Mike Strange: Safety net of support fading fast

Mike Strange

Vol Hoops 2010-2011: Out-Dribbled by Distraction and Disappointment

The discussion of Bruce Pearl's job security has been a speculative one. The conversation now has a little more definition.

Pearl's boss, Mike Hamilton, went public Wednesday with what will widely be construed as a diminished show of support.

While Pearl and his Tennessee basketball team were en route to Charlotte to begin the NCAA tournament, Hamilton told Jimmy Hyams of WNML in a taped interview that he didn't know if Pearl would be UT's coach next year or not.

Or next month, for that matter.

Pearl's future at Tennessee has been clouded since the September revelation of allegations of major NCAA violations, including Pearl lying to investigators.

But Hamilton, UT's men's athletic director, said then he wanted to keep Pearl on board and he hadn't really said anything different since.

"We've said we want him to be our coach, short of events that cause that not to be the case,'' Hamilton told Hyams in the interview taped on Tuesday. "That's the same place.''

It doesn't sound like the same place.

What I heard before sounded like:

He's our coach long-term and we'll get through this together, even if there's a one-year suspension.

What I hear now sounds like:

He's our coach through the NCAA tournament, then we'll see.

UT got its official notice of allegations last month. The Vols plead their case before the Committee on Infractions in June. The committee has a minimum of 60 days to render a verdict.

So if justice moves swiftly the NCAA would announce penalties against Pearl and the program in August. Connecticut's recent case, however, took roughly twice that long.

Replacing a basketball coach - if it comes to that - in August or later would be unwieldy.

Hamilton has already had to make one rushed hire when football Lane Kiffin bolted in mid-January 2010. Finding a high-level basketball coach in August or September would be even harder than hiring a football coach in January.

If you're going to hire a basketball coach, March is the time.

"We'll decide after we're out of the NCAA tournament what the direction is we're going to go next,'' Hamilton said.

"That will either be a decision we'll make in the short term or wait and make it a little bit further down the road.

"But the jury's out on what's going to happen with that at this point.''

If UT has stuck by Pearl since the mess started last summer, doesn't it owe him the courtesy to see the process through, as long as that might take?

If not, what has changed?

It could be the alleged "bump" recruiting violation at Oak Hill Academy in September, four days after Pearl's tearful apology. Even if UT beats that rap, the perception was damaging.

It could be the pragmatic reality that jettisoning Pearl before the June hearing would mitigate basketball penalties, just as Kiffin's convenient absence lessened NCAA charges against football.

Or it could be going 12-14 after a 7-0 start, including a mystifying 3-5 SEC home record.

The negativity perpetuated by Pearl's situation, Hamilton conceded, "has had a wearing effect" on the coaches, team, administration and fan base.

In light of Hamilton's interview, why should a weekend in Charlotte be any different?

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 33

arkyvol writes:

typical wussy, typical nincompoop. typical hamilton.

excellent example of a man with a noodle for a spine and a kumquat for a brain. he's not the kind of guy you'd want to share a foxhole with.

KJVol writes:

"If UT has stuck by Pearl since the mess started last summer, doesn't it owe him the courtesy to see the process through, as long as that might take?"

What kind of logic is THAT, Mike?
The university has stuck by Pearl through an extremely difficult time period (with lots more on the way), and because they've been patient when a lot of institutions would have fired Pearl summarily, then they OWE HIM MORE TIME??
"..AS LONG AS THAT MIGHT TAKE"?????????

Get real.

JohnnyU writes:

I cannot believe how Hamilton just knocked the props out from under the basketball team. The players themselves did nothing wrong, and Hamilton just fanned the flames of this thing just as the players were traveling to Charlotte, no doubt with renewed enthusiasm for trying to salvage the season some way. And he just torpedoes them. An unbelievably stupid move.

Ayershall writes:

in response to JohnnyU:

I cannot believe how Hamilton just knocked the props out from under the basketball team. The players themselves did nothing wrong, and Hamilton just fanned the flames of this thing just as the players were traveling to Charlotte, no doubt with renewed enthusiasm for trying to salvage the season some way. And he just torpedoes them. An unbelievably stupid move.

Agreed.

arkyvol writes:

in response to JohnnyU:

I cannot believe how Hamilton just knocked the props out from under the basketball team. The players themselves did nothing wrong, and Hamilton just fanned the flames of this thing just as the players were traveling to Charlotte, no doubt with renewed enthusiasm for trying to salvage the season some way. And he just torpedoes them. An unbelievably stupid move.

"unbelievably stupid" ?

this is mike hamilton you're talking about. its stupid--it ain't unbelievable.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Regardless of what you think about Pearl (whether he should be kept, should have been fired, should be fired, will be fired), it's obvious that the timing of this announcement by MH could not have been worse. I don't have all the facts, but I simply don't see the benefit of going public with this 2 days before the NCAA.

If Pearl does get the ax, then I believe UT will be hard-pressed to attract an elite coach after seeing how all of this has been handled throughout the season.

I still love the Vols and will cheer my all for them. I ain't cheering the timing of this announcement, though.

1vavolfan writes:

in response to jecusitnet:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So blame Pearl for a stupid comment made by the AD 2 days before the biggest game of the year? Blame Pearl for the situation but no way you can excuse Hamilton for this. If Pearl goes then UT fans need to demand that Hamilton be fired.

vol_4_fan writes:

No coach in college basketball should trust verbal commitments from these jr, in high school. With all of the coverage with social media these guys change their minds as soon as the next camara or microphone is stuck in front of their face. Craft is trouble with daddy living his dream through the kid. The answer is recruit character, and commitment's for at least 3 years of college, just look at the final 2 teams last year. One NBA player and he was from Butler. Go Vols!

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict:

UT 66
Mich 72 bye bye both Pearls

WhoIsJohnGalt writes:

For what it's worth, ESPN's Chris Low has told 104.5 The Zone of Nashville that Pearl will be fired upon the Vols exit from the tournament.

12Hours writes:

If Bruce's problems with the NCAA had never happened, there would be a lot of fans questioning whether he should be fired because of the collapse of this year's team.
Maybe Hamilton, Cheek etc were willing to stand behind a good coach, but this season has made us all question how good he is.
Funny how so many posters are all supportive of Pearl. Would you have been this supportive if there had been no issue with the NCAA and just a crappy season?
I think not. With the talent on this team, the results are pathetic and forces one to question whether Pearl is the real deal or just got lucky a couple of years.

voloffaith writes:

Just curious to all posters...do ya think that all the distractions etc had maybe just a little to do with the years inconsistency? Out how many games in SEC with hide and seek on game days etc? I'm saying it is tough enough in our league then the mess of different coaches on game day after main coach is with you in practice and all the continual questions as the media never and still hasn't let up. Alot to deal with......

VolNationPride writes:

in response to 02champs#209256:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I heard they are going to hire Bobby Knight, so he can throw a chair and punt a basketball at Mike Hamilton. Just pure speculation though..

JohnsonCity_George writes:

I think there is something up with the contract that Hammy ain't real happy with.I think CBP let Hammy know that he needs Bruce way more than Bruce needs him. You could tell by his tone that this was personal. I think Hammy knows he will soon be replaced by the guy he fired.

hueypilot writes:

in response to WhoIsJohnGalt:

For what it's worth, ESPN's Chris Low has told 104.5 The Zone of Nashville that Pearl will be fired upon the Vols exit from the tournament.

And he should be. I have known Bruce since he coached at little bitty Southern Indiana University and won a small college championship there. He displayed the same infectious energy there that he brought to Knoxville five years ago. I applauded his hire because of what I saw in him back then, but moreover because of his explanation to a group of people at a Rotary luncheon in Evansville Indiana, of the well chronicled taping incident of a recruit when he was an assistant at Iowa. He maintained he did nothing wrong when he taped a player who told him he was going to get a car and money to sign with Illinois, and so Bruce blew the whistle on Lou Hinson, then the head coach at Illinois. He told of how it had made him a pariah in the coaching profession and of how long it had taken him to finally get a head coaching job. He said his actions had cost him professionally, personally, financially, but he would do it all over again because he said" it was the right thing to do."

Somewhere along the way Bruce lost his moral compass, and we, at UT look like fools if we continue to look the other way. Not because he had a stupid violation with a recruit at a cookout, but because he lied about it, told others to lie about it and then after he admitted his transgressions, had another violation with a recruit four days later and never owned up to it. I hate this. Bruce Pearl was the best thing to happen to UT basketball since Ray Mears, and Ernie and Bernie. His victories over ranked opponents and getting within a whisker of the final four are the best things to happen to UT men's sports since 1998 at Tempe. But I'm sorry to say he has to go.

hallmo11 writes:

Dear Mike Hamilton,
Your comments today - of all days - are no different
than putting these guys on a bus to go play a really big game then letting the air out of the tires so that they don't even make it to the arena.
Regardless of what decision you make concerning our coach, you have succeeded in deflating an entire Vol Nation on the eve of a really important game. Isn't an
Athletic Director supposed to be a supporter of a program??? You poor, stupid man. I can only hope that
our guys can rise above the daggers that you shot at them today. Please leave our state.

flatrock writes:

What Chris Low did not tell you:

-Bruce will "resign" within 48 hours of season's
end...he and his staff have known this for 7-8
days and all have been on the phones ever since
looking for jobs;
-Bruce will soon take the HC job at NW Florida
JC, where former MTSU coach Bruce Stewart has
just resigned (Stewart is extremely ill with
a brain tumor);
-Why did Hamilton "leak" the next step today?
He covets Tubby Smith as Pearl's replacement
and fears that Tubby is close to moving to
Arkansas- this public "leak" is a message to
Tubby to hold off;
-After a 2-year exile in the JC ranks, Pearl
could likely re-surface at LSU, South Carolina,
Ole Miss or LSU;
-Mike Hamilton will be fired- before he can
lure Tubby;
-UT names an interim AD (Pat Summitt?) and the
real search begins. Top target: VCU's
Shaka Smart.

richvol writes:

Hamilton actions have NOTHING to do with weather Pearl deserves to be fired...each stand on their own merits. Each and every person gets what they deserve in this world. Pearl's actions speak for themselves but the final straw was the bump after the show of crying and remorse...if anything was stupid that was it.

Tennessee has been drug through the mud all year over this and Pearl is to blame for 100% of it.

kthoma14 writes:

It seems to me that the AD's comments were a public "feeler" to identify interested coaches while at the tourney. Could that be a possibility?

VOLinATL writes:

It is horrible timing, and will do nothing but add pressure on the players if they think they may be playing for his job. That, plus this will serve only to keep his transgressions fresh for even more media coverage, now that the casual fan is tuning in to the tournament.
If I were UT’s PR person, you would have to hold me back from taking a “hobnail boot” to him. I am finally on the fire Hamilton bandwagon…this was beyond idiotic!!!

Greyfeathers writes:

UT is about to do what they should have done months ago. Fire Lyin' Bruce. He has disgraced UT and all who support UT. There are a number of fine young coaches - Butler- Belmont- come to mind who will do a marvelous job at UT and do it with integrity. Lets move on past the Lyin' Bruce debacle.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to kthoma14:

It seems to me that the AD's comments were a public "feeler" to identify interested coaches while at the tourney. Could that be a possibility?

There may be something to this. Several more or less desirable openings have recently come up, NC St. and Arkansas, to name just two. There are others on roughly the same level, and there likely will be more. If UT is to get in the mix for upper-level candidates, it doesn't hurt our chances to give these prospective hires a "heads-up" that the UT position will be open.

As a lifelong Vol fan, it makes me a little sick to my stomach that it has all come to this. I can only implore my fellow Vol fans to take a deep breath and hang in there while all this gets sorted out and prepare to support our coach next year, whoever he may be.

utk1996 writes:

in response to hueypilot:

And he should be. I have known Bruce since he coached at little bitty Southern Indiana University and won a small college championship there. He displayed the same infectious energy there that he brought to Knoxville five years ago. I applauded his hire because of what I saw in him back then, but moreover because of his explanation to a group of people at a Rotary luncheon in Evansville Indiana, of the well chronicled taping incident of a recruit when he was an assistant at Iowa. He maintained he did nothing wrong when he taped a player who told him he was going to get a car and money to sign with Illinois, and so Bruce blew the whistle on Lou Hinson, then the head coach at Illinois. He told of how it had made him a pariah in the coaching profession and of how long it had taken him to finally get a head coaching job. He said his actions had cost him professionally, personally, financially, but he would do it all over again because he said" it was the right thing to do."

Somewhere along the way Bruce lost his moral compass, and we, at UT look like fools if we continue to look the other way. Not because he had a stupid violation with a recruit at a cookout, but because he lied about it, told others to lie about it and then after he admitted his transgressions, had another violation with a recruit four days later and never owned up to it. I hate this. Bruce Pearl was the best thing to happen to UT basketball since Ray Mears, and Ernie and Bernie. His victories over ranked opponents and getting within a whisker of the final four are the best things to happen to UT men's sports since 1998 at Tempe. But I'm sorry to say he has to go.

Very good post and consistent with what I have been saying all along.

The_Mayor writes:

I love Tubby Smith and would take him at the drop of a hat.

That said, the timing here by Adams is heinously unfair to the team. These young men do not deserve this latest circus act. They have worked incredibly hard to focus on the task at hand...playing basketball...all season, and it is very clear they have been affected terribly since all of this first surfaced. CBP can be blamed for the dirty deeds. Hamilton is a poor excuse of a man for the timing of this latest act in this embarrassing saga.

I hope the boys rise up with a steel-forged, "us against the world" chip on their collective shoulder and go deep into the tournament. After last year's incident, involving Tyler Smith and Co., they rallied. They're a rallying bunch. GBO!

The_Mayor writes:

Said "Adams", meant "Hamilton"...sorry.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to flatrock:

What Chris Low did not tell you:

-Bruce will "resign" within 48 hours of season's
end...he and his staff have known this for 7-8
days and all have been on the phones ever since
looking for jobs;
-Bruce will soon take the HC job at NW Florida
JC, where former MTSU coach Bruce Stewart has
just resigned (Stewart is extremely ill with
a brain tumor);
-Why did Hamilton "leak" the next step today?
He covets Tubby Smith as Pearl's replacement
and fears that Tubby is close to moving to
Arkansas- this public "leak" is a message to
Tubby to hold off;
-After a 2-year exile in the JC ranks, Pearl
could likely re-surface at LSU, South Carolina,
Ole Miss or LSU;
-Mike Hamilton will be fired- before he can
lure Tubby;
-UT names an interim AD (Pat Summitt?) and the
real search begins. Top target: VCU's
Shaka Smart.

He will never show his face at an SEC school again. I mean, really, with Slive looking over your shoulder? Don't think so. But almost everything else I agree with.

Vol86 writes:

in response to BicardiRum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I thing some people are using big words too much. embarrassment honest liar. People should look into their own house first. Worst have been done, ut not alone. Period.

acworthdave writes:

It seems to me they either both stay or they both go:

1) You can't keep Pearl and fire Hamilton. Hamilton will become the sympathetic figure in the national media and UT will have egg on their faces for keeping Pearl.

2) You can't fire Pearl and keep Hamilton. There is no doubt Pearl's firing will completely split the fanbase. That is more evident every day just simply reading these comments. You keep Hamilton and the new bball coach will get no support from the fans (who I believe a large majority still support Pearl). He will simply be looked at as Hamilton's guy.

I wish I knew what will happen but I don't have any "insiders" telling me the real story. I just have a hard time believing our entire basketball program can come crumbling down over a cookout. If you look at it from that perspective, it really is kind of childish and silly isn't it? And please spare me the 10 page diatribe about the entire event and the lying and all. I get it. It is just that when you strip everything away, it all started with a freakin' BBQ. It wasn't money, drugs or sex. It was food!

BadBob70 writes:

Whatever is the AD thinking????

As someone said earlier, this is reason enough to fire him, regardless of Pearl's future.

Hamilton's Mother should have taught him better than that.

AclockworkOrange writes:

in response to ALLVOLNC:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

First of all, fans who want Pearl gone are not haters of UT, that is simply absurd for you to think that. We would like a coach who can win without lying to the NCAA, then trying to cover it up, than committ another violation after a tearful apology. In addition to violations he had before coaching UT. Winning is not everything, as Pearl would have been long gone had he not had a winning program. Fact is, this University deserves better, and some fans who have morals realize this.

GOJO writes:

Just when I thought Hamilton could not get any more stupid, he pulls this stunt.
Vandy with no AD is better than this.

wigmeister writes:

Pearl did a stupid thing. Hamilton is an idiot for saying anything right at tournament time. So we have a stupid and an idiot!! This hasn't been a very good ride.

hueypilot writes:

I think Bruce has to be discharged, so he and UT can get moving in new directions. Us as a University that finally took the action that was required, and Bruce so he can reinvent himself as what he is, a talented committed coach, with the fourth highest won-lost percentage of the active coaches in the nation, who made a big mistake, thought he could get away with it, found it he couldn't, admitted it and is now preparing to take his medicine. I think many are being way too moralistically judgemental abou this. Bruce Pearl is not a bad man. He is a good coach and a good man who made a big mistake. There is a difference.

I'd have Bruce over for dinner tonight if he were in town. He is a fine guy, a dynamic coach with a great sense of humor and just plain fun to be around, but he made a big mistake, on the national stage and must pay the price. He knows it, he'll pay it, and mark my words, he will return to big time coaching again.

I don't think I want Tubby. What are the other choices? And I don't think UT is irrelevant to basketball, or have to relegate itself to the unproven commodiites, the Petersens, Houstons or Greens. I love the way Gonzaga plays but probably too far for their coach to travel, and way too tough a league facing Calipari and Donavan two or three times each, each season.

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