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East Tennessee State hires Desmond Oliver to replace men’s basketball coach who left after kneeling controversy

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East Tennessee State named veteran Tennessee assistant Desmond Oliver as their new men’s basketball coach on Monday, less than a week after the former school coach resigned amid a backlash when his team knelt during the national anthem.

Oliver is replacing Jason Shay, who faced harsh criticism from Tennessee lawmakers, college boosters and some fans for his support for his players’ protest against social injustice before stepping down on Wednesday.

Oliver, 51, is the first black men’s basketball coach at ETSU. He’s a longtime assistant coach and highly regarded recruiter who has worked on the Tennessee staff since 2015. Previously, the Buffalo, New York native was an assistant at eight other universities – Niagara, Texas A&M, Cornell, St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island, Georgia, Canisius and Charlotte – since he started coaching in 1994.

Oliver returns to a traditionally strong schedule now in shock after the kneeling controversy and Shay’s departure. At least seven ETSU players have entered the transfer portal.

In his introductory press conference on Monday, Oliver vowed to train a fast-paced, crowd-pleasing style at ETSU and to recruit hardworking, high-performance players. One of his first jobs, he said, would be to try to “recruit our guys again”.

Shay, who was in his first year as head coach of ETSU, has been at the center of controversy since he supported his players’ silent protest, which was first noticed ahead of the l ‘team on February 15 against Chattanooga. The protest sparked outrage from key supporters of the university. The entire Tennessee State Senate Republican Caucus signed a letter calling on the presidents of all public universities in the state to adopt policies banning such protests. In addition, some key ETSU donors and season ticket holders have withdrawn their support for the school.

A car dealership, Johnson City Honda, which provided loaner vehicles to members of the ETSU coaching staff, recovered their cars after the controversy erupted. Joe Trujillo, owner of the dealership and a member of the university’s fundraising committee, told a local reporter that he opposed any protest held while the national anthem was being played.

“I just don’t agree with the platform kneeling during the anthem. Is there an injustice? Absolutely. If they want to take a knee before or after I’m the first one. over there, ”Trujillo told WCYB-TV. “My father served 30 years in the United States Army. We are a military family. The flag … means a lot to me.”

Trujillo’s position may be popular in conservative eastern Tennessee, but it is at odds with Honda’s official position. “These actions are against our beliefs,” Honda tweeted on April 1. “We have shared this with the appropriate parties for further action.”

Trujillo did not respond to ESPN’s requests for further comment.

Many in the community, including some of Shay’s players, are convinced that the kneeling reaction prompted his resignation.

“I’m not 100% sure he was forced to step down, but controversy must have played a part in it,” main goalie David Sloan told ESPN.

University officials, however, insist Shay was not kicked out.

“ETSU did not fire Coach Shay or force Coach Shay to resign,” athletic director Scott Carter said in a statement last week. “As stated in the terms of the separation agreement, in Coach Shay’s statement and in my previous statement, Coach Shay has decided to resign.”

Shay, who was earning over $ 300,000 per year and had two years left on his contract, received severance pay of $ 450,000 from ETSU to be paid in $ 18,750 per month over 24 months, under the terms of a separation agreement he concluded with the University. He and his family will also have university health insurance for two years, or until he finds a new job, whichever comes first.

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