Tag:Bruce Pearl
Posted on: July 7, 2011 11:54 am
Edited on: July 7, 2011 12:02 pm

Bruce Pearl: I will coach college again one day

By Matt Norlander

Bruce Pearl, for the first time since his firing from Tennessee, has publicly stated he believes he will coach again at the college level someday.

First of all, of course he will. In the grand scheme of things, Pearl's lying was bad, but it wasn't bad enough that athletic directors and university presidents will consider him toxic. Pearl made Tennessee worthwhile and must-watch in basketball for arguably the first time in the program's existence while he was there, from 2005 through this year. He took the team to the tournament every season he was there.

Pearl will have plenty of suitors, mid-major and major, ready to hire him after the NCAA's punishment stink washes off him. That punishment still hasn't been handed down, of course. We don't know when it will happen, but the NCAA has said time and again it will be looking to penalize rule-breakers with more force than before.

That could mean a show-cause for Pearl (not pictured at left, by the way; just a supporter), which would prohibit him from being employed at the collegiate level for one, two, even three years. When that time ends, though, Pearl wants to be back at a campus, building up a new program.

"I do think that I'm going to have the opportunity to coach again," Pearl said in his first radio interview (on 790 Atlanta) since he left Tennessee. "I've got to wait and see what the Committee on Infractions, what they say, probably coming up sometime in the middle of August and how quickly will they allow me to come back into coaching. That's going to go a long way towards whether or not I do coach again."

Earlier this offseason, Pearl was rumored to be a target as a coach in the NBA's Developmental League.

“Do you want me to write the book about how do you lose $10 million jobs? I can write the book,” he added. “How can you be so dumb and so careless? … It’s not so much about what we did, it’s about how we handled it."

Other highlights in the interview include Pearl claiming he probably answered 148 out of 150 questions honestly -- it was those two lies that hurt him; that he wishes he and Jim Tressel weren't joined at the hip as examples of coaches gone wrong in today's culture; that he still wakes up sweating at 3 a.m., knowing he's blown a big thing; and that his impression of the meeting with the Committee on Infractions was fair and healthy. He also still refers to Tennessee as "we."

You can listen to the entirety of the Pearl interview here, just scroll down to the alotted embedded segment.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 5, 2011 10:14 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 10:24 pm

Former Vol assistant now high school coach

By Gary Parrish

Former Tennessee associate head coach Tony Jones (at left in photo, next to angry Bruce Pearl) has accepted a job as the head coach at Alcoa High just outside of Knoxville, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com on Tuesday.

An official announcement is expected Wednesday.

This development means all three assistants who worked under Bruce Pearl until they were fired last March -- essentially because Pearl lied to an NCAA investigator about violations committed at his home -- have now secured other jobs. It also highlights just how far of a drop each assistant had to take to gain employment with an NCAA cloud still hanging above their heads.

Jones, again, is now a high school coach. Former Vol assistant Steve Forbes is now the head coach at Northwest Florida State College -- a junior college in Florida. Former Vol assistant Jason Shay is Forbes' assistant.

Pearl, meantime, remains unemployed.

But he received a $1 million buyout from Tennessee that his assistants did not get.

So working this year isn't crucial.

Photo: AP
Posted on: June 12, 2011 5:35 pm

Bruce Pearl: NCAA meeting ‘not really’ a relief

By Matt Norlander

Tennessee athletic officials met with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions Saturday afternoon in downtown Indianapolis. The long-awaited, delightful encounter was one giant finger-wagging from the NCAA’s moral authority to Tennessee’s football and basketball departments, both of whom were on hand to receive verbal reprimand for their misdeeds in the past two years.

The meeting served as a single and only get-together between the offending institution and the one judging it before the penalties come down. Tennessee also had its chances to make cases, reasons and apologies for its athletic department's behavior under the tenure of Bruce Pearl, Lane Kiffin and outgoing athletic director Mike Hamilton.

The NCAA will deliver its punishments for the football and basketball programs — most likely including the aforementioned former Tennessee coaches who are no longer at the school — later this summer. (Thinking it’ll be August.)

Despite his ties being cut from Tennessee, Bruce Pearl's leash still had a tug. That's Pearl pictured at Saturday's meetings, which he was mandated to show up for. The affable coach sported his patented orange suspenders (don’t suppose he’ll have many more opportunities to strap those on in public) and gave reporters a smile as he headed into the meetings.

But when he left he was solemn and didn’t think the situation was all that better. He's still ashamed of lying to the NCAA about a barbecue with recruits he had at his house nearly two years ago. It cost him perhaps the highest-paying high profile job he'll have in hoops.

Pearl told reporters there was no uplifting feeling from the day’s meetings. Makes sense: these COI meetings aren’t supposed to create positive morale or uplifting thoughts. Schools are supposed to walk out of them, tail duct-taped between legs.

Asked if Saturday's hearing served as a relief, Pearl said, "not really."

"Obviously, we paid a very heavy price," he said. "All of us have, the university, my coaching staff and our Tennessee fanbase. There's not much relief."

One by one, former coaches, current administrators and current UT coaches all departed without commenting to a handful of reporters who camped outside the closed-door hearing from start to finish.

That group included: former basketball assistants Tony Jones, Jason Shay and Steve Forbes; Vols football coach Derek Dooley; men's athletic director Mike Hamilton, who resigned Tuesday; interim athletic director Joan Cronan, men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and senior associate athletic director David Blackburn.

Specifics from the meetings aren’t allowed to go public, so most choose to not speak to the press to avoid flirting with the possibility of slipping up. It makes sense that Pearl’s former assistants chose not to talk. No coaches did save Pearl and Kiffin, and they're no longer affiliated with Tennessee, except in regard to the pending matters of this investigation and ruling from the NCAA. Outgoing Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton was also mum.

Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek did offer a brief statement to the media that was camped out in corridors of the Marriott where this all took place.

“We are glad we had the opportunity to present our case. We feel it was a fair hearing, and we look forward to the resolution of this matter," Cheek said.

Now the final waiting begins. There is no definitive timetable. I stated above I think this will come in late August, but the NCAA took five months hand down its punishment to UConn. It will come when the NCAA decides it needs to come. Until then, Pearl and Tennessee twist in the wind, awaiting a verdict from a governing body that's vowed to be more strict in its penalties.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 20, 2011 3:18 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 3:19 pm

Bruce Pearl to coach in the D-League?

Posted by Matt Norlander

And not only the D-League, but in Maine? Tucked all the way up in the right corner of the country ... Bruce Pearl could actually be doing that?

It's a possibility, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Wojnarowski has sources who've informed him the former Tennessee coach is attempting to be wooed to the Maine Red Claws (possible future headline: Pearl snatched!).
Maine president and general manager Jon Jennings recently made contact with Pearl to express an interest in hiring him, and the two are expected to talk further about the job in the near future, sources said. When reached by phone on Friday, Jennings confirmed Maine’s interest in Pearl but declined to comment on the search.
The 51-year-old Pearl is still awaiting his punishment for lying to the NCAA last year. That is probably going to come at the end of the summer. The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, have said they look to punish cheaters more harshly than in recent years. So, with that in mind, it's entirely likely Pearl will be hit with a show-cause penalty, meaning for a determined amount of time he'd be unable to work at any level in collegiate athletics. With such a verdict coming over the mountains, it was presumed a television job for the affable, excitable Pearl would hold him over until a sputtering major-conference school came to his doorstep two, three, four years down the road.

Now we're learning there are other options. Who knows Pearl wants to do right now -- maybe he wants to coach more than do television? Seems hard to believe, in a way. Pearl loves to coach, of course, but does he love to coach so badly that he'd rather live in Maine and coach in the Developmental League over getting airtime and remaining nationally relevant on ESPN or CBS?

Worth taking note of: Pearl was born in Boston and grew up in the Northeast. Apparently the Red Claws, who've only been around for two years, have a devoted fanbase -- they've sold out 48 straight D-League games. Impressive. If this happens, it would be one of the more unlikely marriages in basketball coaching we've seen in some time.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Bruce Pearl
Posted on: March 27, 2011 8:28 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 8:37 pm

Cuonzo Martin will be good for Tennessee

Posted by Eric Angevine

The news just became official: The University of Tennessee has moved quickly to fill the coaching vacancy left by the firing of Bruce Pearl, and has hired Cuonzo Martin of Missouri State.

Martin is a 39-year-old former Purdue player, a product of the Gene Keady coaching tree. Martin played for Keady from 1991-1995. His NBA career was over in 1997, and by 2000, he was back in West Lafayette as an assistant. That led to his hiring as head coach at Missouri State in 2008.

The hiring of Martin works on a couple of levels for Tennessee. First, Martin seems to be a good coach. Second, he looks like a genuinely good person.

If Bruce Pearl was the slick, popular car salesman, Martin is the humble church deacon. He may not entertain like Pearl did. He most definitely will not appear shirtless and painted orange for any reason. What he will do is win coaching awards and speak from the heart about what it takes to be a good man. We know this, because he gave this moving speech after being named Missouri Valley coach of the year this season:

Only the most cynical fan could look at that and think that Martin is anything but a genuinely decent man who will fly the Vols program straight and be a good mentor to his charges.

That's how we know he's a good man. We know he's tough, because he's survived a bout with cancer at age 26. How do we know he's a good coach?

Truthfully, the evidence is slim, but all good. He learned from Keady as a player and assistant coach. He worked with Matt Painter, the current Boilermakers coach. No doubt both can and did vouch for Martin in the process of the coaching search. When Missouri State was looking for a replacement for Barry Hinson in 2008, they tabbed Martin, and he turned the mediocre program around quickly. His first season was an 11-20, injury-riddled mess, but the team did manage to beat Arkansas in the non-conference season before sliding to 10th in league play. The next season, the Bears were 24-12 and 7th in the MVC and played in the CIT. This past season, Missouri State went 26-9 and won a dramatic final home game over Wichita State to claim the school's first regular-season Missouri Valley title. The tourney title eluded the Bears, who made it to the second round of the NIT.

So, admittedly, in some ways, this was a cosmetic hire. Martin doesn't have any direct head-coaching experience with the NCAA tournament, and his bio is short. But the University of Tennessee has been in a world of hurt over the past three seasons, with scandal dogging the football and basketball programs. To get ahold of a man who has a spotless reputation, a direct and forthright manner, and the potential to right the reeling program quickly is about as good as the Vols could have done under the circumstances.

We'll know more about what Martin will have to work with (and against) when the NCAA has its say in upcoming months. That's when the transfers will likely start and recruiting will become difficult. Martin knew all of that coming in. Tennessee backers are going to have to have a lot of patience with their athletic program over the next few years. But they can rest assured that Cuonzo Martin has a plan, and he won't embarrass them any further.

All things considered, that's a big win for a program that has been dragged through the mud recently.

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Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:01 pm

Tennessee fans say goodbye to Bruce Pearl

Posted by Matt Jones

Tennessee gives Bruce Pearl the Elton John treatment:

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 21, 2011 8:10 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 9:37 pm

Tennessee basketball in trouble post-Pearl

Posted by Matt Jones

Tennessee’s reported decision to part ways with Bruce Pearl is the cause of much chagrin in Knoxville, and rightfully so. While getting rid of an acknowledged NCAA liar is completely defensible from a moral and institutional standpoint, for the Tennessee basketball program, losing Pearl is a virtual death sentence.

Part of the reason so many Tennessee fans have been expressing dissatisfaction with the Pearl decision is that they know the reality of the Volunteer basketball program’s status on the national landscape. Simply put, Tennessee is a decidedly mediocre BCS job and will not be an attractive opening to virtually any coach the administration would wish to target. This statement may seem controversial after Pearl’s recent success, but it is reality.

Simply put, Bruce Pearl made Tennessee basketball, not the other way around. Historically, Tennessee’s basketball program has been a mid-level contender in the SEC and an afterthought nationally. Except for a short time period during the “Bernie and Ernie” era of Ray Mears’ tenure and Pearl’s impressive run, Tennessee has never been anything close to a basketball powerhouse.  Prior to Pearl’s tenure, Tennessee had won the SEC only five times since World War II and been to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 only three times in the school’s history. To call Tennessee basketball prior to Pearl mediocre is to be very generous with the word.

But the problem isn’t just history, it is also the current reality Tennessee faces. In the immediate future, the Vols are looking at a major downgrade in talent beginning next season.  The Vols have six seniors graduating and two other major contributors, Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris, who have the ability, and now likely the desire, to depart early for the NBA draft. The two four star recruits for next season, Chris Jones and Kevin Ware, have both already indicated they may go elsewhere and if al the departures take place, next year’s team will struggle to remain competitive.  Whoever takes over the Tennessee program will have to immediately compete in the difficult SEC East with a program that is light years away in talent from the team that went to the Elite Eight last season.

Plus, the specter of potential NCAA sanctions weighs heavy. The NCAA could see Pearl’s violation as simply a personal one and be lenient. The actual infraction was relatively minor and the decision to lie had more to do with him than the university. But this isn’t Tennessee’s only NCAA issue and an incoming coach won’t know the outcome of the NCAA’s decision before accepting the job. Whatever coach chooses to take the job must do so knowing the possibility of depleted talent and NCAA restrictions...not exactly a recipe for a quick start to replace a popular figure.

But most importantly, even in the best of times the Tennessee job is not nearly as appealing as it seemed during the Pearl years. Tennessee is a football school that cares about basketball secondarily, and depending on how Pat Summit’s team is doing, maybe even less than that. While Knoxville is home to a big arena and above-average facilities, it isn’t a program that sells itself. There is virtually no local talent base and the best players the state produces are in Memphis, meaning a new coach will have to fight Josh Pastner on his home turf to get any of their services. 

The area around Tennessee has some talent, but also much better programs seeking to grab it. Tennessee borders Kentucky and North Carolina, only home to four of the seven best programs in the history of college basketball. That means that not only is every local recruiting battle a road game for Tennessee, it will often be against the heaviest of the heavyweights. 

Tennessee has shown that it will pay its coach a great deal of money, but not such a sum that it can steal other top of the line coaches from major programs. The Vols have to do what most of the other mid-level BCS programs must to do to with an opening, hire an assistant or a head coach at the mid-major level. That is the route they were forced to take with Wade Houston (Louisville assistant), Buzz Peterson (Appalachian State/Tulsa) and Bruce Pearl (Milwaukee) in the past and is likely their path this time as well. 

And with all those structural obstacles in place, Tennessee must also deal with the fact that it will not be looking for a coach in a vacuum. There are other openings in college basketball and arguably, many are more attractive than the one in Knoxville. If you were an aspiring coach, wouldn’t you prefer a chance to coach in the historical basketball triangle at NC State, where a national championship has been won in the last 20 years at Arkansas or in the fertile recruiting ground of Georgia Tech? What exactly does Tennessee offer (assuming equal money) that these schools do not?  It is hard to imagine that a coach with multiple opportunities this offseason, like VCU’s Shaka Smart, or a solid future at a rising program like Brad Stevens at Butler, would choose to go coach the Vols over a chance to captain these more attractive ships.

All of this means that when picking its coach, Tennessee will have to do what most BCS schools do with a new basketball hire, take a chance on an unproven coach. Maybe that coach will pay off and become a star, as happened when the school hired Bruce Pearl the last time. But success with such a decision is far from certain and the standard to which the new coach will be compared is high. The reality is that with today’s decision, Tennessee will go from one of the top 15-20 coaches and recruiters in America who placed the school consistently in the SEC’s top three, to a likely unknown who will face a depleted roster and potential NCAA violations on the horizon. That might make me protest too.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:10 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 4:27 pm

Tennessee would be smart to hire Shaka

VCU's Shaka Smart would be the... intelligent choice.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Gary Parrish has sources who confirm that Bruce Pearl is on his way out at Tennessee. This is not unexpected news, at all.

If the Vols want to keep things running smoothly, they should hire the hot coach of the hour, as soon as he becomes available. That means Shaka Smart of VCU. Sure, some fans will agitate for someone with a bigger name (nobody has a cooler one), like Buzz Williams. Williams would actually be a great fit, but he's already in the Big East, and competition for his services will be stiff after this tournament run ends. He may also not much like the looks of rebuidling a program on probation.

But what about Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart? A move to the SEC would be a step up in money, and the facilities at Thompson-Boling are top-notch. 

Smart runs an up-tempo system that will appeal to Volunteer fans, players and recruits. Even if it was his fate to lose a few games right out of the gate, his teams would look good doing it, and he'd never give up. He also has an SEC pedigree, having coached under Billy Donovan at Florida. In fact, when he left to take the VCU job, he was replacing another Donovan protege, Alabama head man Anthony Grant. Perhaps the key to building a stronger SEC hoops profile is to hire as many Florida (or Kentucky) assistants as possible.

Smart's Rams have become the first school to make the Sweet 16 by winning three games, thanks to a berth in the inaugural First Four competition. Let's not assume that 1) he'll be easy to get or 2) he'll be willing to jump the first time someone shows him a check. The odds of his stock getting hotter than it is right now are pretty slim, though, with Jamie Skeen, Ed Nixon, Brandon Rozzell and Joey Rodriguez ready to graduate. Then again, there are always other jobs.

Smart is... well, smart. He is intelligent enough to know that this isn't going to be the best job in the world. He knows he's hot right now, and can wait to see what else pops up. But he's also smart enough to know how to rebuild the Volunteers, and do it without all of the scandal the UT football and basketball programs have brought aboard recently. He'd be in much the same situation as gridiron coach Derek Dooley, who took advantage of an opportunity to move from Louisiana Tech to one of the nation's top historical programs last summer. Smart might be too hot for such a move right now, honestly. He'd look even better at Missouri, should the rumors of Mike Anderson's departure be true. He wouldn't even have to buy any new ties.

If Tennessee has the money, and a plan of patient support in place, they just might be able to make the hire they need to make.

Get Smart. Hire Shaka.

If UT can't, perhaps they should just cut out the middle man and hire one of Billy Donovan's assistants directly.

Photo: US Presswire

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