Former Tennessee coach Ray Mears dead at 80

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Ray Mears, the Tennessee basketball coach who presided over the "Ernie and Bernie show" during his 15 seasons guiding the Volunteers, died Monday.

He was 80.

Mears had been in declining health for some time, university spokesman John Painter said.

In the mid-1970s, Mears coached future NBA players Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King. Mears' teams went 278-112 at Tennessee between 1962 and 1978.

Under Mears, the Vols won or shared Southeastern Conference titles in 1967, 1972 and 1977.

The 1967 championship was the school's first in 24 years.

Three of his teams made the NCAA tournament before it expanded. Only the SEC champion made the tourney when he coached.

In 2003, Mears had a series of health problems, including a stroke. While coaching, he suffered from clinical depression for years.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)