Strange: Pearl well aware that focus is on him

Mike Strange

Raw footage from basketball media day

Bruce Pearl speaks to the media

Q&A with Bruce Pearl

Bruce Pearl has been a lot of things in a lot of rooms.

He's been a bare-chested, orange-painted cheerleader. He's been a fiery orator promising fans his team was about to go kick fill-in-the-blank's butt.

He's cajoled anyone who would listen to get out their wallet and contribute for cancer screenings. He's taken up the orange flag from a fallen football program and rallied booster crowds across the state and beyond.

Now he plays another role, his least comfortable one.

"There's an elephant in the room. I'm it,'' he said Wednesday. "So let's just deal with it.''

Pearl begins his sixth season as men's basketball coach at Tennessee with a cloud hovering. It's an NCAA-investigation cloud and it's hanging over Pearl's head as much as the program's.

Last month Pearl had to stand before a press conference and reveal he had not been truthful with NCAA investigators who raised questions about certain recruiting practices.

For this serious and baffling misjudgment, UT docked his pay $1.5 million over time and banned Pearl from off-campus recruiting for one year.

No one is sure when the other shoe falls. That would be likely further penalties levied by the NCAA against both the program and Pearl personally.

Some national media outlets and regional newspaper columnists suggest UT should terminate Pearl, that lying to the NCAA is too great a sin to tolerate. Pearl's boss says that's not going to happen.

"Those were significant penalties,'' Mike Hamilton said this week. "We wouldn't have done that if we didn't have the intention of him being our coach long term.''

Disputing reports that UT didn't fire Pearl because his contract makes doing so prohibitive, Hamilton doesn't expect the school's stance to alter.

"Short of significant findings, which we don't anticipate,'' Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, practice opens Friday on what should be another upbeat season on the court. An eyelash removed from reaching the Final Four last March, the Vols are deep and talented.

Pearl's task is to keep his team focused on what it can control - getting better, maximizing its potential - rather than what it cannot.

"We're dealing with it,'' Pearl said. "It's an ongoing process.

"So we put the cloud there but we have an opportunity through a lot of different things to have the sun come through that cloud and kind of break it up.''

Pearl asked his players' forgiveness. Then he added a warning:

"I made sure they understand that while I've let them down, don't think for one second that just because I made a mistake I'm going to be more tolerant.''

"That,'' junior Cam Tatum said with a smile, "is what your father is supposed to say.''

Steven Pearl thinks his coach/father is handling the ordeal remarkably well. Likewise, the team.

"We're working hard,'' Steven said. "Nobody's feeling sorry for him. Everyone's just busting their butt to make him look good.

"We have his back.''

He appreciates it.

"Yeah,'' Pearl said. "It's been tough in synagogue and church, and around some people I really respect.

"My discussion in an ethics class is going to be a little bit different and have a little more substance personally as far as that humility is concerned.''

Humility can shorten a man's stride. I wondered if a chastened Pearl could still deliver the same brash energy that jolted a lethargic program to life five years ago.

He conceded he may have to "tone it down a little" with some of the antics but that humility is a trait he has long embraced.

"The swagger is something you see on the floor or when I'm coaching,'' he said. "For people who know who I am, I'm still the same guy who was an assistant for 14 years and a division-two coach for a long time.

"But when I step back on the floor and the way my teams play, I hope the success we've had won't change. And, therefore, neither will the swagger.''

That should come as good news to an anxious fan base. The cloud is up there, no denying it.

In his time at UT, Pearl has been able to surmount obstacles presented by others. Now he has to face one of his own doing and bring back the sun.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 37

bspurlingcac#225603 writes:

Bruce will do his best coaching job this year!

danisavol writes:

Go pearl i still got your back.GO VOLS

BigBadVol writes:

I will always be a Bruce Pearl fan. I think the man sometimes cares too much which gets him in hot water. I truly believe he has learned a valuable lesson by the way he has handled himself. The trolls will be here to insult coach Pearl and the fan base but it doesn't change a thing. We have one of the best coaches in college basketball. His players love him. I support him 100%.

hdhurst writes:

in response to jmr68ut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If we all accepted your rationale, no one could last after they make any blunder. Parents should be kicking their children of the house as we speak right? Employees should fire someone the next indescretion, right? Sure, lying is worse than other trespasses, but HE is the one to made the call back to the NCAA about what he did wrong. Bruce is no god that some vol fans like to present him as, but I am not looking forward to losing this great coach for this one admitted transgression. Put him on a shorter leash (so to speak), but don't go awol and think you have to clean house. I personally think your harshness is a little extreme. By the way, UK is still looking for some TN fans, why not join their fan base, huh?

Drpippin writes:

I believe in second chances most of the time. Hamilton needs to keep him on a very short leash and to realize that the other end tied around his own neck. One more misstep and they both need to go.

BigDaddy101 writes:

in response to jmr68ut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It takes a bigger man to admit he was wrong and be confronted with the punishment, rather than a snake that is scared and just keeps making lie after lie to cover the first. That's who I'd want my son to play for. I'm sure you think your perfect right? The mold was broke when you were created? The big orange has made some mistakes in the past but we are putting the right foot forward with Dooley and Pearl and rebuilding this program from the ground up.(like it should be)

Couchdummy writes:

Mike Strange, you are a very gifted writer. I enjoy your articles very much, and this is one of your finest.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

He's paid the price. He won't do it again. Let's move on...

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Y'all know what I think?? Some people (Me????) have a HUGE problem handling success. This is going to sound ludicrous to 'normal' folk, but oh well:

you do something stupid that you know will trip you up. or, you adopt an attitude, work habit, or some such that you KNOW is putting you at risk.

Don't ask me why, I honestly do not know. I just know I have fought that demon forever. This may not apply to Bruce, but if could...

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

CSF:
yeah, there is not glossing, huh. and, worse, to do it while at or near your program's peak. Worse yet, the violations he lied about are relatively frivolous.

I know you to be a 'fair' poster.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to Agent_Orange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Completely agree.

I'd still like Bruce to lay out, specifically, how he plans to keep the program (and himself) on the straight and narrow.

For once, this is not a time to say nothing.

txvolsfan writes:

in response to jmr68ut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Is that you posting again Mother Theresa!!!

I don't like to throw stones from my glass house

VOLFORLIFE1974 writes:

in response to jmr68ut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Coach made a mistake, a pretty big one as well. But, as someone who's also made some pretty big mistakes, i think he's the coach we want and need. Man up, as he's been doing, and let's go win some championships. It's funny how many people on this site live in glass houses..

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor one time out of change and shake candy machine till goodies fall down. Witch Doctor feel bad but still deny if asked. Witch Doctor say sanctions handed down was Candy machine moved into commons area many steps away..crime dont pay.
Bones never lie.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to SirSpanky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

cat's a decent poster. only gets snarky when someone attacks.

typically he just gives a 'cat' fan perspective.

Volencheaters writes:

I have been saying this for weeks>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
If he did not "lie" this would be no big deal. Then it comes out that he did the same thing at previous school with recruit at his house. The truth will set you free....If he man'd up as you would say then very little would be done. These are pointless rule breakings to even more pointless rules from the NCAA. But the fact he lied pretty much gives the 'AA the ammo they need. We all make mistakes. But they way he made this mistake "again" and lied shows very poor judgement. Finally, Calipari's so called history had not hurt him landing recruits. Top class this year with 4 guys in top 18 coming next year, including 3 out of top 6.

Volencheaters writes:

Plus the so called one year off campus recruiting crud. If he was serious about this he would of stopped then. Instead, he waited a few days before the fall contact period eneded. He was in Memphis doing damage control. Why not stop right then. Show the NCAA you are serious. I think the NCAA may feel played on that sanction. Watch closely to UCONN, they issued self sanctions and now the NCAA will issue more.

Bigger_Al writes:

Go Bruce! I got your back too.

DRORANGELOVE writes:

The NCAA is a joke, with some of its antiquated and stupid rules that have absolutely NO common sense factored into them.

If I was the parent of a recruiting visit prospect, I would feel a lot better towards any coaching staff who took the time and interest to personally invite my son or daughter to their homes so he/she could meet their family and get to know them and their families as people and not just as a coach. I would feel a lot more comfortable knowing my child was at one of the coaching staffs home enjoying a home cooked meal with them and their families than out hitting the night spots and sority houses with other young people their age trying to find a party.

Come on NCAA, its time to revamp your rules and factor some common sense into them. GBO

vol75 writes:

Life is about challenges, some of our own making. The challenge is magnified when you are in the public eye. Bruce screwed up. Now he has to learn from it, correct it, and move on. It remains to be seen whether he can overcome the challenge. But we need to give him the opportunity to try. Regardless of his motives for "admitting his mistakes," it is not for us to judge a repentant heart. Your past determines who you are. But you detemine who you will become. I believe Bruce Pearl will become a better man.

volcrazy333 writes:

in response to SirSpanky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you would think so... but its a completely different situation. pearl lied to the NCAA. then apologized and promised to make it up to the fan base. Cal just ran away from the punishment and left memphis fans to deal with it on their own even though he was the cause of it.... id take pearl any day. plus pearl is a better coach. coach cal is a fraud.

GBO

utkbowen22 writes:

"Some national media outlets and regional newspaper columnists suggest UT should terminate Pearl, that lying to the NCAA is too great a sin to tolerate. Pearl's boss says that's not going to happen."

Why does anyone care what the media's opinion id on whether or not Bruce should be fired? It is the NCAA's decision not theirs. These are the same people that convinced everyone to have Obama put in office and chant his name in which they should have been chanting "Spend, Spend, Spend" Don't copy someone elses opinion just because you don't have one of your own.

volboy81 writes:

Bruce is too smart to make the same mistake twice. We'll take our medicine and move on. Just ordered my BB tkts for 10-11. We're behind you 100% Bruuuuuuuuuuce!

VOLliven2it writes:

As long as a)he keeps us winning, b)no further sanctions occur, all will be forgiven. The bottom line is if he lied about one thing, what else might he lie about? I lied once(BamaVol1)when I was six, I took a piece of bubble gum and lied about it. Oops, I stole too. As for BigBadVol's"...sometimes cares too much which gets him in hot water," that does not gel. He cared about getting in with potential recruits by not abiding by the rules. He cared not what might be consequences if he lied to the NCAA. That is what got him in hot water.
Now he is a great coach. I hope this all washes out and we move on. But then...there's the NCAA and their better ideas. Where will we be to have one of the best teams ever only to be restricted because of the coaches' indiscretion?

virginiavolfan writes:

If you promise not to let your son step on the floor this year than we will forgive you coach.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to DRORANGELOVE:

The NCAA is a joke, with some of its antiquated and stupid rules that have absolutely NO common sense factored into them.

If I was the parent of a recruiting visit prospect, I would feel a lot better towards any coaching staff who took the time and interest to personally invite my son or daughter to their homes so he/she could meet their family and get to know them and their families as people and not just as a coach. I would feel a lot more comfortable knowing my child was at one of the coaching staffs home enjoying a home cooked meal with them and their families than out hitting the night spots and sority houses with other young people their age trying to find a party.

Come on NCAA, its time to revamp your rules and factor some common sense into them. GBO

I am the dad of a recruited athlete. the process sucks.

Things I'd change (basketball):
-allow official visits as a junior
-allow personal contact at NCAA-sanctioned viewing tournaments...by appointment.
-allow 1 off-campus meeting per athlete per school, by appointment, at any time.

kyvol98 writes:

Yeah, Catscratch is no troll. Also Cat, word is tomorrow is the day the word comes down about Kanter

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That, sir, is a VERY good point!!

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to hcjournals#206623:

He's paid the price. He won't do it again. Let's move on...

He hasn't paid the full price yet... But, yes, once he has, let's move on.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OK, let's be honest, how many people admit to something BEFORE they get caught? Didn't think so....

It doesn't excuse what he did... fact is, he knew it was wrong and he did it anyway.

But here's the thing... he admitted to EVERYTHING and has paid a price, and will pay more when the NCAA issues its findings. As well he should. Allowing his behavior to go unpunished would be the wrong thing to do.

But I expect you to have the same degree of scrutiny against coaches of other programs with, shall we say, "questionable" practices... I'll leave it to you to decide who I'm talking about.

If CBP hadn't admitted to his impropriety, then I would call for his firing as well. But the fact is that that decision was Hamilton's to make... he didn't make it. So, I will continue to support Bruce and the Vols, knowing that he has learned is lesson. He will not survive as coach if he does the same thing again.

crappieking writes:

Behind you all the way coach. Everyone makes mistakes.

VolFaninDC writes:

in response to BAMAVOL1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I was going to start, "I'm sorry but..." However, I am not sorry. I think what Bruce Pearl did is just inexcusable. It's one thing to cheat, but to then lie about it to the governing body to which the UT Athletic Department reports and will ultimately pay the price is worthy of dismissal.

Just ask yourself this, if Lane Kiffin, Nick Saban or Steve Spurrier were found to have cheated in recruiting and then lie about it to the NCAA, what would you think?

VolFaninDC writes:

One more of my terribly useful and wise posts: lying is not a mistake. A mistake is when you think liquid dish detergent will work in the dishwasher, use it, and find out it doesn't. Lying to your employer's governing body about a rule you have broken is not a mistake. It's lying. I personally think that rises to the level of dismissible actions for a head coach at UT, or should.

ellerbee123 writes:

in response to jmr68ut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

ME!

tapeworm writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

I will always be a Bruce Pearl fan. I think the man sometimes cares too much which gets him in hot water. I truly believe he has learned a valuable lesson by the way he has handled himself. The trolls will be here to insult coach Pearl and the fan base but it doesn't change a thing. We have one of the best coaches in college basketball. His players love him. I support him 100%.

While I admire your passion and loyalty, I think the thing that Pearl "cares too much" about is winning, and that's what got him in trouble. There's no doubt that he wants to give the UT fan base a team that they can be proud of, and he has done that like no other since Ray Mears. While I'm not as sure as you about him "learning a valuable lesson," I do think he has learned that he can't break the rules and get away with it. The good news is I don't think he did it for any personal gain - just a desire to deliver a great team for UT fans. Like you, I support him as well. Even coaches deserve second chances - especially when it's a Bruce Pearl, who has made so much of a difference in his players' lives.

VolFaninDC writes:

in response to steviejanowski:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Where I live and how it came into existence doesn't seem to be relevant. My family has lived in Tennessee for 200 years, I was born in Nashville, and I graduated from UT, so I think I have a right to state simply my opinion about Bruce Pearl's actions. I don't think lying is a mistake and I think in this situation it should be grounds for dismissal. That's all I'm saying.

VolFaninDC writes:

in response to UofTNFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What's the water level this time of year?

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