6-year deal more than $800,000 a year
Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson signed a new six-year contract that will keep him with the Volunteers through the 2008-09 season, a source close to the negotiation told ESPN.com Tuesday night.
The deal, with incentives for things such as NCAA Tournament appearances, will increase Peterson's salary from an estimated $800,000 to $925,000, the source said.
Peterson, 32-28 in two seasons at Tennessee, had four years remaining on his original contract, but this is a new deal, the source said. Tennessee finished 17-12 last season, tied for fourth at 9-7 in the SEC East. The Volunteers lost to Georgetown in the NIT first round.
The new deal comes after Peterson signed a big-time recruiting class. The Volunteers got 6-10 Jackie Butler, a one-time Mississippi State signee out of McComb, Miss., and 6-9 Damion Harris of Greenville, S.C.
Butler is considered a potential first-round NBA draft pick and might never set foot on the Volunteer campus. But if Butler does not go straight to the NBA, and assuming he's eligible (he needs to qualify academically after not getting eligible at Mississippi State out of high school), then the Volunteers could be an SEC East favorite in 2004-05.
Tennessee has UCLA transfer Andre Patterson sitting out this season. The Vols also added 6-10 freshman Major Wingate, who is becoming the surprise of the preseason as a shot blocker, rebounder and in-the-lane scorer.
This season's expected go-to scorers -- Scooter McFadgon, who averaged over 30 points on a trip to the Dominican Republic last month, point guard C.J. Watson, rebounding forward Jemere Hendrix and inside scorer Brandon Crump -- also should return next year.
If Butler makes it onto the team, the Volunteers would have five players 6-10 or taller in 2004-05.
Peterson's contract isn't the only new thing at Tennessee. He has loosened the reins on the team and is letting his players run more often. Watson is looking to get out on the break off every rebound.
The Volunteers staff said taking Butler was worth the gamble even if he never plays for Tennessee. Getting Butler to sign might help Tennessee sign top-10 junior Tyler Smith out of Pulaski, Tenn. Butler and Smith are close friends.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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