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Assigned Reading: It’s tough to ascend the coaching ‘ladder’

Aug 30, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

University of Tennessee University of Tennessee

One of the most interesting aspects of the offseason in college basketball is the coaching carousel, with the movements at the top of the chain (head coach) leading to a trickle-down effect that is even felt by those on the lower rungs of the ladder. There are your grad assistants, video coordinators and directors of basketball operations, who work hard every day to put themselves in position to earn an assistant coaching job.

But things don’t always work out that way, leaving staffers to weigh their goal of making it as a college coach with the reality of the situation. One person in that spot was former Tennessee director of video scouting, Mark Pancratz. After beginning his time in Knoxville as an assistant to Bruce Pearl in 2006, Pancratz made the tough decision earlier this week to move on. Brendan F. Quinn’s (Knoxville News) column on Pancratz’s decision captured what the coach had to address in making the decision.

Over a 20-minute conversation Tuesday, Mark Pancratz darted and zipped from one point to another. There were rumblings out there that he had resigned as Tennessee’s director of video scouting. I called and simply asked, “Are you out?”

No follow-up questions were necessary. Pancratz ran away with the conversation. He lamented over his lack of progress in the coaching profession. He recounted the malaise he felt walking into Cuonzo Martin’s office the day he quit. He talked about being scared of finding himself years down the line as a 35-year-old father of two working as a No. 3 assistant making nickels at an out-of-the-way, never-heard-of-it program.

Pancratz wrote about the matter himself, labeling it as the “toughest decision of his life,” and I’d encourage you all to give it a read. For every coach who makes that triumphant ascension up the coaching ladder, there are many more who struggle everyday to simply take the next step.

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