He called Tennessee “the essence of college football” and invoked the names of Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer. (But not, pointedly, his predecessor’s.)

There are those who’ll say he’s only getting the job because of his name, but Steve Spurrier Jr. is likewise a coach — he’s an assistant to his dad at South Carolina — and you didn’t see a school with 100,000 seats to fill knocking on the Evil Spawn’s door. Derek served his apprenticeship and learned from the best.

Indeed, it’s believed Muschamp, who played at Georgia and who coached alongside Dooley under Nick Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins, championed Dooley to Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton, who at that frazzled point needed every hint he could get. He’s not a sexy hire, but betting on sexy is how the Vols got into this mess in the first place.

This isn’t to say Derek Dooley is dull. He and his brother Daniel went skydiving with their father — yes, Vince Dooley jumped out of a plane — over Monroe a while back, and once the three Dooley men went fishing off Alaska’s Windy Bay. A stiff wind left their boat stranded on the rocks. Said Daniel: “We’d been told we’d freeze if we got into the water and if we got off on land the bears would get us.”

And who was having the time of his life? Vincent J. Dooley, who told his sons: “Men, people pay big money for this [extreme adventure]. We’re getting it for free!”

The never-dull Dooley clan is about to face another extreme adventure: On Oct. 9, 2010, Vince Dooley’s son will coach the visiting team in a venue that’s past due to be renamed Sanford-Dooley Stadium. Asked early Friday if he planned to redo the color scheme of his wardrobe if Derek became Tennessee’s coach, Vince said: “I won’t, but my wife might.”

376 comments Add your comment

MN Possum

January 15th, 2010
6:39 pm

MN Possum

January 15th, 2010
6:39 pm

Being first… a greater honor than my doctorate

SLP

January 15th, 2010
6:41 pm

Derek is a great coach and I wish him well.

bibbs

January 15th, 2010
6:44 pm

how does his wife measure up to kiffin’s?

Vick Supporters = DUMB MASSES

January 15th, 2010
6:44 pm

I thought Vince would’ve raised him better than to be foolish enough to go to a Hillbilly Cesspool like Knoxville.

I guess he takes more after Barbara, and he looks like her, too.

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 15th, 2010
6:45 pm

Good luck to him on cleaning up the mess Lane left behind.

And here’s an idea I came up with, how about no coach that’s team is under investigation can be hired by another Division 1 school until he’s either cleared of the charges or the team has served its’ probation. If they’re going to get a school in trouble they should have to stay and suffer with them or at least not to be able to run to another job and a possible raise.

Doug

January 15th, 2010
6:46 pm

We Vol fans are very happy with the hire of Derek. His father was always a class act and Derek appears to be following in Vince’s footsteps.

Hey, if we had Archie Manning’s son playing QB for us we can surely have Vince Dooley’s son as our head coach.

And sorry Mark, we will still beat Kentucky! :-) )

Vick Supporters are DUMB MASSES

January 15th, 2010
6:47 pm

I just hope that ugly Phil Fulmer doesn’t get hungry and eat poor Derek.

Champion Windows Hawker

January 15th, 2010
6:47 pm

” Hi Folks Vince Dooley along with Derek for Champion Windows. . . .We’ll hawk anything for a buck…”

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

January 15th, 2010
6:48 pm

Well, his momma and daddy raised him right and he won’t be an a$$ painter/

ArtDodger

January 15th, 2010
6:49 pm

Best of Luck…until UGA game each year

WestOfAthens

January 15th, 2010
6:52 pm

Wow, seems kind of odd? Doesn’t it?

I wonder how this is affecting the UT alumni, of course it could be falling on deaf ears.

Oh, love the photo Mark

phil

January 15th, 2010
6:52 pm

Dooley’s wife is a good looking women. She is also an OBGYN who practiced with her Dad in Dalas when Dooley coached at SMU.

This is an interesting hire. I always heard he deeply wanted the Virginia job when Groh retired (of course Groh didn’t make it to retirement), but the local UVA folks in the know never considered Dooley and postured that he wan’t ready for their job. He is driven. Trained by Saban. Won fairly well at a previously wretched La Tech. Wish him well, except for that one Saturday in October against the Dawgs. We need to really work up som hate for those guys, this doesn’t help.

kauai dawg

January 15th, 2010
6:53 pm

I wish him well on every Saturday except one. Go DAWGS!

Congratulations Derek. What a breath of fresh air after the last ego problem?

Alphare

January 15th, 2010
6:53 pm

OK, tried Kiffin Jr first, now try Dooley Jr.

If it doesn’t work, I’d recommend Spurrier Jr.

NerdBomb

January 15th, 2010
6:53 pm

We will see who does better. Kiffin or Dooley. My $$$ is on Kiffin. Unless Dooley lucks out and finds a RB of a lifetime just like his old man.

WestOfAthens

January 15th, 2010
6:54 pm

And by “odd” i mean the lightning fast hire, and the fact the news came out of nowhere

GatorFan96

January 15th, 2010
6:55 pm

Congratulations to the University of South Carolina for claiming their permanent place as the 2nd best team in the SEC East until Dooley and Richt are fired

DawgJones

January 15th, 2010
6:56 pm

Made his own way? Not quite that simple…his first college job was at SMU where a former Dooley assistant was head coach…don’t tell me dad did not help there. His first law job…King and Spalding who was doing plenty of UGA work…I am sure Dad was no help there. Kiffin did spend some pretty successful years at USC even if Daddy did help…they both had it easier than Urban Meyer…who by the way started in much humbler beginnings than both with no help from Dad.

Bullwinkle

January 15th, 2010
6:57 pm

The only thing wrong with this scenario is that it’s going to be hard to pull against him. But in college football all shades of orange are ugly.

Russ, the The Temporary Mascot

January 15th, 2010
6:58 pm

Mark, you asked Vince about painting the pool house . . . how about asking him about painting my a$$? Let’s find out what Coach Richt knew and when he knew it.

collegeballfan

January 15th, 2010
6:58 pm

I think its great! I remember Daddy Dooley getting the job at UGA.
Now his son at UT. Wow!

So when UT visits UGA this fall it will be a matchup of the last two coaches to win the Independence Bowl. Small world.

Mark

January 15th, 2010
7:01 pm

Congrats to UT (no joking) for making a quality hire. While I am Bulldog faithful, I know that this man came from a great family, has class (an over-worn label–but actually TRUE in this instance), and will not embarrass UT, Tennessee, or the south in general. What might look like “desperation” in some corners might actually ultimately prove to be a “home run hire” on UT’s part. Lastly, and “horror of horrors!” a UGA grad and born-bred-raised Georgia man and son-of-a-Georgia legend might actually become one of UT’s great success stories!!
Hey, UT has lived well off of Georgia’s recruits for many years, why not one at the helm? Rocky Top takes a step back towards respectability.
Congrats, Derek, Vince, Barbara, and the Dooley family. You are the greatest folks ever! Hey! Now UT has a “Georgia-Style” Manning-type family!

Rooferdawg

January 15th, 2010
7:01 pm

Well, I hate,,, to hate a Dooley!! but, now I do! I do not wish him well and any game! Sorry, but he should have never taken this job!

GT Fan

January 15th, 2010
7:03 pm

I cannot believe there will be a game next year that I will find myself rooting for a Dooley …

Rooferdawg

January 15th, 2010
7:03 pm

I will say this! If he does very well at UT, you will be looking at the CMR replacement.

Mark

January 15th, 2010
7:04 pm

“Nerdbomb” you are aptly correct: you are a nerd, and you bombed.

Denver Dog

January 15th, 2010
7:05 pm

I said it about 3 days ago, how crazy would it be if a Dooley ended up coaching at UT. The truth is that this young man has asked for no favors, and will do the UT program proud. I watched some sideline shots of him and was taken back to those early Vince days at UGA

In spite of all of the turmoil this week, UT has definetely married UP

phil

January 15th, 2010
7:05 pm

Dawg Jones
Law firm – Nelson and Mullins, not King and Spaulding – he was on a team that did some work for me and was a good associate. Itched to get out of that pretty quick.
Grad assistant at UGA, yes Daddy’s help
Assisitant at SMU, Cavan, yes, most likely Daddy’s help
LSU and Miami with Saban – explain that one. He was recruiting coordinator as well. Saban would do no one any favors. He only wants driven, possed demons.
La Tech – Hey, ya gotta be a first time Head Coach somewhere.

Don’t be a hater for the help. We all get a little from time to time. How ’bout you, you learned to write somewhere, somehow.

harold

January 15th, 2010
7:05 pm

TENNESSEE FANS ARE ENRAGED OVER THIS HIRE!

Go Vols

January 15th, 2010
7:05 pm

Beating UGA with Lane Kiffin at the helm was funny. Beating UGA with a Dooley at the helm is going to be even funnier. “I wish I was in good all Rocky Top!” ALL NIGHT LONG!!!

icedawg

January 15th, 2010
7:07 pm

What a week! Interesting hire at UT. The kid could be a sleeper, he’s sure been around the right folks and did well at LT. At least the character quality with this one should be no question. I hope he does well, except of course when the DAWGS come calling.

Alphare

January 15th, 2010
7:07 pm

Shula Jr was a great success at Bama, Kiffin Jr won 7 games in a single season, Bush Jr brought the country to unprecedented prosperity. I am sure Dooley Jr will bring National Champ to TN in no time.

People in south just have the keen eyes for Juniors. What can I say?

John

January 15th, 2010
7:08 pm

Heaven help him if he’s like his whinning daddy. One man only made him look good. He was pitiful. Fan at UT will run him out of town on a quick note. That’s what they all get for firing Johnny Majors.

"Last Call" Scott Hall

January 15th, 2010
7:08 pm

This guy cant be any worse than Lame Kiffin. UT will be better off in the long run. Good luck DD.

RTR

jay

January 15th, 2010
7:09 pm

I am sorry that the Vol’s hired Dooley. Mostly because
I think they upgraded significantly from the petulant,
egomaniac they had for the last 14 months. Dooley’s
Checkerboard Vols?

Barbara Salley

January 15th, 2010
7:10 pm

I dont understand? What is the difference between Dooley and Brown? Isnt Kippy Brown loyal enough to TN or is it he doesnt jump out of planes ??

Teddy KGB

January 15th, 2010
7:16 pm

As a UGA alum, I am not trying to be a smart aleck toward UT fans, but what in the hell is going on up there to make the NAVY and DUKE coaches say no to Tennessee? I respect UT and I think you guys will be better off by far with Kiffin 3000 miles away, but can a UT fan on this blog tell me what happened to make that job so unattractive?

mowreck

January 15th, 2010
7:16 pm

Taylor Bennett (QB) at GT under Chan Gailey transferred to La Tech, Truthfully, because he wasn’t the running QB that CPJ needed. Being a GT fan, I watched, I think 3 La Tech games when Bennett played QB there his senior year. UT is getting a well organize, bright young man (never thought I would say that about a Dooley). Also UGA fans, don’t forget when Vince played his football at Auburn and the Auburn were saying the same thing about Vince that UGA fans are saying about his son. I personally think UT got an excellent head coach, if they stick with him and let him have 1-3 years to work out the kinks.

Rooferdawg

January 15th, 2010
7:17 pm

Right On Time

January 15th, 2010
7:18 pm

Gross.

Vincent has to be really dissapointed in his son.

Recruiting guru

January 15th, 2010
7:19 pm

Gonna be funny watching young Derek go head to head recruiting against the likes of a Nick Saban or an Urban Meyer, not to mention actually coaching against them. WOW! This kid is in waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy over his head.

Denver Dog

January 15th, 2010
7:20 pm

Dawg Jones, no offense, but this article was about a UT coach named Dooley, nowhere is Urban Meyer mentioned. The village idiot is gone, and now there is additonal class back in the conference at Rocky Top.

Kool and the Gang took the last train to the coast, and we now have a respectable foe at UT. Like the GT Fan who said he couldn’t believe that he would be pulling for a Dooley, I can’t believe that I will be pulling against one.

mowreck

January 15th, 2010
7:20 pm

Also, I think Derek might retain some of the coaches left by Kiffin. They have the athletics to run the offense that Dooley runs. Not the offense that the Navy runs, Teddy. Just hope the UT fans give him a chance to settle in.

Tripple Lindy

January 15th, 2010
7:20 pm

As a Dawg, I’m torn: With Dooley as their new HC, I won’t be able to hate them nearly as much; they’re kind of family now.

Derek’s a great hire, I’m positive he’ll straighten things out up there. Congrats.

Observor

January 15th, 2010
7:23 pm

Denver Dog,

Yes indeed. Derek Dooley will be a respectable foe against the likes of lightweight programs like Georgia, Kentucky, Vandy, etc. But he will not be a respectable foe against the big boys like the mighty gators and Bama. Respectable foe my arse!

Dawg Tired

January 15th, 2010
7:23 pm

I’m amazed that an AD who would hire a classless punk like Kiffin would hire someone with the dignity and class of Derek Dooley. However, while I think this is a great hire by UT, I do wonder how he will relate to fans and players who actually thought, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Lane Kiffin as their coach was not only not embarrassing to the school but was actually a good idea. Sort of reminds me of when Bill Curry was coach at Alabama. It really never mattered that they had a really good coach who was a class act because he just wasn’t what they thought a coach at Alabama ought to be like. Result – they ran the classiest coach they ever had out of town. I worry UT might do the same to Derek. I hope not.

What??

January 15th, 2010
7:25 pm

Classy hire for T. I hope you all the best accept against UGA of course!

I am glad to see Laney gone. Bad news for the SEC and bad news for T. I hate that you folks were mislead by this jerk!

Look forward to future games against a class act school and class act coach!

bigdawg88

January 15th, 2010
7:25 pm

Barbara, maybe Kippy’s too brown… doh!

Voice of Reason

January 15th, 2010
7:26 pm

OK Vol fans. Your stature just came up dramatically in my eyes. Derek will not embarass UT and will be honest with recruits. He may need a few years to get his system and people in place, but that is normal. Don’t be too impatient, Vols.