Gameday coaching change begins for Bruce Pearl, Vols

Tony Jones on replacing Bruce Pearl courtside

Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl will begin serving an eight-game league suspension issued by SEC commissioner Mike Slive when the Vols travel to play at Arkansas Saturday.

* - Pearl is allowed to continue to run practices and meetings as normal, but he cannot be in the playing facility (Bud Walton Arena) from two hours before the game and one hour after.

* - Pearl, who will watch the game from the team hotel with his wife and a UT associate athletic director, cannot have any contact with his players or coaches during the span before and after the game, either.

Snow was falling in Knoxville when Tennessee played host to 21st-ranked Memphis on Wednesday night.

While the snow was falling, it turned out the sky wasn't for UT.

Instead, the Vols snapped out of their December funk with a 104-84 win over the Tigers in Thompson-Boling Arena to get some much-needed momentum.

Tennessee (10-4) heads into its SEC opener at Arkansas (10-3) in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 1:30 p.m.) without the services of coach Bruce Pearl on the bench. Pearl will begin serving an eight-game league suspension handed down by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in November.

If the Vols are concerned about Pearl being missing against the Razorbacks, it wasn't showing in Thursday's practice.

The Tennessee players had a noticeable bounce in their steps, no doubt in part because of the 104 points they scored on the rival Tigers. It was the most points put on Memphis since 1988.

Pearl instructed his players "not to get too excited about beating a Conference USA team" after the game.

Thursday, Pearl's message was that he expects the players to step up when it comes time for them to head to the arena while he stays at the team's hotel in Fayetteville, Ark., to watch the game on television.

"I'll be doing exactly what I've been doing all along leading up to the game,'' said Pearl, who has never missed a game since first becoming a head coach at Southern Indiana in 1992. "And then when I'm not there, they'll just step up.''

Pearl said missing the game will be hard on him, but he has confidence in associate head coach Tony Jones, who will assume the courtside duties.

"They're thinking about putting me in a rubber suit and padding the walls,'' Pearl joked. "But really, Tony should have been a head coach a few years ago . . . he'll manage the game and he'll do it his own way.

"Our staff has great continuity, and they'll know what to do in every situation.''

Jones, who has been an assistant to Pearl for 10 years, said fans will notice a bigger difference in how he gets his message across than the Vols' style of play.

"I'll be more calm, I won't be as demonstrative, but I'll get my points across in my own way,'' Jones said. "Once the game starts, everything will be fine. It will be strange, but it's something I'll adjust to.''

Through Thursday, the only adjustment was that Jones sat in with Pearl during his meeting on the so-called "scout" of the opponent.

In addition to Jones calling the plays on game day, the other adjustment will be assistant coach Steve Forbes controlling the substitutions, a task usually handled by Jones.

Assistant Jason Shay, who will continue to assist with the offense, said he's confident UT's on-court personality will be consistent with what fans have become accustomed to, particularly on defense.

"The question is are we collectively going to be able to do the same thing, as far as putting guys in the position to make plays,'' Shay said. "Defensively, nothing is going to change.''

Pearl said he believes Jones' biggest challenge will be getting the play calls in to the point guards quickly enough.

Jones said his biggest chore may be to get the officials to take him seriously.

"I've got to make sure the referees know we're here to win,'' Jones said. "Don't take this basketball club lightly just because Bruce Pearl isn't here.''

UT junior Scotty Hopson said he expects the team to remain on point.

"It's not going to be much different,'' Hopson said. "Everyone has different coaching styles, but we all want to do one thing, and that's win.

"Knowing Coach won't be there, we have to step up and be more intense, and the leaders will need to be more vocal.''

Too Many UT Players: Some Vols fans in attendance at UT's win over Memphis couldn't help but groan when Tennessee was whistled for a technical foul for having too many players on the court.

The issues with the football team have been well documented, but in basketball?

"There's a three (taped) in the middle of my bench, and the three man sits there, my one and two are to my right, and my four and five to my left,'' Pearl said. "Well Brian (Williams) likes to stand up during timeouts, he doesn't like to sit and get tight.

"So John (Fields) has been substituted in and reported, but Brian didn't know that,'' he said. "John doesn't have the most boisterous voice, but he said he told Brian. Well, they both went out there.''

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mgrif32 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/

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Comments » 22

wazzya69vol writes:

Only time will tell how this is going to shake out. Thank goodness it's going to start Saturday; we can see the results; discuss them; and then move on. GBO!!

richvol writes:

Gosh,I've watched every game on TV but I haven't heard a word about Pearl being suspended.

Wow,one would think that the local paper would have said something about this even though ESPN didn't think it newsworthy.

Razor784 writes:

This is a big chance for Tony Jones, I hope he does well

CoverOrange writes:

Not that I watch a lot of basketball but I don't think I have ever seen the "too many on the court" foul before.

these_orange_colored_glasses writes:

if jones does well in these games, his stock will rise and we'll loose him...

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to Makeing_The_Call:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Read the article. Pearl said he would be watching from his Motel room.He can travel and be with them up until 2 hours before the game and 1 hour after the game.He can not be in the Arena while the game is being played.

I really don't anticipate any real loss in Coaching.These assistant coaches have been with pearl long enough to think like him.Just hope they don't think too much about holding a BBQ like Pearl did.

Tennessee should win at least 8 of the 10 games without Pearl.This based on their play against top teams. If they play liked they did the 6 games before Memphis,they may lose them all.

bawgyman writes:

Tony, very possibly, will be OUR head coach before it's all over.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

You can do it, Tony!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to bawgyman:

Tony, very possibly, will be OUR head coach before it's all over.

Which school is 'OUR' (Ohio University at Rumpdump)? Tony is just as guilty as Bruce. If Bruce goes, can't see anybody staying other than as interim.

easttnvol writes:

in response to MrPearl2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Coach Pearl made a mistake and he had the guts to correct it.I doubt he is the first person to make a mistake. And he does prepare them well.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I'm only posting this one so the infamous "MrPearlnot" won't have the last post. GO VOLS!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Well someone beat me to it!?

John_10065 writes:

Whose is passing the box of "first stones" around this week?

I don't want one, just curious where the posters are getting their rocks to toss at Pearl right now.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to John_10065:

Whose is passing the box of "first stones" around this week?

I don't want one, just curious where the posters are getting their rocks to toss at Pearl right now.

love it

givehim6 writes:

in response to Razor784:

This is a big chance for Tony Jones, I hope he does well

Jones seems to be a bit calmer person then Bruce, hope this change turns out to work well for the Vols.

Biggie writes:

in response to Makeing_The_Call:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Go back to the beginning and read it again.

toldyouthatspsuckedfor3years writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Not that I watch a lot of basketball but I don't think I have ever seen the "too many on the court" foul before.

You have not watched much basketball then because it you usually see it about once a year.

10ECDave writes:

in response to MrPearl2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Troll, sounds like you are scared of Bruce and the Vols. What is he beating the phooey out of your team to much? Oh that's right....if you are a fan of any other SEC team he has been whipping that azz. Go back to your own team's site and stay off of ours...jerk!! GBO

rockytop4ever writes:

Pearl instructed his players "not to get too excited about beating a Conference USA team" after the game......Now thats funny right there! Poor Tiger High. Go Vols!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to MrPearl2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Your "SIN" is hate!...I'm not casting any stones mind you...

phippo writes:

in response to MrPearl2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

if you don't like the vols why do you care what happens, or are you one of those 35 yr old boys still living at home with mama cause your to stupid to get a real job. don't like ut go bash another school, there are plenty that are in worse shape than us

Katphan29 writes:

By the way.....I predicted on this website UT would come back strong, and they have. I think - honestly - that they will RIP Arkansas....double digits.

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