Rocky Top League: Pride and pain for Tony Jones, Bruce Pearl

Cameron Tatum, right, gets his hand on the ball as Jake Troyii attempts to score.

Photo by Saul Young

Cameron Tatum, right, gets his hand on the ball as Jake Troyii attempts to score.

Tony Jones showed up on the opening night of the Pilot Rocky Top League on Wednesday to be a fan.

His stint as Tennessee's men's associate head basketball coach is over after he, along with the rest of the former staff, represented the program one final time at the hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions last Saturday in Indianapolis.

"I'm here to see the guys play and support them,'' said Jones, who while on the UT staff wasn't permitted by NCAA rules to attend the summer league games at Bearden High School. "I want to see them do well and continue to improve. I look out there and see Cam Tatum, Jordan McRae, Trae Golden and Kenny Hall - I recruited those guys, and I care about them.''

There was both pride and pain in Jones' tone of voice as he watched his former players compete with one another.

In many ways, it's just as hard on the players.

"I just hope it works out for the coaches,'' Golden said. "I appreciate what Coach (Bruce) Pearl, Coach Jones, Coach (Jason) Shay and Coach (Steve) Forbes did for me.''

Pearl finds himself in an awkward position; his separation agreement with UT bans him from interfering with the team or serving as a distraction to the players.

2011 Pilot Rocky Top League

"I care about the guys and I respect them, but I don't want to be a distraction and I have to respect the new coaching staff,'' Pearl said. "I've stayed in touch with Scotty (Hopson) and Tobias (Harris), and Tobias invited me to attend the draft with him, which I consider an honor.''

John Fields, who played his final season at UT, said watching the coverage of the NCAA hearing was hard.

"It was definitely tough to watch them walking out of that room this weekend,'' Fields said. "Just to see how everything has changed in the past year is hard to believe.

"I'm just glad closure is coming, and we can all put this behind us.''

The Vols won't know what punishment the NCAA doles out for at least another eight weeks, as there's a minimum of 60 days after the hearing before the penalties can be announced.

"Coach Pearl is a good man,'' McRae said. "I believe he will be fine, and the basketball program will be fine, too.''

In the meantime, there's a lot of healing taking place.

"I think we all feel bad, having had such a great relationship with all of the coaches and their families,'' said former UT standout Dane Bradshaw. "No one can ever take away all that we accomplished playing for Coach Pearl, but it is hard to see the program take a step back.

"I'm confident Coach (Cuonzo) Martin has the program headed back in the right direction, and we're all ready to support him.''

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Comments » 25

Major_Magilicutty writes:

Mostly Proud of Pearl's community contributions, even if he made some profoundly stupid decisions towards the end of his time here.

volstuckinATL writes:

First of all.. GO VOLS..if coach Con can keep up the same level as BP, than we have a bright future.

Vols4Ever writes:

Vol BBall was revised under the leadership of Bruce Pearl. His energy, vision, and passion produced winning teams and memorable victories. His actions that revealed character flaws present in the lead of a Greek tragedy have hurt all who held his accomplishments in such great esteem. But the hurt he bears exceeds anything that will come to our program. Have sorrow for him and praise what he gave to the program.

veinsoforange writes:

in response to Vols4Ever:

Vol BBall was revised under the leadership of Bruce Pearl. His energy, vision, and passion produced winning teams and memorable victories. His actions that revealed character flaws present in the lead of a Greek tragedy have hurt all who held his accomplishments in such great esteem. But the hurt he bears exceeds anything that will come to our program. Have sorrow for him and praise what he gave to the program.

I agree. Good summation of such a huge saga!

It is CERTAIN that Coach Bruce Pearl grieves hours within each and every day for what has transpired. He is DEFINITELY a good man no matter what has happened.

His passion ran so deep, there may have never been and may never be anyone else with blood any more "Orange" than that of CBP's!!!!!

Big Orange Country will definitely grieve the loss of a great COACH, FRIEND, UT AMBASSADOR, MENTOR, ICON, etc. for years to come!

We wish you well Coach Pearl!

iowavol writes:

Veins and Vols, good posts (except revised) and well said. Wish them well. They will be successful elsewhere.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to veinsoforange:

I agree. Good summation of such a huge saga!

It is CERTAIN that Coach Bruce Pearl grieves hours within each and every day for what has transpired. He is DEFINITELY a good man no matter what has happened.

His passion ran so deep, there may have never been and may never be anyone else with blood any more "Orange" than that of CBP's!!!!!

Big Orange Country will definitely grieve the loss of a great COACH, FRIEND, UT AMBASSADOR, MENTOR, ICON, etc. for years to come!

We wish you well Coach Pearl!

Yes he grieves losing all those millions. I am not perfect by any means, but I also am not a coach. He lied and lost it all. That was stupidity. I appreciate all his contributions to the University and community, but not sure all that good will outweigh the major problems we have coming

RockyTop1_old writes:

Shipperman I agree with you Pearl did this to himself and has to live with it. Unfortunately, all VOLS will have to deal with this forever. His SOD (Stuck on Dumb) moments will continue to haunt us for years to come!

I feel we need to simply move on and support OUR coach and leave the past behind! GBO, VFL!!

samvol writes:

in response to veinsoforange:

I agree. Good summation of such a huge saga!

It is CERTAIN that Coach Bruce Pearl grieves hours within each and every day for what has transpired. He is DEFINITELY a good man no matter what has happened.

His passion ran so deep, there may have never been and may never be anyone else with blood any more "Orange" than that of CBP's!!!!!

Big Orange Country will definitely grieve the loss of a great COACH, FRIEND, UT AMBASSADOR, MENTOR, ICON, etc. for years to come!

We wish you well Coach Pearl!

FRIEND, MENTOR...LOL!!! now that's funny.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to wallandhiker:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hmmm? Not a good comparison to me but I think I get it.
It doesn't matter now for UT. Pearl's gone and Martin's here. I'll miss Pearl but I really like Martin so far.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Makeing_The_Call:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm not in the hateful vein you apparently are now,but I do wonder about his continued presence on the twitter twitting it up etc. Just curious when somebody goes down in a bad situation they usually leave town for a clean slate and start over elsewhere and aren't heard from again in most cases. No animosity on my part towards Mr. Jones as I said just curious about the keeping up of appearances.

kev35 writes:

It's amazing how people bash our coach in recruiting because he didn't get the 4 and 5 star guys. Let me see how many of those type recruits were available at the time Coach Martin was appointed? How many of the 4 and 5 star players would want to come to Tenn. without knowing much about the current coach? Ohhh wait there weren't any of those recruits available so late in the recruiting game!! Geez people give the coach a break and let him coach a couple years and get his brand of basketball out there and recruiting better players will come!!

voloffaith writes:

in response to Tweetdriver63:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fine tweetd...63,but that still doesn't respond to the continued tweet presence tweeting about nba,nhl,...etc. Again just curious. I'm ok with that fact he is invested into the success of those he recruited and can now go see. I'm glad he can be upbeat after what he just got out of and participated in. The perpetuation of the ruse as he consented to follow Coach Pearl's instructing to state other than the facts. Hope he ,like you and I, learn from our mistakes and become a lot more humble as a result of them.

footvoler22 writes:

go big orange ... bruce pearl was the reason we r where we r so i still have great respect for him

JohnnyD writes:

I will follow Coach Pearl to LSU!

kev35 writes:

in response to wallandhiker:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So let me get this straight, you think Coach Martin should have gotten 4 and 5 star players in this past recruiting class? How many were available? Granted a few might have been available but had SERIOUS character issues or grade issues! Then you would have been screaming at they type of kids he's bringing in. It is unreasonable to think Coach Martin could bring in those types of players when 95% of them had already signed with the school of their choice. I do believe UT is better off with Martin that it would have been with Pearl. Pearl committed MAJOR recruiting violations while here! It amazes me how stupid and blind people are to this situation. TENNESSEE is better off in the long run without Pearl. Not saying that Coach Martin is the right choice but he's our coach and I'm willing to give him a chance. Maybe you should to!?

DonK37920 writes:

I think its funny how much respect we still have for Pearl after he lied to the NCAA and got this whole investigation started(Could ultimately affect Basketball and Football). Yet there are many of the same fans that despise Fulmer. For the record, I like both and think they both did a tremendous job while here. But if you look at the 2 careers side by side, Fulmer took the football team to places that the basketball team will probably never reach.

Pearl = 0 National Championships and 0 SEC Championships
Fulmer = 1 National Championship and 2 SEC Championships and 4 appearances in the SEC title game

Yet Pearl gets so much admiration from the majority of fans on here and other sites while Fulmer has many fans who hate the very mention of his name. Yet the numbers are in Fulmer's favor and its not even close!

Just an observation!

kev35 writes:

in response to DonK37920:

I think its funny how much respect we still have for Pearl after he lied to the NCAA and got this whole investigation started(Could ultimately affect Basketball and Football). Yet there are many of the same fans that despise Fulmer. For the record, I like both and think they both did a tremendous job while here. But if you look at the 2 careers side by side, Fulmer took the football team to places that the basketball team will probably never reach.

Pearl = 0 National Championships and 0 SEC Championships
Fulmer = 1 National Championship and 2 SEC Championships and 4 appearances in the SEC title game

Yet Pearl gets so much admiration from the majority of fans on here and other sites while Fulmer has many fans who hate the very mention of his name. Yet the numbers are in Fulmer's favor and its not even close!

Just an observation!

+1

TkelynN writes:

I believe those who aren't happy with the coach's decision to sign a lot of little jimmy's really mean that Coach Martin should have saved some scholly's for the highly touted 2012 class. Plus we're not sure if the NCAA will take any scholly's from the program. I too believe he should have waited because you can't place all your chips on the little jimmy's that were over looked by all the major programs. Could have saved the scholarships and instead of adding all guards and the Big East reject.

rclarkvols#224537 writes:

in response to TkelynN:

I believe those who aren't happy with the coach's decision to sign a lot of little jimmy's really mean that Coach Martin should have saved some scholly's for the highly touted 2012 class. Plus we're not sure if the NCAA will take any scholly's from the program. I too believe he should have waited because you can't place all your chips on the little jimmy's that were over looked by all the major programs. Could have saved the scholarships and instead of adding all guards and the Big East reject.

You have to have enough players to practice with. Scholarships are one year renewable. Some of these guys are simply getting a one year tryout before they get recruited over. Look at what Calipari did when he first came to Kentucky. He basically had tryouts for leftover players and eventually got rid of five of them. No need to fret. If they can't cut it at this level they will be gone. Count on it. That's the way it works in D-1 Basketball

TNVOLNTX writes:

in response to JohnnyD:

I will follow Coach Pearl to LSU!

I doubt you'll be missed

hueypilot writes:

in response to wallandhiker:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As a 50+ year UT fan and an alumnus it is gratifying to see the measured exchange between another pair of UT fans who obviously care about the program but have differing views on the Pearl/Martin transition. I think you both have valid points, but I wouldn't be so gloomy about the prospects under Martin. In fact there are some similarities, with Martin coming for a mid-major after overachieving at a much smaller school, much weaker conference than Tennessee. I still hang my hat on Martin's M St. team's performance last winter at TBA against a much more talented deeper Vols team, outperforming them in every aspect but free throws ultimately losing by, I think six points. If Martin can coach a team to do that, give him time and I think he'll do just fine. Go Vols.

wildmed writes:

As a parent, I know you don't disown your son when he's done something stupid, even if that act carries profound consequences. For that reason, I look at the body of work Bruce Pearl accomplished in his six seasons with the Vols, and I'm proud to say I'll ALWAYS be a fan of his.

Outdated writes:

in response to RockyTopRenegade:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I believe you are in the majority..Maybe we don't look good on paper at this point..but the game is not played on paper and I may be over optimistic but I do think we will have an interesting team.....

samvol writes:

in response to wildmed:

As a parent, I know you don't disown your son when he's done something stupid, even if that act carries profound consequences. For that reason, I look at the body of work Bruce Pearl accomplished in his six seasons with the Vols, and I'm proud to say I'll ALWAYS be a fan of his.

Bernie?

voloffaith writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As another poster would type and has said to me b4,"lighten up Francis." Why must we persist in calling people "moron" if their post is wimpy in our/your humble(not so) opinion? Then get feisty and start playing the 'are they family game.' The first part of wildmed's post is safe as even YOU would agree that you wouldn't disown your son right? Part 2 breaks down as I separate business(UT) from family(son). Just say the analogy doesn't carry through and that is how ewe look at it without lambasting for difference of opinion.

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