For Johnny Paul Cole, studying sports management as a graduate student at UT isn’t the only part of his daily routine.
When not in school, Cole spends his time as a graduate assistant coach for the men’s basketball team where he works closely with assistant coach Mark Pancratz, who is the coordinator of video scouting.
“I mainly help our video coordinator Mark Pancratz with film,” Cole said. “During the game, my responsibilities are live scouting our game. I’ll split it up between offensive possessions and defensive possessions, and then as soon as the game is over Coach (Cuonzo Martin) can go back and look at every time we scored, every time we gave up a score, and different things like that that he likes to at. I also help our coaches get ready for their upcoming scouts, so I get the next opponent’s last five or six games and have that on their computers ready for them to breakdown. I really do anything and everything in between.”
Helping the video coordinator isn’t the only responsibility that Cole has. He also works with Director of Basketball Operations Houston Fancher.
“My other responsibilities include helping Coach Fancher with setting up visiting team practice times and assisting the visiting teams when they come in and make sure they accommodated for,” Cole said. “My other regular duties include doing laundry every day, coming to practice, and being on call to rebound for any of these guys whenever they want to get shots.”
Cole has been with the team for six years now, getting the job before he had even attended a class here at UT.
“Everybody’s path to getting a job like this is different,” Cole said. “Mine started before I was a freshman here. During my orientation visit I came to the basketball office and asked them if I could work and they said if I showed up when I got back on campus they’d give me a job. When I was a freshman, there were 10 of us that started out and by the time I graduated three of us had survived, so it’s survival of the fittest for sure.”
For big sports fans, the idea of spending a lot of time around players that we watch and cheer for is a dream. It’s a dream that Johnny Paul gets to live every day, but that’s not the way he looks at it.
“The way I look at it is all of these guys are just kids,” Cole said. “That’s one thing you forget when you watch them on TV. You think, man they should be better or they should think about this, but the one thing I like about it is seeing that they’re all kids just like me, they’re all going to class everyday, having to do tutoring and all that stuff, but it just happens to be that they play basketball while they are here.”
One of the major perks to Cole’s job as an assistant coach is that he gets to travel with the team and has been to every game since the 2007-2008 season.
“I was put on full-time traveling duties halfway through my freshman year and I’ve traveled to every game since the ’07-’08 season,” Cole said. “My favorite road trip that I’ve ever been on was in the ’08-’09 (season) when we went to Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas. (Kentucky's) Rupp Arena is up there, but Kansas was one of the most memorable road trips I’ll ever have.”
Some may think that a graduate assistant coach can’t be an important part of a team’s success, but Mark Pancratz believes Johnny Paul is a crucial asset for the Vols.
“He’s vital to our day-to-day operations and the success of our program and all the little things behind the scenes,” Pancratz said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s really good at what he does. He’s knowledgeable about his craft and the things that he helps us with, and he’s willing at any time of day, no matter the day, to come in and help any assistants our Coach Martin do whatever is necessary to be successful that day.”