3. New head coach Bruce Pearl was not a thing yet.
Just two months before the Tennessee Vols reached the College World Series in 2005, Mike Hamilton had made his first big coaching move as athletic director. He fired Tennessee basketball head coach Buzz Peterson after Peterson had failed to take the program to the NCAA Tournament in four years on the job while also suffering two losing seasons.
There was a lot of talk about different replacements, including Bobby Knight. Hamilton found a guy from the Northeast though who had just taken an unknown program in Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the Sweet 16. This guy’s name was Bruce Pearl, and he would change the SEC forever.
Pearl brought his up-tempo style, which included pressing for 40 minutes if possible and running the flex out of half-court sets on offense. He was going to try to introduce it to an SEC that at the time still focused on half-court defenses and playing an inside-out game. Even the biggest Vol fans had no idea the impact Pearl would have on the SEC.
UT was about to embark on what remains the greatest six-year run in the history of the program before Pearl was fired and received a three-year show-cause due to a recruiting violation, only to be rehired by the Auburn Tigers when his show-cause ended. Pearl is still an SEC legend in the midst of his coaching career, but at this point, it was just beginning.