ASHEVILLE, N.C. — John Shulman may have coached his last basketball game for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The decision is up to Shulman and newly named UTC chancellor Steve Angle, according to interim athletic director Laura Herron.
"I will be meeting with our new chancellor and talking with him this week, and reviewing our situation to see what direction he wants to go in," Herron said. "It's up to the new chancellor on what direction we take."
She said AD interviews are expected to begin in early April.
Shulman, 46, has one year left on his $138,000-per-year contract with the school after guiding the Mocs to a 145-146 record and two NCAA tournament appearances in nine seasons. He said he would not want to be a lame-duck coach like former football coach Rodney Allison, who coached the full term of his contract.
"It would not be a lot of fun," Shulman said after the Mocs lost in the first round of Southern Conference tournament Friday, 87-81 to UNC Greensboro. "If you really want my honest answer, no. Why would anybody feel comfortable with that?"
But it's a possibility if the university does not buy out the final year and Shulman does not resign.
"John has done what he needs to do," Herron said Saturday. "He's a great person. It's just hard to guess at this juncture what will happen."
The Mocs went 13-19 this season. They began the year with four scholarship freshmen in the rotation, had their best guard and senior leader in Dontay Hampton for less than four games, lost two wings to injuries for more than six weeks and had a wing player running the point for most of the season.
The team won two more games and three more SoCon games than the squad of seniors that went winless on the road last year.
"I'm proud to have coached and excited to watch them develop because they have a chance to be really good," Shulman said of this year's Mocs. "I've got a responsibility to these kids, no matter what happens. I have to make sure these young kids do what they're supposed to."
Former athletic director Rick Hart, now at Southern Methodist University, extended Shulman's contract to May 31, 2014, after UTC won the SoCon tournament in 2009. About two years later, Hart instructed Shulman to recruit only high school players instead of continuing to bring in junior college players.
"When we did this, I told Rick I thought it was going to be a two-year dip," Shulman said. "Look at what we've done. It's been a two-year dip. I think we can come out of it. I knew on the front end that it was going to happen, and it hasn't been a lot of fun going through it. We're in uncharted water.
"It's never been done at Chattanooga, and I don't know where this takes us."
This was the first time since UTC joined the Division I ranks in the 1977-78 season that the Mocs did not have a juco transfer on the roster.
"You ever felt sometimes that you're handcuffed?" Shulman said. "We feel handcuffed. It's been very difficult without junior college players, but that doesn't mean you can't get it done."
Herron said the decision was necessary to improve the program's academic performance rate. She said men's basketball scored a perfect 1,000 for the fall semester.
"Academically, things are going well there," she said. "Athletically, we've got really talented student-athletes, and we need to build on that."
The loss Friday was the Mocs' third straight first-round exit from the SoCon tournament and the seventh time ever a UTC men's team lost its first game of the tournament.
"There's a reason why this was never done," Shulman said. "I happened to be the guy to steer the ship during this time. When we were going the other direction, I don't remember first-round exits.
"As they get older, [the current Mocs] are going to get a lot better."
They may learn by watching. Shulman had the team watch the Lady Mocs and then watch the Furman-Appalachian State men's quarterfinal Saturday. He said he may have the team watch the SoCon championship game Monday at his house.
"My job isn't to worry about me," Shulman said. "My job is to worry about these kids."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...