Tag:Bruce Pearl
Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 8:16 pm

With distractions abundant, UT 'just quit'

Posted by Chip Patterson
March 18, 2011

CHARLOTTE - After a week of distractions regarding head coach Bruce Pearl's job security, it was a relief to finally get the student-athletes on the floor and let the basketball do the talking. Unfortunately the message his Tennessee team sent with their play was one of a defeated team. As they failed to rally from a second half defect and eventually fell to Michigan 75-45.

Tennessee forced the issue early, taking advantage of a Michigan frontline that could not compete with Tennessee's strength and size. Freshman forward Tobias Harris exploded for 19 points on 6-6 shooting and converted all seven free throw attempts in the first half. Tennessee clearly made Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. a priority, with Cameron Tatum shadowing his every move on the defensive end.

All eyes were centered on Pearl, and there he was screaming out offensive and defensive assignment with large arm motions and his familiar stomp. So basically it was just another game for the head coach of the Volunteers.

Michigan caught fire near the end of the first half driven by back-to-back threes after starting the half shooting 1 for 9 from deep. Pearl remained calm on the bench, but the frustrated look on Cameron Tatum's face after another missed opportunity showed the Volunteers getting sluggish. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Harris changed that all with a slam dunk of a Brian Williams assist.  Michigan quickly drove the length of the floor as Darius Morris converted on a hook shot just before the buzzer.  It was the perfect momentum swinger before the break, and the beginning of the end for the Volunteers.

Then the Wolverines came out of the halftime break with hopes of landing a knockout punch early. They brought the Big Blue faithful to their feet with a 21-4 run in the first eight minutes of the half. Tennessee struggled to answer any of Michigan's challenges. It was difficult to figure out whether it was Tennessee's inability to fire themselves up or cool the Wolverines, but the Volunteers looked helpless as they fell into a 14 point deficit by the first official timeout.

By the midpoint of the second half, the Volunteers had begun to lose their will.  The Wolverines calmly milked a significant double-digit lead while the Volunteers defeated themselves possession after possession. Being outworked on the boards, Tennessee was outrebounded 35-24 by a team which they could have easily overpowered inside. When it was time for Tennessee to dig in deep and mount a comeback, they took poor jump shots and added to their count of 18 turnovers.

So what does that reflect about their head coach? This could have been any other two teams in the tournament and you would have doubted the team's preparation. But with this specific case for Tennessee, it is the first spot you put the blame.  When the media began questioning a somber Volunteer bunch regarding their coach after the game, they did not shy away from the controversy caused by athletic director Mike Hamilton.

"Of course it was a distraction, off-court and what not," remarked senior guard Melvin Goins. "But it is our responsibility as players to step up."

Junior guard Scotty Hopson also put the responsibility on the veteran players, for not pulling the unit together as a team. As for freshman Tobias Harris' explanation of the meltdown against Michigan?

"We just quit," Harris answered plainly.

What will likely get lost in the mix is a phenomenal run by Michigan to start the half. The Wolverines have shown how dangerous they can be recently, entering Friday's contest having won seven of their last ten. But even with Tatum stuck to Tim Hardaway, Jr. like glue, Michigan found production elsewhere on the floor.

Michigan head coach John Beilein deserves a ton of credit for getting his team ready to knockout a beaten giant. After all Tennessee has been to the NCAA tournament all six years under Pearl's tenure, reaching the Sweet Sixteen four times. Beilein, in just his fourth season as head coach of the Wolverines has already gotten Big Blue to the tournament twice.  Considering the issues surrounding the program in the last two decades, Beilein's early success is reason for Wolverine fans to believe in hoops once again.

Beilein now returns to the floor, wondering how he can figure out a way to beat Duke. Bruce Pearl, on the other hand, returns to Knoxville. His challenge is far different: figure out a way to keep his job.

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 18, 2011 8:41 am
Edited on: March 18, 2011 10:51 am

Charlotte pod ready to shift to on-court drama

Kyrie Irving looks ready to go in Charlotte

Posted by Eric Angevine

Sometimes, a prevailing attitude or emotion becomes most notable by its absence.

That's what happened this morning when I got on an elevator at the Charlotte Marriott with a couple who were conspicuously not dressed in team gear. When they began to speak to one another in German, I had an epiphany: these people had no idea what was going on here.

They don't care that Kyrie Irving is ready to play today. A discussion of Bruce Pearl's job status would likely elicit a shrug, or a puzzled smile. Their brackets aren't busted.

They were perfectly nice people, but I couldn't wait to get out of the elevator bubble and back with my people. The low-key Michiganders searching for coffee and wondering if the 1-3-1 trap can contain Scotty Hopson. The burly men in red and black Georgia golf visors. Heck, even the purple-clad people of Washington, who allegedly find me less than personable after I chose the Huskies as a possible 2nd-round upset victim a few days ago.

This pod, perhaps more than any other, has been full of off-court drama. Pearl getting a vote of no-confidence from his AD right before his first game of the tournament. Coach K springing Kyrie Irving's availability after weeks of rehab on us after we already filled out our brackets. Those are all great stories, and they've kept us occupied while we wait, but today, for a few hours, we'll shift our focus from the big picture to the small. We'll parse out who's feeling it according to our own lights. Fans of the Hampton Pirates and Long Island Blackbirds will leap, fist-pump, gyrate and pray that their teams will make history in dramatic fashion.

Thursday showed us what the rest of this month will be like. Enough waiting. We're ready.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 17, 2011 6:17 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 7:01 pm

UT's off-court issues could affect on-court focus

Posted by Chip Patterson

CHARLOTTE - Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl stammered his way through the mandatory news conference on Thursday, trying to redirect attention towards the Volunteers' matchup with Michigan the next day. But media members in attendance had little interest in getting answers on Pearl's plan to stop Tim Hardaway, Jr.

"I know there's going to be a lot of questions regarding my status, so I'll address that first and then we'll move on to questions," Pearl said as he opened his time with the media.

But there was no moving on. Just as the players were, Pearl was grilled from all directions on his job security. All of this of course stemming from athletic director Mike Hamilton's comments to a local radio station. When asked if Pearl would coach next season, Hamilton said "we don't know that answer today."

Pearl is scheduled to defend himself in front of the NCAA infractions committee in June. There he will plead his case as to why providing false/misleading information to the NCAA does not deserve the harshest of punishments. Pearl said something particularly interesting when asked if he foresaw himself as the Volunteers head coach at that hearing.

"You know up until recently, I would," Pearl answered. "That's still the case. The announcement was I'm going to be evaluated, and so how much of a departure from what's been said, I'll find out when I get evaluated."

But how will all these distractions effect the Volunteers against Michigan tomorrow. The players could not dodge the question, no matter how hard they tried. They all say the focus is there, but there is certainly room to doubt. However, when asked, the players do seem to believe Pearl's job is safe.

"I fully anticipate Coach Pearl to be back next year," said junior guard Cameron Tatum. "As all my teammates said earlier, we can only worry about controlling what we do in between those lines and focus on our preparation for the game."

The players are saying all the right things, that's for sure. But if there was an "intangibles" advantage heading into tomorrow afternoon's second round tip (12:40 ET, truTV), it definitely favors the Wolverines.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 7:33 pm

Illini fans react to Pearl allegations

Jimmy Collins thinks Bruce Pearl is reaping what he sowedPosted by Eric Angevine

Illini fans have waited more than twenty years for the other shoe to drop on Bruce Pearl. Most current fans weren't even born when Pearl, an Iowa assistant at the time, secretly recorded a phone conversation that launched an NCAA investigation into basketball recruiting at Illinois. The fact that the current UT coach was unoficially blackballed from DI coaching for years afterward did nothing to blunt the ire.

Perhaps they're just following the lead of Jimmy Collins (right), the recently retired Illinois-Chicago head coach who was the primary target of Pearl's whistle-blowing as an Illinois assistant back in the day. He hasn't forgotten.

"Now that Bruce got caught doing what he was probably doing all the time, he thinks it's OK to say, 'I made a mistake.'" Collins told USA Today last September, when the UT scandal first began to see daylight. "If I sound a little angry, I'm not angry anymore. God has taken care of that for me. But for me to say, well, I'm going to take the high road and say I feel bad for Bruce, my nose would start growing like Pinocchio."

Collins was cleared by the NCAA, but the investigation still found major violations in the Illinois program that led to a 1991 postseason ban.

Collins lived through the scandal, and there are plenty of college hoops fans 40-something or above who remember this as an event in their adult lives. What about a younger generation of Illini fans?

I turned immediately to a couple of writers I know who are Illinois grads. One, Dan Hanner, told me that he was ten years old and lived in Minnesota when the scandal happened, and that he bears no ill will toward Pearl. The other person who immediately responded to my query was Will Leitch, founder of Deadspin and current New York Magazine columnist. As a teen living in Illinois in the late 80's, Leitch was more aware of what Pearl did, and how the investigation effected the school that was to be his alma mater. Here is his emailed response in full:

There are Illini fans who found the most satisfying tournament win during the Final Four year not the comeback win over Arizona, but the trouncing of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Bruce Pearl. We watched Pearl's ascension the last few years, the look-at-me faux charm, the ingratiation with ESPN personalities, the car salesman hustler, knowing that eventually, the world would see the real Bruce Pearl, the one we remember from 20-some-odd years ago, the snake. He tried to straighten up and fly right, pretend he was someone other than the slimy bullshi**er he always was, but a man can not change his nature. There's no schadenfreude for Tennessee; I feel bad for them. But we all knew this day was coming. It's Bruce Pearl, after all.
You'll always get a measured take from Will Leitch. I also heard from Kevin Kaplan, editor of the Daily Illini student newspaper. He said:

I'd say it's definitely something that a lot of today's students know about.  I remember I first heard about the Bruce Pearl history when Illinois met UW-Milwaukee in the 2004-05 NCAA tournament.  These days, if a freshman enters U of I and doesn't know the history, there's a pretty good chance they will discover it by the time they graduate if they follow college basketball.  Any time his name comes up in casual sports conversation (which is a fair amount because Tennessee is a relevant program and because of his recent allegations) there's usually someone who brings up the past, and the history spreads that way.

For raw fan reaction, try sifting through the 500+ posts on the "Bruce Pearl is officially a liar and a cheat" thread at IllinoisLoyalty.com. They've got your schadenfreude.

The irony (or, to some, inevitability) of Pearl being caught in the same trap he laid for another years ago is one of the more interesting facets of this case. Leitch is right, in the end, to feel sad for UT fans. It is the faithful fans, and worst of all the athletes who play the game, who stand to lose more than Pearl ever will.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:15 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 2:04 pm

Pearl, Tennessee's fates still far from decided

Posted by Matt Norlander

There's a double helix of charges coming down against the University of Tennessee today. The dreaded-but-unescapable Notice of Allegations, the NCAA's formal here's-what-you-did-wrong checklist, has gone public. If you'd like to read how the football program is affected, I encourage you to check out the excellent work being done at our sister blog.

As for the men's basketball program and Bruce Pearl, here are the official allegations.
  • Impermissible contact with prospective student-athletes resulting from a cumulative total of 96 impermissible phone calls over a 24-month period (Aug. 1, 2007 through July 29, 2009).
  • By the head men's basketball coach: impermissible contact with prospective student-athletes during an unofficial visit, acting contrary to the principles of ethical conduct, failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and failure to monitor the activities regarding compliance of all assistant coaches within the men's basketball program.
  • By the head men's basketball coach and associate head coach: impermissible contact with a prospective student-athlete at his high school.
  • By the three members of the men's basketball assistant coaching staff: failure to furnish full and complete information relevant to the investigation.
Tennessee has until May 21 to rebut the allegations. UConn did this, rather intensely and defiantly, and look where it got them (a less punishment than many wanted/expected). The most critical thing to keep in mind here: Everything that the NCAA has now put out, Tennessee already knew. There is no shell-shock in Knoxville today. Some months back, when Pearl's lying and shame became known, you can best believe he got in a room with the most important people at the University of Tennessee and was forced to confess all his sins, lest they fire him before the 2010-11 season began.

Since he's done that, he's been kept on the job. An eight-game SEC suspension, handed down by the commission of the conference, didn't stop Tennessee from keeping Pearl around. This is merely more metaphorical water coming onto the boat, and AD Mike Hamilton will do his best to get the buckets out for the short-term.

And Pearl's not going to lose his job unless a major punishment comes from the NCAA later this year.

Going forward, here are the three big events we're waiting on:
  1. Tennessee to make its case against the NCAA's allegations, which it must do by May 21. Expect a rebuttal.
  2. Pearl and Co. will be called before the Committee on Infractions on June 10 and 11 of this year, when a final airing of grievances will be made on behalf of both parties. Expect Pearl to show a humble attitude that Jim Calhoun and UConn left behind long ago. Being caught in a litany of lies tends to get a guy grounded.
  3. Hopefully (and this didn't happen so swiftly with UConn) by the end of August, we'll have a verdict on the punishment Tennessee and Pearl will be given. From there, we'll truly know if Pearl will stay on as head coach at Tennessee.
For now, it's more public shame and embarrassment. More bad talk of Pearl at a time when college basketball orbits into the embraceable heat of the media's sunlight. But this is no punishment. This is just airing out the dirty laundry and letting the onlookers leer and gawk once again, allowing all of us to question just how the hell Pearl's been able to hold on to his job.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 14, 2011 3:10 pm

Lineup changes on the way for Tennessee?

Posted by Eric Angevine

With the losses mounting and Selection Sunday drawing nearer, Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Vols need a wake-up call.

Goins has struggled, but may still be the best option.They may get it in the form of a lineup change, writes Mike Griffith of the Knoxville News Sentinel:

"We have to have better point guard play, so there could be some changes,'' Pearl said. "Right now, it's Melvin Goins and Trae Golden. It could have to be Skylar McBee or Josh Bone. That could be in the cards against South Carolina.''

UT fans will remember that without Goins, the Vols likely would not have beaten San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. Nor would Tennessee have beaten top 10 teams Villanova and Pitt earlier this season without Goins' stellar play.

But Goins has struggled to make plays recently, dishing out two assists in the 94 minutes he has played over the past three games.

The reason for the change is solid, but the available talent makes it look like a desperation move at best. Josh Bone, a transfer from Southern Illinois, has a grand total of 11 assists all season long (he missed the team's first eleven games, but still). Skylar McBee, a seldom-used sophomore, has 16 in 23 games.

In all honesty, Goins probably gives the Vols their best chance to win. The fact that it's a very small chance night in and night out can only be partly attributed to his individual performance.
Posted on: February 8, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: February 8, 2011 10:43 am

Does Bruce Pearl's return even matter?

Does Bruce Pearl's return to the sidelines matter?Posted by Eric Angevine

I'm going to tell you right up front that this will be the laziest post I do for this blog by a country mile. But sometimes, someone else can just say it so much better, and when you have an expert on your side, you should use him.

If you've listened to the Eye on Basketball podcast we posted this morning (and if you haven't, why not?), you heard my brain rattling when Matt Norlander asked if there was a way to quantify what Bruce Pearl's return to the bench would mean to the Tennessee Volunteers. Fortunately, I know someone who spends a great deal of time and brain power trying to find objective statistical measures for coaches. His name is Dan Hanner, and he pioneered coach rankings on his site Yet Another Basketball Blog. His efforts landed him a summer job working with the College Basketball Prospectus brain trust.

So, basically, I asked Dan what Bruce Pearl's return tonight could possibly mean to a team that has been erratic all season long, with or without him. He blogged a thoughtful answer, and gave me permission to quote it, and that's where I'm going to look lazy, because I'm going to quote the dickens out of this bad boy.

First, Dan explains how we quantify a coach's impact on his team:

The lesson for college basketball is that coaching is a lot more than simply deciding whether to bring the walk-ons into the game at the 2 minute mark or the 1 minute mark in a blowout. Coaches can make a significant difference to whether a team is ahead when the final buzzer sounds.

And Bruce Pearl is not just another coach. I currently rank Bruce Pearl as the 30th best coach in terms of adjusted efficiency margin from 2002-2011, (which includes his successful final 3 seasons at UW-Milwaukee.) That might not seem phenomenal, but I don’t think the margin-of-victory numbers really do Pearl justice. Tennessee plays a very long rotation which tends to make some games closer than they should be. But in crunch time, Bruce Pearl always has the best lineup on the floor. And over the last seven years, no BCS coach has out-performed his efficiency margin more than Pearl. Ken Pomeroy refers to this as luck. Bruce Pearl’s teams have been consistently lucky. And there is certainly an element of winning close games that is good fortune. (Florida’s Erving Walker hit one of the biggest shots of the year to force a second overtime against Georgia, but I’d be shocked if he could repeat it.) But there’s also something to the cliché that you make your own luck.

This makes sense, even to a mathematical dunderhead like me. Over a season, you get a pretty good sense of where a team's efficiency margin is going to fall. Bruce Pearl exceeds those expectations more often than not. We call that luck, but the underpinnings of luck in Dan's Florida example would definitely be recruiting (had to have Erving Walker in the first place), lineup choices (had to have him in the game), drills (if Walker practiced those shots, muscle memory kicks in and he's much more likely to make them under pressure), and motivation (Walker has to feel that he's trusted in that situation). So that's a referendum on Billy Donovan's luck in that specific situation. Tony Jones was hired by Pearl and had his boss' help with all of those deciding factors throughout the season. In the full piece, which you really should read, Dan considers the myriad factors that can go into creating "luck" for your team.

He also acknowledges that this is an unusual situation, which reduces the amount of data we have to draw on:

Unfortunately, when it comes to the data, we don’t have a lot of variation to sort out these factors. Coaches don’t usually leave their team in the middle of the season. I think there is some anecdotal evidence that coaching absences hurt a team. Connecticut struggled at times when Jim Calhoun was missing because of health issues. (And when Louisville’s defense was historically bad last year, I wondered how much of that was because Pitino was mentally checked out with the Karen Sypher situation.)
Other factors, like the strength of his opponents, really factor into what will happen in each game. Taking a trip to Lexington in his first game back will likely cause a reduction in luck, if I'm any judge.

The final word comes down to this:

(T)op coaches tend to be worth about 2 points (per game) in the Vegas lines.

Will Bruce Pearl make that big a difference when he returns to the sideline? I’d assume he is worth a little less than a point a game. But over the course of the season, when lots of games come down to the wire, you never know when that extra something will be the difference between winning and losing. And in an SEC East, where no team is under .500, every win means a lot.
Looking at the team while Pearl was out, the first four SEC games were either close losses or close wins, where our definition of luck comes into play. At Arkansas and hosting Florida, luck went against the Vols, as they lost by three in Bud Walton arena and then drizzled out in overtime when Florida came to town. Over the next two games, the results were reversed in a three-point home win over Vandy and a two-point victory at Georgia. After that, Pearl coached in a loss to UConn, then Jones had the pleasure of a three-game win streak with healthy margins over the league's lesser lights. Then, in his final game, Jones lost a heartbreaker at home to league leader Alabama. That game went to OT, so luck went awry for the interim coach again.

Thing is, Pearl's luck has been pretty putrid this season, too. Following a six-point home win over Pitt (yep, it actually happened), Pearl-led teams lost to Oakland, Charlotte and USC in fairly close games, eked out close wins over in-state foes Belmont and Tennessee-Martin, lost to College of Charleston going away, and trounced Memphis. If Tony Jones had found a way to break that already-established pattern, I'd say give that man the next available big-time head coaching job, stat.

Even when this was nominally Tony Jones' team, Bruce Pearl's decisions and actions were rumbling just beneath the surface. He was there every day in practice, coaching the players he and Jones recruited just like usual. As such, I'd have to posit that this has been Pearl's team all along, and the results fall on his shoulders even when he's not on the sideline.

According to my reading of that data, Bruce Pearl's return to the Tennessee sideline tonight only really effects his team in one way: the postgame press conferences just became 100 percent more entertaining, win or lose.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:25 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 12:45 pm

Another violation looming for Tennessee?

Posted by Matt Norlander

This has got to be the dumbest team in America.

Or the most unintentionallly arrogant one.

[UPDATE: Wes Rucker has notes and brief response from Bruce Pearl after the coach's press conference this afternoon.]

Renaldo Woolridge, the affable Tennessee Volunteer who has a hip-hip career on the side, where he goes by the moniker of Swiperboy, may find himself in hot water with the NCAA over a rap video.

A report out of Knoxville this morning is claiming that, on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after he sat on the bench with an ankle injury and watched his teammates lose 72-61 in Hartford, Conn., Woolridge shot a music video in a Knoxville bar.
Woolridge received exclusive access to the upstairs portion of New Amsterdam Bar and Grill, 1836 Cumberland Ave., free of charge, a bar source aware of the arrangement told the News Sentinel.
This is a problem because access to the bar to shoot the video, however low-budget it may seem, could still qualify as an extra benefit under the laws of the NCAA. It could mean something as simple as a three-game suspension, depending upon how much money Woolridge did or didn't save himself by shooting the video. (That part of it all is a bit ambiguous.)

Last month, Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly had two separate suspensions for very similar rule-breaks. Pullen received less than $300 worth of clothing, so his suspension was maxed out at three games; Kelly went above that significant $300 figure, but didn't exceed $600, so he sat for six games.

According to NCAA bylaw, student-athletes are not permitted to receive preferential treatment, benefits or services "because of the individual's athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation."

Woolridge, 20, declined to comment on the video when approached Saturday night by a representative of the News Sentinel.
It's not yet known how much it costs to lease a typical space/room at the New Amsterdam. When those details are hashed out, we'll have a better idea of Woolridge's impending punishment, most likely.

Nothing out of Woolridge on his Twitter page as of this hour. But, now, the obvious question: How is this happening? How is that coaching staff and that athletic department letting any player on this team commit any sort of act that even flirts with the possibility of committing an NCAA violation, no matter how minor?

Aside from all the Bruce Pearl drama, remember, this is program that had players face drug and weapons charges on New Year's Day of 2010. All in all, what Woolridge allegedly did was fairly minor, but it's the mindset of the team that speaks to the greater problem. It's another stain, and another ignorant action, that speaks badly on behalf of the program and its head coach.

Photo: AP
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