The first score I saw was 112-13.
Team USA 112, Team Mexico 13.
I figured Bruce Pearl was pressing like crazy.
"No, we didn't press at all," Pearl said by phone from Israel. "There's just not a lot of hoops south of the border."
|With his family in tow, Bruce Pearl is enjoying the trip to Israel. (US Presswire)|
One child (Steven Pearl) is playing for Team USA.
Another child (Jacqui Pearl) is keeping all the stats.
The fiancée (Brandy Miller) is filming the games from above.
And the parents are simply along for the ride, cherishing every second.
"It's my mom and dad's first time in Israel," said Pearl, now in his fifth year at Tennessee. "It's a real blessing to be able to take them and let them enjoy it."
Even if the timing isn't ideal.
Twenty of the 31 days in July are set aside for NCAA coaches to "evaluate" prospects; the days are broken into two periods. The first period ran from July 6-15, and Pearl missed every moment of it, which could be damaging in terms of recruiting. While most SEC coaches were in Cincinnati and Akron and Cleveland and Philadelphia and North Augusta, S.C. (plus countless other places) seeing prospects and being seen by prospects, Pearl was at least seven time zones away, reduced to communicating with UT assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay by phone and e-mail.
"My guys are out there, and you've seen them, busting their butts and trying to make up for the fact that I'm not there," said Pearl, who added that this is the first time he's missed July recruiting days since 1982. "We talk everyday by e-mail, and I've tried to e-mail our prospects. They all know what I'm doing."
Still, Pearl understands some will try to use this against him.
Consider the following sentence from a recent SI.com story on Class of 2010 star Joe Jackson: "Coaches from three schools, in particular, are interested in Jackson's services. Kentucky's John Calipari, Memphis coach Josh Pastner and Tennessee assistants Tony Jones or Steve Forbes sat in the bleachers for all of Jackson's games [at the Reebok All-American Camp.]"
Now we can argue about whether that should matter, and I would take the position that it should not given how much Pearl has seen Jackson over the years. But it would be naive to think that Kentucky and Memphis won't point out that Calipari and Pastner spent the first period in July tracking Jackson's every move while Jones and Forbes covered for Pearl, who was occupied elsewhere. That's the trade-off for doing this, and Pearl knows it.
"It happens, and it's just the way it is," Pearl said. "It's part of it."
But it's a part of it that Pearl is willing to endure considering he's been trying to get involved with the Maccabiah Games for decades. "Quite frankly, they weren't interested in a Division II coach," Pearl said, noting his career path. "It took my being successful at Milwaukee, at Tennessee to do it."
So he's doing it.
And he's loving it.
And if things go as planned, he'll lead Team USA to the title game.
It is set for July 21.
It should tip by 7 p.m. and end by 9 p.m.
At 11 p.m., Pearl is scheduled to depart on a flight back to the United States.
"I'll connect in Philadelphia and go straight to Las Vegas," he said. "I'll get right back to work with a bag of clothes that I've had for three weeks."
And, perhaps, a gold medal, too.