ETSU’s new men’s basketball coach addresses kneeling controversy

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Desmond Oliver is taking over a men’s basketball program that has been at the center of controversy.

Oliver was officially named head coach at ETSU on Monday and will replace first-year head coach Jason Shay, who resigned last week after his first season.

Under Shay, ETSU made headlines when the team was spotted kneeling during the playing of the national anthem prior to a basketball game in Chattanooga back in February. The team had kneeled at other away games too.

The team’s conduct drew criticism from local fans and politicians.

ETSU basketball players kneel during the national anthem at a Feb. 15 game in Chattanooga. (Photo: WJHL)

The university made headlines once again when it was announced last week that Shay was stepping down with a $450,000 severance deal. Some believe he was forced or pushed to resign.

During Monday’s news conference at ETSU, News Channel 11 Sports Director Kenny Hawkins asked Oliver, ETSU’s first Black men’s basketball coach, if the kneeling controversy was the least bit scary before he said yes to the job.

“It made me think. That’s normal right? I wanted to do my research and find out, hear stories of what was happening, what actually happened, and how did things happen. Sure,” Oliver said.

ETSU’s new coach also said he will lead a process of healing, but it won’t happen overnight.

Oliver was also asked if he will allow his team to kneel during the national anthem. At first he said today wasn’t the time to talk about that. Then he shared that he helped resolve the issue at the University of Tennessee when players want to kneel by encouraging communication off the basketball court.

“That’s going to be our approach, is communicating,” Oliver said. “I want by the time our by the time we start playing, the 13 scholarship guys that we have to be so much better at communicating using their ability to talk to people, to create change, that no one is going to ask that question here in another month because they are going to know, ETSU men’s basketball team is in the community and they will put that to bed.”

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