Vince Dooley ready to cheer son Derek at Tennessee


Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 3:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 3:06 p.m.

ATLANTA — Vince Dooley was an assistant coach at Auburn with little name recognition when he was the surprise pick as Georgia's coach in 1964.

Dooley's son, Derek, was a similarly unexpected choice on Friday to take over Tennessee's program. The elder Dooley says Derek is far better qualified for his opportunity in the tough Southeastern Conference.

"I would say I might have been the least popular choice," Vince Dooley said Saturday. "Georgia people were excited because it was a national search and they were very excited when they said the new coach was Vince. They were thinking Vince Lombardi, and when they said 'Vince Dooley' the Georgia people said, 'Who in the heck is Vince Dooley?'"

Derek Dooley's three-year record at Louisiana Tech was 17-20. He was hired to replace Lane Kiffin, who abruptly resigned Tuesday night to coach at Southern California.

Dooley attended his first Tennessee basketball game as coach on Saturday, less than 24 hours after he was introduced. Dooley walked into Thompson-Boling Arena to loud cheers and a round of "Rocky Top" by the pep band.

Vince Dooley, 77, won 201 games, six SEC championships and the 1980 national title at Georgia. He also was the school's athletic director for 25 years.

He received the Paul "Bear" Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday night in Houston.

Dooley said he and his wife, Barbara, are "very happy, very proud of Derek."

"It's a wonderful opportunity," he said. "It's special because it's in the conference, though I'd have to be candid and admit that if it was in the conference I would wish it was not a school that was so close and competitive to the place I've spent my last 40-something years."

He said he'll have mixed emotions but will quietly pull for his son when Tennessee plays at Georgia on Oct. 9.

It will not be Derek's first time on the visiting sideline at Sanford Stadium. He was a wide receiver at Virginia in 1987 when the Cavaliers lost to his father's Georgia team.

"It will be strange," said the elder Dooley, who said he's glad he'll be able to watch the Tennessee-Georgia game from his private box at Sanford Stadium.

"No question my wife will be vocal. While I have mixed emotions, inside it will be hard to go against my family. I was with my family before I was with Georgia. But I can assure you it will be a quiet pulling for my son in Sanford Stadium."

After completing his career at Virginia, Derek Dooley earned his law degree from Georgia in 1994 and worked as a lawyer in Atlanta for about two years.

"Then he came and told me he wasn't happy and wanted to coach," Vince said. "I started arguing with him, but they teach you to argue in law school, plus he was on the debate team, so I lost that debate in about 15 seconds. He has taken his own path on some occasions."

Dooley said he "might slip up to Knoxville" to watch his son on the sideline on weekends when Georgia is on the road. He wasn't ready to commit to wearing orange on those visits.

Dooley wore a Louisiana Tech shirt for Derek's first game as a head coach, but he said it would have to be "a very special occasion" for him to wear orange. Even then he says he'd wear Tennessee's colors "very conservatively."

Added Dooley: "It'd take me a long time to be able to adjust to that."

He said Barbara won't hesitate about wearing orange to support her youngest child.

"Derek is the baby," Dooley said. "They have had extra special relationship. I have to keep reminding her he is not a baby anymore. He is grown up and makes his own decisions."

The youngest Dooley proved that point Friday.

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