ETSU hires Vols assistant Desmond Oliver as new men’s coach


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — East Tennessee State has hired Tennessee assistant Desmond Oliver as the Buccaneers’ new men’s basketball coach, six days after Jason Shay resigned unexpectedly after one season.

ETSU athletic director Scott Carter introduced Oliver as the program’s 18th head coach Monday afternoon.

“The vision for my program is simple,” Oliver said at an introductory news conference that lasted an hour. “I want to continue winning championships.”

Oliver, 51, is the first Black coach in the history of ETSU men’s basketball. The first-time head coach takes over a team with at least six players in the transfer portal, including Southern Conference freshman of the year Damari Monsanto, since ETSU announced March 30th that Shay resigned one season and a 13-12 record.

Shay said in a statement issued through the school he decided it was in the best interest of himself and his family and also the ETSU program for him to resign. Some players told reporters they believe Shay was forced to quit after backing them for kneeling during the national anthem before a February game at Chattanooga. Some of that criticism came from Republican Tennessee state lawmakers.

Oliver met with the remaining players for 75 minutes before his news conference. He said he will start by re-recruiting the current players.

“I’m not going to beg them to come and stay and play,” Oliver said.

Oliver said he dealt with criticism early in his six seasons at Tennessee and asked Volunteers’ fans to give him four years to show what he could do. He said if ETSU fans do the same, they’ll like the results.

“That’s why I’m here,” said Oliver, who spoke for more than 45 introducing himself.

ETSU won 30 games under Steve Forbes and won the Southern Conference Tournament before the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

With Oliver on the bench, Tennessee won 92 games over the past four seasons with three straight NCAA Tournament berths. The native of Buffalo, New York, helped Tennessee land the No. 4 recruiting class for 2020 with two five-star prospects in Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson.

He started coaching in college at Niagara in 1994, was an assistant at Texas A&M in 1997-98, Cornell in 1998-2000 and at St. Bonaventure in 2000-01 before going with head coach Jim Baron to Rhode Island for three seasons.

Oliver then left for Georgia where he was an assistant from 2004-09 and was an assistant at Charlotte from 2010-15 before going to Tennessee. He was a three-year starter and two-time captain at Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York, before graduating in 1992. He earned a master’s degree from Buffalo State in 1994.

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