Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl and the Maccabi USA Open Men's team he coaches leave Philadelphia for Tel Aviv, Israel, today.
"I've got the red, white and blue on and I'm representing my country,'' an excited Pearl said in a phone interview from Philadelphia, where he has been drilling the USA team the past week in preparation for the Maccabiah Games. "We're playing in the 18-to-32 age division, and that's a tall task. We're basically playing against pros.''
Pearl's USA team scrimmaged a team of Philadelphia all-stars that included former Temple standouts Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale, in addition to former Butler guard Mike Green and scored an 83-76 win Tuesday night.
UT's Steven Pearl had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists, and Dan Grunfeld, son of Vols' legend Ernie Grunfeld, had 16 points. Grunfeld played his college ball at Stanford and played last season professionally in Spain.
Bruce Pearl's assistant coaches are La Salle's Harris Adler and ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb, a former Maccabiah Games participant himself.
The Maccabiah Games run July 12-23. Pearl's USA team plays Mexico on July 14.
"We should be OK in that one,'' Pearl said. "But then we play France, and I'll only have one chance to see them play.
"I can't bring (UT assistant) Jason Shay with me in a piece of luggage unless he wants to convert.''
Pearl said the biggest challenge for his team will be becoming accustomed to the 24-second shot clock.
"We'll try to press and have that be a factor, but we're also going to have to be more fast-breaking,'' he said. "There won't be as much continuity in the offense, it's more quick-hitters.''
The USA team took the bronze in the most recent Maccabiah Games, while Israel is the defending champ and the favorite to win again.
Pearl said he expects Argentina, France and Russia to make a run at medals, too.
The Maccabiah Games are commonly known as the "Jewish Olympics'' and are held every four years in Israel. More than 7,000 athletes from 60 countries will be competing in this year's games.
In addition to having his son, Steven, playing for him, Pearl is bringing his oldest daughter, Jacqui, to Israel.
Pearl said he'll continue to maintain most of his UT basketball duties while in Israel.
"We've done some things with e-mail and phones in Israel, so I'll have the communications I'll need with our prospects and players,'' said Pearl, who signed a new contract Tuesday. "You have to keep your priorities straight.''
For more information on the games, go to Maccabiusa.com, or jewishsports.net/the_maccabiah_games.htm.