Tag:Bruce Pearl
Posted on: January 22, 2011 8:40 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2011 8:49 pm

Tenn. still needs more than Pearl to make a run

Posted by Matt Norlander

HARTFORD, Conn. — This was not a special occasion.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who got an unprecedented reprieve amid an unprecedented punishment, treated his preparation, his in-game coaching and execution, and the postgame interviews like he has for the majority of his head-coaching career: with eye-bulging passion and a hoarse voice.

“Believe it or not, it didn’t feel that different,” Pearl said after his team’s 72-61 loss at Connecticut Saturday.

The odd circumstance surrounding Saturday’s game against the 16-2 Huskies — Pearl is serving an eight-game suspension within the SEC, meaning coaching an out-of-conference game wasn’t against the rules — meant the focus in the XL Center was on Pearl despite the fact UConn improved to an unpredicted 12-0 non-conference record.

After a loss in a game that clearly got away from his team, Pearl, a man known for his vibrancy and sense of humor, once again addressed his eight-game suspension with a serious tone.

“It’s a very serious penalty,” he said. “Eight league games is — you know, one league game can be the different between seedings or even getting in the tournament. It’s significant. It’s fortunate in the sense that I’m suspended for those games but not for the preparation or the practice.”

But the questions Pearl got about his brief return, how it felt to be back, all that — it didn’t much matter to him. He coached a losing team, which dropped to 12-7 on the year and embodies a Pearl signature: fun group, but incredibly inconsistent.

You think Pearl would’ve taken a 2-1 record against the Big East (Tennessee defeated Villanova and Pittsburgh) before the season started? Absolutely. And in November, who would’ve guessed the one loss would be to UConn? What’s more, the Vols held UConn’s Kemba Walker to a season-low 16 points (though Walker did dish out seven dimes, his second-highest total of the season).

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and Pearl embraced in the immediate postgame handshake line, then had a few additional, personal words of encouragement for each other once again just before splitting off and heading to their respective locker rooms. The two men can clearly empathize and identify with each other. Both had plenty speculate about their job security. Both had plenty of people call for them to lose their jobs.

Many still believe they should.

But for a day, both coaches got to scream their throats off, perhaps in an effort to not only coach their teams, but release some stress. Calhoun is also awaiting judgment from the NCAA, after all. After the game, Pearl stood up for his fraternity brother, praising Calhoun’s ability to coach his team in all the right areas.

“Jim does a great job putting guys in positions to be successful,” Pearl said. “He’s as good as anybody in the business at knowing what he has, knowing their strengths, knowing their weaknesses.”

After Pearl left the podium in the media room, Calhoun returned him the same sort of favor.

“Out of the 18 games played, it was far and away the best team effort against a quality opponent,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think it’s even close.”

Remarkably, the Huskies were able to win this game despite Walker’s low-scoring night because four UConn players reached double-digits. Above anything else, perhaps that was the most unpredictable part of the day for Pearl.

“I thought, if you told me that (Alex) Oriakhi had 12 — if we could hold him and Walker down — that we could win the ballgame,” Pearl said. “That we could have a really good defensive effort. But those other guys, (Jeremy) Lamb and (Roscoe) Smith, stepped up.”

For the Tennessee players, this was another game, not one of particular unique variety, even if it was non-conference and their head coach was back in the fold. Yes, Pearl’s presence was welcomed and helpful, but senior guard Melvin Goins said the biggest affect their coach’s suspension on the team came earlier this year.

“In the locker room (now) it hasn’t impacted us too much,” Goins said. “It’s reality now. Before, when it was all talk, yeah, it probably impacted us more, just the suspense building up to it.”

Goins added the team has shown its fortitude by winning games without Pearl on the sideline, as it did this past week at home against Vanderbilt and on the road against Georgia. But it's clear. The players know it. Going forward, it's going to take much more than just what Pearl brings to a timeout huddle or pre-game speech.

“Just to know we’re a good team and some of the games we’re losing are things we can control, that makes it even tougher,” Goins said.

Goins is clearly feeling pressure to be a leader now. He can handle it, but in the games Pearl is not there, the absent energy from the coach is attempted to be supplemented by Goins. That’s something the senior guard puts on his shoulders without pressure or open expectation from anyone else.

“When he’s not there, I have to do my job and overdo my job and get us going and try to bring that energy and that energy and that spark to our team that keeps us in high spirits,” he said.

Goins’ good play or not, the problems linger. With or without Pearl, they’re a fast, athletic, energetic … and terminally frustrating group. They show the capability of playing — and beating — the best teams in the country. At other times, the performances are so disenchanting. Despite UConn’s newfound ability to win with a number of players and prove itself as a legitimate top-15 nationally, Goins said his team’s performance today was that of an ordinary squad.

“From my standpoint, I think it’s just a lack of focus,” Goins said. “We’ll go out, we’ll be real focused, real engaged … and we’ll look like one of the best teams in the country. Then, at times, we’ll lose focus and [be] lackadaisical and not give that effort.  One thing leads to another, it’s a trickle-down effect, and then we look like an average team around the country.”

Fortunately, the wins against Villanova and Pittsburgh — in the wake of Villanova’s big, big win at Syracuse Saturday — continue to look better. They’re maturing stocks that will be cashed in on Selection Sunday, almost certainly assuring Tennessee will earn a bid, lest they completely fall off the cliff in the respectable SEC East.

“Those were big, big wins for us,” Goins said of the Ws against Pitt and ‘Nova. “We let this one slip away. We got those Big East wins, and I really appreciate those Big East wins, and I’m really happy for my ball club when we won those games. Now, it’s just a sense that I know how we can play — with the best of the best.”

Pearl now goes back on the shelf for four more games, missing road tilts against Mississippi and Auburn that are sandwich by home games against LSU and Alabama. Pearl returns for a big one: Feb. 8 at Kentucky. But despite his absence, he’s hammering home the same message—his suspension affects him on a personal level significantly more than it affects how his team plays without him during games.

“It was fun to be in a game for a while and to some effect on the game,” Pearl said. “Tomorrow, I’ve got (preparation for) LSU and Ole Miss all day. Nothing will be different.”

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 12, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: January 12, 2011 1:06 pm

Is Tony Jones the Vols' biggest loser?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Bruce Pearl is a genuine superstar in the world of college hoops. That has as much to do with his charistmatic personality and sartorial choices as it does with his ability to build a winning team. His on-court success and off-court personality are intertwined to the n'th degree, and that's why he's the big story in this UT scandal. But there's another victim of all of the hoopla, one who is unlikely to emerge unscathed: assistant coach Tony Jones.

Jones has been Pearl's right-hand man ever since the two were at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the early part of the 21st century. When that turned into a high-profile gig at Tennessee, Jones quickly became one of college basketball's rising stars. He has been a finalist for several head coaching jobs at mid-major universities in recent seasons, and no doubt turned some of those opportunities down in hopes of landing the big score later on. Both he and fellow assistant Steve Forbes had their names mentioned in coaching searches this past summer.

What now? Now, Jones is tainted by the scandal - he was barred from off-campus recruiting throughout the month of June for improper contact with recruits - and his head coaching stint in relief of Pearl isn't exactly setting the world on fire. People know his name now, but there's not much shine coming off of it right now.

On the other hand, the argument can be made that Jones didn't have that much clout to begin with. Jones missed out on coaching in his hometown when the Detroit Mercy job came open in 2008, despite his strong ties to the community. The Horizon League job instead went to Ray McCallum , whose closest connection was a one-year stint as a Michigan assistant in 1993.

Jones' players describe him as a more quiet and cerebral type of coach; he's more like the yin to Bruce Pearl's flamboyant yang. Nonetheless, he may want to look to his mentor for an example of a coach who overcame a silent blackballing attempt in the past. After blowing the whistle on a player recruiting scandal when he was an assistant coach at Iowa (yes, the irony of it all has been well-covered by this point) Pearl entered a coaching netherworld that led him to nine seasons as head man at DII Southern Indiana. He made the most of that situation, winning the national championship at that level and working his way back up through Milwaukee and on to Tennessee. Jones may not be in that exact position - his violations were relatively minor, and didn't involve ratting out a fellow coach - so his mid-major opportunities may still be there after this season.

All of the above is good information, and worth chewing on, but we all know the score. Winners get second chances. Jones has lost in his first two chances, and has a rather uneven slate remaining. A win in Saturday's huge rivalry game with Vanderbilt would be a nice start to the next act of Jones' coaching life, and an upset over Georgia or UConn on the ensuing road trip would really make his case. After that, it's three games the Vols are expected to win: LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn are not of UT's caliber this season. If Jones can win, and salvage Tennessee's tourney prospects in the process, you can bet that much, if not all, will be forgiven.

Photo: AP
Posted on: January 10, 2011 10:25 am

Coach Speak: Roy Williams is a cookie monster

Posted by Eric Angevine

Our video today comes from the A-10. Here, a couple of our television colleagues talk with UMass head coach Derek Kellogg about the Minutemen's 55-50 upset of defending NIT champs the Dayton Flyers.

Quotable Coaches

"I'm sitting here right now, and I feel like I've been inside the cookie jar in the cookie store and stole every cookie out of the jar and every cookie out of the store, and I want to get out of town as fast as I can. It was one of the ugliest W's I've ever been involved with."

-Roy Williams on North Carolina’s narrow  win at Virginia on Saturday


"I use the story that I have a dog. Every time the doorbell rings my dog runs to the front door to say 'Hi' to the person who rang the doorbell. In all the time I've had the dog, it's never been for him. The person that came to the door has never come to the door to see my dog. But that doesn't stop my dog. Every time it rings, he goes. And that's how Will rebounds. Every shot goes up, he goes to the boards. Even if it's not going to come off on his side, if it appears its going in, if its a lay-up, he goes every time, and he's rewarded for that. We want him to rebound like my dog."

-Oakland head coach Greg Kampe discussing forward Will Hudson’s inside presence on WXOU-FM


"They didn't make shots, and I'm sure John is disappointed. But I don't think he'll be disappointed in how they guarded or how they fought."

-Kansas coach Bill Self praises the Michigan team that nearly upset his squad on Sunday


“It’s a major swing. It’s a turnover. It’s taking away a basket from the other team. It’s taking away momentum from the other team and slipping it back to you. I tell the guys, ‘When a guy takes a charge, you’ve got to run over there like you’ve just won the lottery and pick him up.’

-San Diego State’s  Steve Fisher reflects on the value of sub Tim Shelton’s ability to draw offensive fouls


They did a great job on Kemba, forced him into some real tough shots. But coming down the stretch, Kemba Walker is Kemba Walker."

-Jim Calhoun reveals the intricate game plan that allowed UConn to triumph over Texas


“It’s not something she’s looking forward to doing again”

-Bruce Pearl talks about his wife Brandy’s reaction to watching Tennessee lose to Arkansas with him while he is on suspension


Heard a good one from your team's head man? Pass it along to eric.angevine@cbsinteractive.com

Hot Seat

Keno Davis, Providence Friars. The near-misses are not going to cut it much longer. Providence is 0-4 in the Big East after almost beating St. John’s, hanging close to Syracuse and Pitt and then, quite frankly, laying an egg against Rutgers two days ago. Davis’ rapid ascension to the Big East always seemed a bit rash – he served just one (albeit very good) season as head man at Drake – and he still seems to be in over his head in his third season at PC. Davis - son of the great former Iowa coach Dr. Tom Davis – seems to be a very good recruiter. What happens after he gets the kids on campus continues to underwhelm, however. Looking at those four losses again, it seems that the Friars play to the level of their competition; banging with the two ranked league teams they’ve seen, then going soft at the wrong moments to lose to two undermanned teams under new head coaches. Throw in the rash of discipline problems the team has faced during Davis’ tenure, and it doesn’t look good for Keno.

Posted on: January 4, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 3:38 pm

Ten games go a long way for Bruce Pearl's future

Posted by Matt Jones

December was not a good month for Bruce Pearl .  It is bad enough that the Tennessee coach had a losing record for the month, with four losses against the decidedly mediocre quartet or Charlotte, Oakland, USC and College of Charleston, planting the Vols decidedly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.  But then Pearl found himself the recipient of another round of “How is Bruce Pearl the coach at Tennessee?” questions following his embarrassing interview with Seth Davis on CBS.  What was once a possible season of redemption has now become simply a season of survival, as the wheels have completely blown apart the Tennessee locomotive.

January doesn’t look to be much better.  With an eight-game SEC suspension beginning on Saturday, Bruce Pearl will coach only two games for Tennessee in the month, both of which now look like must-wins for his Tournament future.  The Vols play Memphis in Knoxville on Wednesday and then make the rare trip to Storrs, Connecticut to meet Jim Calhoun and UCONN on the January 22.  Both games give Pearl’s squad a chance to get what the SEC will provide few opportunities to obtain, a resume-building win.  With Tennessee’s conference down to two ranked teams, winning at least one of the two non-conference battles is imperative and taking both may be required to go dancing this March.

And for Pearl, the NCAA Tournament may now represent much more than simply a season’s goal, it could be the difference between the continuation of his career and a move away from the major conference spotlight.  Since the revelation that Pearl lied to the NCAA, the coach has had his Tennessee contract voided and he is now working on an “at-will” basis.  The University is clearly waiting to see what sanctions will be handed down by the NCAA and whether they will inhibit Pearl’s ability to lead the Vols into the future.  For a basketball program that was on the verge of a Final Four last year and hasn’t seen consistent success since the “Ernie and Bernie” show in the 1970s, letting go of a winning coach would be difficult.  But if that same coach has watched while his team has imploded and found himself out of the NCAA Tournament in a year where the SEC is at its lowest point in over a decade…well that is a different story.

It is bizarre to imagine that in today’s NCAA world where Dez Bryant told a fib about knowing Deion Sanders and found himself out of a collegiate career, Bruce Pearl could still have a job.  But as of now, he does.  While one might argue that Pearl’s actions in the past should determine his future with the school, at this point he seems to have survived part of the storm from the NCAA sanctions.  However, with the dual realities of the acknowledged difficulty in firing a winning Coach and Pearl’s collapsing team’s next ten games featuring eight conference games from which he is suspended, one against a top ten team and the other against the school’s most heated rival, his future is far from secure.  For eighty percent of the Vols' January schedule, Pearl will not be on the sidelines and have virtually no control over the contest's outcomes.  But due to the precarious situation Pearl finds himself in, the way his team plays will not only decide whether the Vols will make the NCAA Tournament in March, it may go a long way in determining whether he will still be there this time next season.

Photo: AP
Posted on: January 3, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: January 3, 2011 11:29 am

Coach Speak: Bruce Pearl meant to do that

Posted by Eric Angevine

Buzz Williams gets our video spotlight for his press conference following the Marquette victory over West Virginia this weekend. As much for the Brewers sweatshirt as for anything he says, though he is a very plain-spoken fellow.

Now, on to some other quotables from NCAA head coaches from the past weekend:

"I was just trying to get (assistant coach) Tony Jones some reps."
-Bruce Pearl, talking about his ejection from Tennessee’s 91-78 loss to College of Charleston


"Josh had 23 points and 14 rebounds? Oh my gosh."
-John Calipari, reading Josh Harrellson’s line on the postgame stat sheet following a 78-63 win over Louisville


"He got 10 rebounds and we were playing at St. John's last week and he played 35 minutes and got 1 rebound. He wasn't active, so I spent half my halftime talk just getting after him to start getting his nose in there and stop being a cutie-pie."

-Northwestern's Bill Carmody evaluating sophomore Drew Crawford's play this week


"Thomas is without question our best post guy right now. He deserves to be out there, even though it’s probably not best for our team over time."

-Bill Self keeps the pressure on juniors Marcus and Markieff Morris by starting sophomore Thomas Robinson


"It takes a lot of pressure off the big guys. It gives us an opportunity to run out … to break and push the ball down the floor. It creates advantages-disadvantages for us. Now you’ve got forwards trying to guard our guards."

-Missouri coach Mike Anderson on his team’s recent improvement in defensive rebounding


"I looked out there and it was like the old Michael Jordan movie 'Space Jam,' It was the monsters and aliens vs. the cartoon characters. That was a nice looking team on the other bench. They’re big, strong, athletic."

-Boise State head coach Leon Rice after the Broncos defeated New Mexico State 81-78


"A moral victory for us."

-Head coach Brian Newhall of DIII Occidental College following his team’s 93-50 loss at San Diego State. A last-second shot denied Aztec fans free curly fries, awarded by Jack in the Box restaurants whenever SDSU holds a visiting team below 50.


"Since we last played them and beat them, we've lost eight games - and two of them were to them. I'm really proud of our team for really stepping up and not being intimidated by the streak. Tonight was our night."

-Stanford women's coach Tara VanDerveer after ending UConn’s 90-game win streak

Hot Seat: Trent Johnson, LSU

If anyone made his seat hotter this week, it's LSU's Trent Johnson. The man who won 80 games in a difficult recruiting environment at Stanford probably thought winning in Baton Rouge would be a piece of cake, but things have gone downhill since his first season with the purple and gold, which ended in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Last year there was no postseason bid at all, and this season looks much the same. The Tigers are 8-7, and this week's road trip, with a short turnaround between playing Rice in Houston on December 29th and then Virginia in Charlottesville on January 2nd, didn't do him any favors, as both ended in losses to very beatable teams.

Louisiana State fired John Brady two years after he reached a Final Four. How much patience will they have with Johnson? The road trip continues on Saturday with a trip to the terrible, horrible, no-good Auburn Tigers. If that game ends in a loss, Tiger fans will be howling for Johnson's head on a platter.
Posted on: January 1, 2011 3:25 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 3:42 pm

Bruce Pearl doesn't put best foot forward

Posted by Matt Jones


At halftime of yesterday's Kentucky-Louisville game, CBS's Seth Davis sat down with Bruce Pearl to talk about the NCAA investigation that is swirling around the Tennessee program.  Pearl has admitted to the NCAA that he gave false information when confronted with evidence of a relatively minor rules violation committed by he and his staff during a recruiting visit.  Seth confronted Pearl about the issues and asked how he would respond to viewers who believed that he was a liar.  His answer, which can be seen above in the video, in many ways makes him look even worse than he did before the question.

Pearl responded with a classic Bill Clinton "it depends on what the definition of 'is' is" answer and attempted to draw a distinction between not telling the truth and being a liar.  It came off to me as totally disingenuous, and I am actually a huge Bruce Pearl fan.  Rather than just totally accepting responsiblity and acknowledging that his actions were totally unacceptable, Pearl still tries to hold out some hope that his actions can be looked at differently, and detached from the actual Bruce Pearl.  With Bruce, and anyone else for that matter, that is impossible.

The fact is Bruce, based on your actions with the NCAA, you were a liar.  It is up to you to show that you are not a liar going forward.  Drawing distinctions between Bruce Pearl the individual and Bruce Pearl's actions does nothing to change that reality.
Category: NCAAB
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