By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's been a hectic schedule the last few days for John Pelphrey.
But as the newly minted Tennessee Tech head men's basketball coach stepped into the Hooper Eblen Center on Friday to be introduced as the Golden Eagles' 13th head coach, he wasn't worried.
Maybe a little nervous, but not worried.
"I was very excited," Pelphrey said. "I was nervous in a good way. I think a certain level of nervous is good, because it means something to you. This certainly means something to us. This is a new chapter for us. This is an opportunity to be part of leadership and help mold young men and be part of a community to try help build something that a lot of people want to be a part of. They want to see this place do well.
"I feel the responsibility to that. Today was the first opportunity to set expectations, to create an understanding of what I value and what we're fighting for and how we're going to operate every single day and who we want to do that with. Tennessee Tech is a special place to be at and be a part of its basketball team."
The community support for Pelphrey's introduction filled the Eagles' Nest to its limits as student-athletes, fellow Tennessee Tech coaches and administrators, community dignitaries, fans and well-wishers packed the house, eager to get a glimpse of the man who will lead the Golden Eagles into their future.
The sight was impressive to the new hire, but he has continually been impressed since the first step in Director of Athletics Mark Wilson's recruiting process.
"(The crowd) exceeded my expectations," Pelphrey said. "It honestly did, but it shouldn't because when I came here on my interview, that had exceeded my expectations. For me, the experience with the job interview, the experience I had today at the press conference, it just reaffirms to me and my family that this is where we're supposed to be. This is home."
Not even 24 hours earlier, the new coach had the opportunity to serve as a presenter in Tech Athletics' annual Golden Wings Awards. It gave Pelphrey a look into the athletics scene at Tennessee Tech and how much of a family it can be.
"There's no question about that," he said. "From the first time I got here when (assistant athletic director for external relations) Matt Dexter brought us in, I saw Cade Crosland working on his free throws. You could see how important it was to him. Cade shared a little bit of his story about how he's overcoming injury and just how much this place means to him.
"I literally walk outside and I see (women's basketball assistant coach) Allison Clark and she introduced herself to me. She didn't know who I was and I didn't know her and she said she's a former player and a current assistant coach. This is her school. From that moment in time to me, things really started feeling good about this place."
And that thought, the idea of Tech as home, resonated in Pelphrey's introduction as he talked about what Tech means to the community, its people and the student-athletes who once did – or now do – don the purple and gold.
"For me coming in here, I don't think any of that is coincidence," Pelphrey said. "My faith is very important to me and when I came in here to interview, I saw a lot of different people. Some are from here and they love it. They have no intention of leaving. Some of them came here for the first time and now have no intention of leaving.
"My wife Tracy came and had a chance to circle back at the end of the day after she was out with a few ladies, the way she came back, the way she felt, the way they made her feel, that was just another moment where we felt fortunate to have to opportunity to be here."
So the introductions have been made. Tennessee Tech has its new men's basketball coach. Now Pelphrey goes to work.
"What's next is we get into the business of basketball," he said. "First and foremost, we have to learn our young men and develop our relationship. We have to set a culture and the expectations of what we value. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that at the end of the spring semester and heading into the summer before we get into the fall. They need to know me and I need to know them.
"Certainly, there's things like handling camp, hiring a staff. Is there recruiting that needs to be done and what does that look like? Is that for next year's team or the recruiting that ends in the fall? All of that basketball stuff is important."
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information