Could Pearl be the 'wow' for Memphis?

Source: Coach has expressed interest through intermediaries

MEMPHIS - On the day after John Calipari's departure from the University of Memphis, the mood among a small group of people who will be instrumental in hiring the next men's basketball coach would best be characterized as angry, bitter and ready to spend some cash.

According to several people involved in the process, Memphis will be able to wave a significant amount of money in front of candidates over the next several days, though it obviously doesn't guarantee that a big name will be willing to come.

FedEx vice president Alan Graf, who will run the search from the boosters' side, said Wednesday that Memphis would be looking to make a splash as it attempts to keep the program nationally relevant.

"We've asked for a lot of permissions (to speak with coaches) and we've gotten them," Graf said. "I think we certainly have a capability of making a 'Wow' hire.

"Some of the names (being considered), if people heard them, they'd say, 'Wow.' "

Firmly in the "wow" category would be Louisville's Rick Pitino and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, and it is believed that representatives of the search have had some form of contact with those two.

The News Sentinel reported that as of Wednesday afternoon, Memphis had not contacted Tennessee for permission to speak to Pearl.

Pearl did not return phone messages or text messages Wednesday.

Pearl, 49, seems to be a much more realistic possibility. According to a source close to Tennessee's program, Pearl has expressed interest in the position through intermediaries. The reasons given would be access to the Memphis talent base, which he has not been able to lure to East Tennessee, but would fit well with his up-tempo style of play.

Pearl would also be one of the few candidates who could dominate the city in much the same way Calipari did through the sheer force of his personality.

Though a move to Memphis may not make sense on the surface, it's also worth noting that Pearl, who took Tennessee to the Sweet 16 in 2007 and 2008, might also want to escape the SEC East - which just got a whole lot tougher with Calipari at Kentucky. One potential roadblock to Pearl would be his buyout, which costs $2.5 million if he leaves in the next year. Pearl's current contract averages $2.3 million per season.

The pitch to Pitino, 56, could involve a succession plan for his son, Richard, to take the position when the elder Pitino is ready to retire. Richard Pitino, 26, has been an assistant at College of Charleston, Northeastern, Duquesne and Louisville.

Rick Pitino would likely want such a plan in place to consider any opening. Pitino took Louisville to the Elite Eight this season, his eighth year at the school. Pitino also coached eight years at Kentucky.

While it was unclear whether Pitino returned the interest, CBSSports.com quoted a source saying Pitino would not be open to overtures from Memphis.

Louisville's sports information director, Kenny Klein, said Memphis had not contacted Louisville about speaking with Pitino.

Not only would a Pearl hire immediately grab national headlines and keep enthusiasm high during a rebuilding project, but it would also perhaps send a message to Calipari, who did not get along with Pearl during their four years sharing the same state. And don't underestimate the role that anger might play in hiring a new coach.

"A lot of sour feelings right now," said Harold Byrd, a Memphis booster and Rebounders Club president. "I thought maybe it was just me. But apparently everybody feels the same way I do. I see (Calipari) on TV, and it's almost like we never existed. I think a lot of people are energized to try to replace our former coach with somebody as good or better."

Mike Rose, a major donor to the program, hinted at a possible break from Calipari's methods:

"It might not be a bunch of (NBA-bound) one-and-done guys. It might be some four-year players.''

Calipari made $2.35 million annually with an annuity on top of it - most of which will not be collected, since it was spread out from 2008 to 2013. Calipari was offered a more lucrative deal to stay at Memphis than the 8-year, $31.65 million contract he accepted at Kentucky, so the resources are in place to at least get the interest of high-level coaches.

''I think we are in a better position than most as far as what we can afford," Graf said. "Everyone who helped pay Cal's salary is ready to step up and do the same thing again. So we are going to be extremely competitive. I don't think that's going to be an issue for us.''

Southern California coach Tim Floyd remains strongly in the mix and had some form of contact with Memphis on Wednesday, according to a source. A close friend of Floyd's told The Commercial Appeal on Tuesday he would likely be interested in the position even though he is comfortable in Los Angeles.

Two other successful recruiters believed to be on Memphis' radar are Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy and Baylor's Scott Drew.

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 135

pabashia#208095 writes:

Pearl's not leaving.

volsoutwest writes:

Say it ain't so Bruce.

volunteer11 writes:

if pearl leaves i will cry

tenuscvol writes:

Are you kidding me?

That would be a killer....

DCVolFan (Inactive) writes:

DCVolFan think Witch Doctor right.
Thinks Comical Appeal writers are bitter.

gohawks1 writes:

BolivarBob, are you out there brother?

What is the word going around Bolivar about how Calipari's departure will affect Willie Kemp? Got any inside info on that?

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Please don't go to the west! Memphis is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter! You've got a good thing going here and it's really just getting started!!! GO VOLS!!! STAY BRUCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gohawks1 writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

Please don't go to the west! Memphis is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter! You've got a good thing going here and it's really just getting started!!! GO VOLS!!! STAY BRUCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And too risky after dark...

born2ride writes:

Bob Knight interviewed today for the Memphis job. Wow!

VOL_FREAK_91 writes:

I for one would be extremely heart broken if Bruce were to leave. I don't know what i would do and dont want to have to deal with what i would have to do. I think he is the best coach in Tn basketball history and I think he should stay. Hopefully we will have word tomorrow sayin he is all vol and wouldnt even think about leaving which I think that he is. Go Vols and STAY BRUCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cherokee writes:

I just can't see Bruce leaving the SEC for CUSA. I CAN see Bruce or any other coach letting "interest" in the position drive their current employer to pony up some more dough.

VOL_FREAK_91 writes:

this is a good point and I didnt think that it would make sense going from sec to cusa especially as competitive as Bruce is

VOL_FREAK_91 writes:

I just wont feel comfortable until i hear for sure but i think he has too much going at Tn especially with the 2010 class to leave

utchris writes:

Sure he is interested. Interested in getting UT to shell out some more money. Cant blame him. College sports are big time business and this is a business move.

forkball writes:

I call bullsheet on "the source close to Tennessee's program" as well as the "intermediaries". That's just reporters throwing phooey up against the wall to sell a newspaper. Sure are alot of Memphis sportswriters trying to cozy up to the guy they used to rip since they've been dumped by Coach Carpetbagger. Just move along boys, there's no news here.

VOLS_R_BEST_DEAL_WITH_IT writes:

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Don't go Pearl PLEASE!!! Your above those tiger scumbags!!
VOLS>TIGERS

VOL_FREAK_91 writes:

Just read on Volquest that Mempiss didnt ask permission nor is Hammy going to give it to them if they do . He says he is confident that Bruce will not leave or even consider interviewing for the job. Im so paranoid!

Volfan615 writes:

All Bruce Pearl has to do to end all the reports is to come out and say that he is not intrested in the job but if he doesnt come out and say this then we should be worried

JohnsonCity_George writes:

CBP wants an arena named after him. He is coaching at a place where the arena is named after two boosters. CBP is where he should be.

golfballs03 writes:

Dont waste your time... Bruce isnt leaving for Memphis. I am not naive to think he won't leave for certain programs. Memphis isnt it

GahLee writes:

Bruce will more than likely use this interest and speculation to gas up UT to give him another cool million to stay...Mike Hamilton has gone on record to say that he wouldn't give Memphis permission to talk to Bruce...You guys need not to worry, he isn't going anywhere.

But, hypothetically, if he were to leave for the Memphis job, who would you want as his replacement? Serious candidates, no Coach K or Roy Williams submits.

bluetiger writes:

Until your coach comes out like Billy Donavan did a few days ago with a formal statement stating that he is committed to the Tennessee program and is not interested in any other jobs, then don't assume he isn't checking things out in Memphis. The fact that he has not yet done this should be a red flag.

And if you think that the CA would report on something that doesn't have some meat to it, you're mistaken. They are known to be dead-on with things, and it's against their policy to print anything as fact that they can't verify.

We, too, naively believed that our coach would never leave us because it's what we as fans wanted to believe. We, too, tried to tell ourselves that the CA was misguided when the stories started popping up that Calipari was actually considering UK.

As we Memphis fans learned too well over the past few days, coaches are not as committed to the programs as the fans are or we would like to think they would be. For them, it's a career, just like any of the rest of us with careers.

So many Vols fans have been gleefully nasty about us losing Calipari. You might be about to find out how it feels to lose a great coach yourselves. But maybe not. Maybe Pearl will use this as leverage to secure a better package from UT. It remains to be seen. Calipari had several "false exits" from Memphis before he finally left.

Maybe he'll come out with an unequivocal statement tomorrow that Tennessee is where he plans to stay.

Just don't be surprised if he doesn't.

golfballs03 writes:

Its flattering to think Memphis thinks so highly of Bruce Pearl. They should really look at an NBA coach like Avery Johnson

GahLee writes:

in response to bluetiger:

Until your coach comes out like Billy Donavan did a few days ago with a formal statement stating that he is committed to the Tennessee program and is not interested in any other jobs, then don't assume he isn't checking things out in Memphis. The fact that he has not yet done this should be a red flag.

And if you think that the CA would report on something that doesn't have some meat to it, you're mistaken. They are known to be dead-on with things, and it's against their policy to print anything as fact that they can't verify.

We, too, naively believed that our coach would never leave us because it's what we as fans wanted to believe. We, too, tried to tell ourselves that the CA was misguided when the stories started popping up that Calipari was actually considering UK.

As we Memphis fans learned too well over the past few days, coaches are not as committed to the programs as the fans are or we would like to think they would be. For them, it's a career, just like any of the rest of us with careers.

So many Vols fans have been gleefully nasty about us losing Calipari. You might be about to find out how it feels to lose a great coach yourselves. But maybe not. Maybe Pearl will use this as leverage to secure a better package from UT. It remains to be seen. Calipari had several "false exits" from Memphis before he finally left.

Maybe he'll come out with an unequivocal statement tomorrow that Tennessee is where he plans to stay.

Just don't be surprised if he doesn't.

Overall a decent post...I think that Pearl being hired is very unrealistic. I also think that his name is in the hat outta spite, no knock on Bruce, but he has a 2.5 million dollar buyout, not only that but Memphis would have to throw about 3.5 million at him...honestly he isn't worth that much.

Gotta nagging suspicion that Memphis will be hung out to dry on this one...don't have a clue who they would hire at this juncture, with Anderson locked down, and Floyd at Arizona.

Just don't count on Bruce walking out on us just cause that sleazeball stomped on your hearts...as always, Go Vols!!!

GahLee writes:

in response to Florrible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you act as if someone bad mouthing him on this site would have anything to do with him leaving if he decided to do so...Pearl doesn't seem like a thin-skinned type of guy.

There are going to be people calling for your head no matter what you do, you can't please everyone, and you will drive yourself crazy if you try to.

No need to be worried folks, he isn't going anywhere. This is just speculation, that's all.

ZacharyUTK writes:

Don't read the Commercial Appeal. What a dirty liberal rag.

ZacharyUTK writes:

That sounds kinda mean. In my humble opinion, the Commercial Appeal does not reflect my own personal ideals.

GahLee writes:

I heard a guy on sports radio today say that Pat Summitt should be forced into retirement so the University can afford to give Bruce and Lane more money...the majority of the people that call into those shows are the dumbest of the dumb. IF, and that is a big if, Pearl were to leave, it would have nothing to do with a few bumbling idiots getting hammered and running their mouths about Something they truly know nothing of.

If YOU think that Bruce cares what some knuckleheads have to say about him, then YOU are very unaware of how real men carry themselves.

What exactly do you mean when you write "gunning for you"?

GahLee writes:

Look, I like Coach Pearl, his accomplishments here have been nothing short of amazing, but you gotta critique some of the things that have went on during his tenure, you just have to.

Accountability and discipline will always fall on the coaches shoulders, always, as well as it should. Allowing a sub-par shooting team to shot 33 three-point shots in an NCAA tournament game is unacceptable, especially when you have a considerable size advantage. I also have some grips with the flexbone offense that he runs, it can be efficient when run properly, but where are curls and pick-and-rolls? Some of the most basic plays that everyone runs are non-existent here.

I think Pearl could do a better job here, I think he has the potential to coach us up to being an elite program. I really believe that he can do it, maybe he will do it his way in time, and I certainly hope that he does so.

My point is this, there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism, it's when people start calling for the guys head when it gets out of line, but having a few grips, well to me there is nothing wrong with that.

With all this being said, I truly hope that Bruce will continue to lead us in the right path, and if he stays, I believe that he will. Go Vols!!!

GahLee writes:

in response to Florrible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Once again, he isn't leaving, not happening, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning while winning the lottery...well maybe the odds aren't that heavy but still.

It would be money, as always, it's all about the money, he wouldn't leave on account of 5% of the rejects who call themselves fans calling for his head.

donniedem writes:

in response to ZacharyUTK:

That sounds kinda mean. In my humble opinion, the Commercial Appeal does not reflect my own personal ideals.

Zachary....Certainly most of the people on this site are conservative, but not all. I assure you there are some of us that are liberal. I feel that it is important to keep political opinions to yourself. You won't read a post were I am trashing the KNS. And we all know the KNS is a conservative paper. Political opinions don't belong on this board. It's all about the Vols!!!So knock it off....Thank You...Go Vols

GahLee writes:

When did politics and your views of the aforementioned become so taboo? Who cares if you are a liberal or a conservative, freedom of speech will live again one day...hope that I am around to hear it.

GahLee writes:

On that note, I'm Audi 5000[ for all you old-school rap fans, all 2 of you]. 'Till tomorrow...Go Vols!!!

donniedem writes:

in response to GahLee:

When did politics and your views of the aforementioned become so taboo? Who cares if you are a liberal or a conservative, freedom of speech will live again one day...hope that I am around to hear it.

Political opinion is not taboo. I just feel it has it's place and it's place is not a blog about UT athletics. I'm sure there are many politcal blogs that would welcome anyone's opinion, whether it be left or right. What does the observation that the Memphis commercial appeal may be or may not be a liberal rag have to do with CBP possibly becoming head coach at Memphis?

ktownvol writes:

in response to Florrible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are absolutely right, if Bruce decides to leave -- whether now or in the near future -- I believe it will be for the same reasons you mentioned, idiot Tennessee "fans" that have so quickly forgotten the misery of our basketball program before Sir Bruce arrived on the scene and took a group of mostly mediocre players hungry to win and willing to do anything to make it happen to the top!! You so-called Tennessee fans that pick apart every little thing that didn't go exactly as planned in the 2008-2009 season may get what you deserve, and what the rest of us cring to even think about!! Everyone needs to look back 5 years and see just how far we've come, thanks to Bruce!!! We owe him a great big thank you and a pat on the back for what he's done for the Tennessee basketball program! Word gets around and he keeps explaining all the pieces that caused the season to go a little differently than he had hoped -- we still had a successful season. Sit back and enjoy or keep your mouth shut! We love you Bruce -- GO
VOLS!!!

bluetiger writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think comparing Memphis basketball to "summer stock in Bolivar" is a little absurd. C'mon! We have a very, very good program.

An attraction that Memphis might have to coaches in BCS schools is that Memphis is a basketball school, always has been, always will be. Rightly or wrongly, the U of M is likely to never invest in the football program to the extent it has invested in basketball. This means that the basketball coach will always be the king on campus and will always be the one who is the face of U of M sports in the community.

UKblue02 writes:

I hope CBP stays at UT, I am truly looking forward to the heating up of the UK/UT rivalry. In my opinion the UK/Fla rivalry just isn't the same as UK/UT. If Memphis is truly after him though, they have some good bait to throw out, lots of money and chances for more wins in CUSA, not throwing stones at CUSA just a fact.

Fryinpansvols writes:

Why would Bruce take a job at Memphis? That would be a lateral move. UT is building their program back to what they had when Mears and Devoe coached. I personally don't see Mr. Pearl leaving Knoxville where he has the Orange Nation kissing the ground he walks on.

ravensearay writes:

You know.....I hate to say this - but stop and think - Kentucky gave Calipari $32M for 8 years - that's $4M a year - Memphis says they have just as much or more to give a new coach - Pearl is making ~$2.3M now......He could double his salary and get all those extra perks....Tough decision...........but one that I think will be based more on money than everyone thinks.

mmynatt writes:

All Memphis has to do is pay the $2.5 million buyout and give him $4.2 million a year and he is gone. Then we are back in the s...pile as far as college basketball is concerned. We are still regarded as a football school primarily and look at the coaches who turned us down a few years back (primary one is the a-hole at Vandy-puke).

Oh woe is a UT basketball fan!!!!

LEXKYVOLS writes:

I did not have time to read all comments but my take is - Pearl needs to come out and say he is not leaving. Take Tennessee to the next level and the money will follow at THE University of Tennessee.

vol44 writes:

in response to bluetiger:

Until your coach comes out like Billy Donavan did a few days ago with a formal statement stating that he is committed to the Tennessee program and is not interested in any other jobs, then don't assume he isn't checking things out in Memphis. The fact that he has not yet done this should be a red flag.

And if you think that the CA would report on something that doesn't have some meat to it, you're mistaken. They are known to be dead-on with things, and it's against their policy to print anything as fact that they can't verify.

We, too, naively believed that our coach would never leave us because it's what we as fans wanted to believe. We, too, tried to tell ourselves that the CA was misguided when the stories started popping up that Calipari was actually considering UK.

As we Memphis fans learned too well over the past few days, coaches are not as committed to the programs as the fans are or we would like to think they would be. For them, it's a career, just like any of the rest of us with careers.

So many Vols fans have been gleefully nasty about us losing Calipari. You might be about to find out how it feels to lose a great coach yourselves. But maybe not. Maybe Pearl will use this as leverage to secure a better package from UT. It remains to be seen. Calipari had several "false exits" from Memphis before he finally left.

Maybe he'll come out with an unequivocal statement tomorrow that Tennessee is where he plans to stay.

Just don't be surprised if he doesn't.

First only Memphis fans thought Calipari wouldn't leave not the rest of basketball civilization. Tiger fans have this imaginary belief that they are in the same class as NC, Ky, UCLA. I know because I live down here with them. Calipari strung RC along just long enough for them not to aggressively go after the most logical choice Mike Anderson. Then he tried to blackmail them into Tony Barbee. We'll see if the program is in better shape now than before coach cal came.

rockytopron writes:

If Pearl leaves (which after this past season, doesn't hurt my feelings as much) can we go after Bob Knight?!

Vol_Jokes writes:

Ha ha... Memphis always one up'ing the Vols. Now this entire mess could be transferred from the Tigers laps right into the Vols laps.
Man, i've heard so much about this man being so much better than Cal. It should be great to get him.

Andy writes:

HERE IS A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM: We have some COMPLETE IDIOTS fans among us who wait on hold for 45 minutes every day to call in each sports talk show because they have no lives.
Then they say on the air that Bruce Pearl should get fired because of this past season and that he only won with Buzz's players.
Bruce listens to that y'all.
If I was doing a great job and some idiots make ridiculous and malicious comments about my performance, I would get ticked off and leave. I would go to the competition, make more money and then cause problems for my old company.
Its going to happen because we happen to have some of the worst and dumbest fans in the country among us.
It will be back to mediocrity. And if we ever get a good coach again the morons will run him off.
Thats the UT Athletic Dept's biggest problem: stupid fans with no lives.

Vol_Jokes writes:

marc your coach is leaving this team. I've heard a deal is on the table waiting. What do you think.. rumors????

Tooo funny... the wonderful pearl jumping ship over to tiger high... talk about in your face... if we steal your coach it's the ultimate blow the vol basketball fans.

bluetiger writes:

in response to GahLee:

I heard a guy on sports radio today say that Pat Summitt should be forced into retirement so the University can afford to give Bruce and Lane more money...the majority of the people that call into those shows are the dumbest of the dumb. IF, and that is a big if, Pearl were to leave, it would have nothing to do with a few bumbling idiots getting hammered and running their mouths about Something they truly know nothing of.

If YOU think that Bruce cares what some knuckleheads have to say about him, then YOU are very unaware of how real men carry themselves.

What exactly do you mean when you write "gunning for you"?

Hey, Pat Summitt doesn't have to retire, we'll take her for the Memphis job!

bmaples writes:

Earlier poster asked for possible replacements if Pearl leaves (and I really want him to stay - just posting this in response) --

Go after Travis Ford. He's probably chapped at UK right now, having been passed over a second time. Sure would shove a stick in the Cat's eye.

Izzo, Thad Matta, the guy at Gonzaga.

bluetiger writes:

in response to TCHDWN10C:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are absolutely right. It's going to be a very tough year. We went overnight from having one of of top-five teams in the country to not even being the top team in CUSA.

To put this in a context that you UT fans can appreciate -- it would be like Lane Kiffin announcing that he was going to coach for Florida, and oh yeah, that great recruiting class that everyone's so hyped about? Well, they're going with him.

It hurts big time.

Calipari made sure of that when he had the recruits' Letter of Intents include a clause that they would be released from the LOI if he were to leave. And the CA is also reporting that on Tuesday when he claimed to be "agonizing" over his decision, he was actually buying time to contact the recruits and convince them to go to UK with him. See, once he was officially UK's coach, he couldn't contact them anymore.

Low-life? Oh, I have much stronger words, but if I type them, the KNS will ban me from the board.

87UTVOL writes:

Could Pearl leave for the right situation? Sure. Is Memphis it right now? I don't think so.

One, with an almost $3B (that's billion) ESPN contract and unprecedented exposure for SEC basketball (plus high profile teams and coaches across the league), the SEC will only get better. If Memphis stays in CUSA (and the options are few or non-existent), Memphis is a step down. Pearl would be going from Gainesville and Lexington on national TV to Huntington, WV and Tulsa, OK and no TV.

Two, Memphis may be decimated and have a weak team next year should Calipari take commitments and Memphis lose a couple to the NBA and transfers. Pearl would not be walking in to a powerhouse, but another rebuilding job. With ESPN and UT's new facilities, it will be easier to recruit Memphis and good players to UT.

Three, yes, Memphis can offer strong money. But, would they pay Pearl the same as the money they were prepared to pay to keep Calipari? I wouldn't think so. Completely different situation. UT can compete money-wise with Memphis or most anyone else. Hamilton knows what Pearl means. And, as for comparing to what the football coach makes, that was more of an issue with long-time coach Fulmer rather than new-hire Kiffin.

Four, Pearl has children in school here. With the recent divorce, surely Pearl wouldn't cause more turmoil for the kids. I believe CBP's kids like it here, he has a great life, a new house in Gettysvue, his Sea Ray just minutes away and fans who love him. Knoxville is a great college town.

Five, I think Pearl has pretty strong loyalty to UT and his players. UT made Pearl wealthy, put him on the national stage weekly, gave him everything he could want (new state of the art practice facility, new arena, salary, resources, etc., etc.).

The strongest argument I've heard for Pearl leaving is the Jewish community in Memphis would love to have him there. But, Pearl has clearly made a difference in the Knoxville community, including the faith comminuty.

Given all the above, I can't see Pearl leaving. Maybe he proves me wrong. I sure hope not.

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