The University of Tennessee Athletics Department will retire Ernie Grunfeld's number 22 in a special ceremony during halftime of the Vols’ game against Kentucky on March 2.
"Tennessee's basketball tradition has been built from great team performances, outstanding individual effort, inspired coaching and leadership and tremendous fan support," said Mike Hamilton, men's athletic director. “This is a great way for us to celebrate that tradition.”
UTAD announced criteria to retire numbers last year when Bernard King’s number was retired. Men's basketball candidates must have a minimum of five years between the candidate's UT basketball career and consideration of this honor. A candidate must have achieved two of the following four honors: candidate must be a first team All-America, SEC Player of the Year, member of an Olympic basketball team or a member of the NBA or ABA All Star team.
"Ernie had a tremendous impact on Tennessee basketball and has continued to represent us in the NBA ranks as a player, general manager and now team president. He’s a great asset for Tennessee basketball,” said Hamilton.
Grunfeld is remembered by many UT and SEC fans for his pairing with King to comprise the "The Ernie and Bernie Show" - one of the most powerful combinations in college basketball.
He donned the orange and white from 1974-77, earning first team All-America honors in 1975-76 and 1976-77. The four-time first team All-SEC selection was named the conference’s Player of the Year as a senior. He led the SEC in scoring with 25.3 points per game in 1975-76 and finished his career as Tennessee’s all-time scorer and ranked second in SEC history with 2,249 career points. He became Tennessee’s first Olympian when he helped lead the United States to the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics.
The 11th overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, he enjoyed a nine-year career with the Bucks, Kansas City Kings and New York Knicks. After his playing career, he climbed the ranks to become the general manager of the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks before taking over as the president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards in 2003.
Grunfeld is only the second Vol basketball player to have his number retired. UT retired King’s number last year. Additional number retirements for both men's and women's basketball players will take place in subsequent seasons. The Lady Vols have already retired five numbers - No. 22 for Holly Warlick, No. 30 for Bridgette Gordon, No. 32 for Daedra Charles, No. 23 for Chamique Holdsclaw and No. 24 for Tamika Catchings.