Mike Strange: Basketball 'family' what gets Pearl through, tears him up

Mike Strange

Bruce Pearl chokes up when talking about his son

Fittingly on Groundhog Day, Bruce Pearl emerged from the gym to forecast six more weeks of SEC basketball.

"We're still in position to do all that we want to do,'' Pearl told the Big Orange Tipoff Club at its weekly luncheon Wednesday.

Six weeks hence Tennessee should be prepping for a first-round NCAA tournament game. That's no small accomplishment given the adversity the Vols continue to endure.

While Pearl was upbeat while addressing a room full of basketball fans at noon, he dreaded the moment that was coming later in the afternoon.

After the Vols practiced at Thompson-Boling Arena, everyone but Pearl would leave for tonight's game at Auburn.

"I can't tell you that I haven't cried every single time that bus pulls away,'' Pearl said.

Tonight is the seventh game of Pearl's eight-game SEC suspension.

After the home game against Alabama on Saturday, Pearl will be back in business seven days a week.

The Vols are 4-2 - including road wins at Georgia and Ole Miss - under the game-day direction of associate head coach Tony Jones and the rest of the staff. They need a win at Auburn to stay on Florida's heels in the SEC East.

If there was a theme to Pearl's talk Wednesday, it was family.

And it started with Pat Summitt.

"He's like a brother to me,'' the Lady Vols coach told the Tipoff audience. "I appreciate having someone right down the hall I can go to to talk shop.''

Bruce Pearl: Coaching history aids team during suspension

Some of that shop talk, apparently, involved family.

Both coaches have sons who are walk-ons on Pearl's squad.

Pearl said it was Summitt who pointed out that his son, Steven, deserved a slot in the Vols' rotation:

"She said, 'You're not seeing what I'm seeing: He makes your team better ... so you do the right thing.

"I said, 'Yes, ma'am.' ''

Two sentences later, Pearl halted, choked up.

"I can't talk about him without getting emotional,'' he said. "I love him so much.

"Gosh knows what he's held to.''

Pause.

"That was unplanned. Sorry.''

The crowd applauded. Pearl wiped his eyes as he changed the subject from his son to the SEC race.

Some in the national media have scoffed at Pearl's proclivity to tear up, suggesting even that it's calculated.

It's not. I've seen his emotions bubble to the surface in a one-on-one, off-the-record conversation.

So if he says watching the team bus pull away moves him to tears, I believe it.

Pearl held it in check Wednesday while talking about his extended family - his program.

He threw Jones a nod for SEC Coach of the Year, praised the players for responding to adversity they had no role in creating and harped on the value of continuity.

"Tony is one of my best friends,'' he said. "We've been together a long, long time. I've known Steve Forbes for 25 years.

"Jason Shay was a high school senior when I was an assistant coach at Iowa. There was no way he was good enough to walk on at Iowa. We had a bunch of kids more athletic and better players ... but I couldn't find anybody any tougher.''

There was an empty seat Wednesday when the bus pulled away. Tonight, the family will have to hang tough again.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6726. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 20

BigVolFaninSC writes:

You know, men just can't win! If you never cry, everyone says that you're too hard-nosed! And if you show emotions by crying, you get pounded for insincerity or being a sissy! Leave Pearl and Speaker Boehner alone! Go ahead and cry! That shows me these guys are real!

BigBadVol writes:

The Vols love you coach Pearl. It's time to cue the trolls aka mental midgets 3,2,1,......

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say he just do something really dumb and then lie about it....Witch Doctor already done that about three times this week alone...Witch Doctor keeping it real.
Bones never lie.
(lol)

tennrich1 writes:

I take the road that General Storming Norman took..."The man who can not cry scares me"...Oh by the way we all cry some time or another...Real men can admit it and aren't afraid of it....I still think Bruce is sincere and is truly repentant...Have no way of knowing for sure...just a gut feeling.....

easleychuck writes:

I love what Coach Pearl has done to revitalize the BB program.

We have 3 young sons and we have one rule that is the foundation for everything that they do: tell the truth, no matter what the consequences are.

It kills me that most of the distress that Coach is going through is because he told a lie about something that he did. He should have just told the truth. Again, it would not have righted the wrong but it would have been so much easier to deal with.

The issue with his son and playing time is obviously a touchy subject with many. My opinion is that it is clear that Steven brings solid tangibles to the court. He knows the game and understands how to play it. He plays within himself most of the time. Anyone who knows anything about the game understands that this is key for all players no matter their skill set. He deserves the PT he gets and I don't think that Coach P or Coach Jones need to explain their actions to anyone.

It has been clear that Coach Pearl is an emotional person. The fact that he shows his emotions is part of his being the kind of person that he is. I believe that when he sheds tears as the bus or plane leave for a game during this suspension, it is because he is frustrated about the trouble that he knows that he brought upon himself. He feels like that he has let folks down and it bothers him. And that is one of the things that makes him such a fiery competitor.

Go Vols!

samvol writes:

Pearl should be in Hollywood with his acting skills...lol!!! smh

JSamson7 writes:

in response to MrPearl_STILLHERE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

MrPearl_STILL... I am sick & tired as well as most of the posters on this site of reading your pointless phooey. It's as obvious as your mom is wide, you have an agenda against BP that needs to stop being posted on GVX. That being said, why don't you do this... Unless you've never lied or cheated a day in life, why don't you STFU!!
...

VolunteerLifer writes:

The coach brought this on himself. I don't wish bad things on anyone, but I am glad in a way that maybe the emotional reaction to the bus pulling away for each game will reinforce to Pearl just what he has done, what he has risked, who he has let down, and maybe in his future he won't try to skirt minor rules deliberately, and then lie about it when caught. Let's hope so.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

The coach brought this on himself. I don't wish bad things on anyone, but I am glad in a way that maybe the emotional reaction to the bus pulling away for each game will reinforce to Pearl just what he has done, what he has risked, who he has let down, and maybe in his future he won't try to skirt minor rules deliberately, and then lie about it when caught. Let's hope so.

I think we All can agree on that....

samvol writes:

in response to MrPearl_STILLHERE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

O_O....do tell....

JSamson7 writes:

in response to MrPearl_STILLHERE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Any time STILL... There are 2 ways I could shut you up and both would be quite fun. We could either 1) have a battle of wits. Wouldn't be fair to do that to you since it's not nice to fight someone who was unarmed... 2) You can meet me in a cage at Wolf Clan MMA and I would not only shut your mouth, but turn it sideways along with the rest of your face. I think then you would truly be talking out of the side of your mouth more than you do already!

murrayvol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say he just do something really dumb and then lie about it....Witch Doctor already done that about three times this week alone...Witch Doctor keeping it real.
Bones never lie.
(lol)

Witch Doctor fortunate not to be under the glass like Pearl.

murrayvol writes:

Nice column Mike.

Sorry to see the thread torched by a couple of losers but that's the way life is sometimes.

BigBadVol writes:

I'm sorry, why would all these trolls have so much interest in Pearl? They're jealous. They would love to have Pearl. In fact, I think they have a man crush on him.

VOLFORLIFE1974 writes:

in response to MrPearl_STILLHERE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are an idiot. You are obviously a Kentucky fan as you aren't smart enough to be a Vandy fan. Why don't you take a long walk off a short pier, troll. Your gibberish is a waste of space and time. As anyone who knows you would probably agree. Take your hatefulness elsewhere..preferably off that aforementioned short pier.

fpcoach writes:

I would respond to the morons........but I didn't read them. If you quit responding they will quit being morons, NOT. But they will quit posting. Go Vols, do us a favor and add an ignore button.

1965Vol writes:

in response to mlvol2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Speaking of guys of questionable character, you gata fellars kept that lil' Urbie guy around for 6 years. And your reward? When the going got tough lil' Urbie walked out!! Whatta guy!!

Colliervol writes:

in response to JSamson7:

MrPearl_STILL... I am sick & tired as well as most of the posters on this site of reading your pointless phooey. It's as obvious as your mom is wide, you have an agenda against BP that needs to stop being posted on GVX. That being said, why don't you do this... Unless you've never lied or cheated a day in life, why don't you STFU!!
...

Obviously since the goof has been through 5 or 6 names on this board, the KNS hasn't figured out a way to stop him. My advice is to go to the manager of the Morristown Waffle House and demand that he be fired. He obviously isn't paying enough attention to the hash browns.

Colliervol writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Nice column Mike.

Sorry to see the thread torched by a couple of losers but that's the way life is sometimes.

No murray, that's what the KNS has allowed this site to evolve into. Pathetic.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Obviously since the goof has been through 5 or 6 names on this board, the KNS hasn't figured out a way to stop him. My advice is to go to the manager of the Morristown Waffle House and demand that he be fired. He obviously isn't paying enough attention to the hash browns.

Wait a minute!...I thought wearebetterthanvandy was a WH employee?!

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