Fans react to Tennessee's firing of coach Bruce Pearl
Vol Hoops 2010-2011: Out-Dribbled by Distraction and Disappointment
If you were still wondering whether Mike Hamilton would continue as Tennessee’s athletic director, chancellor Jimmy Cheek cleared things up for you late Monday night.
In a statement released by UT, Cheek wrote: “Mike Hamilton has my support. I join him in looking forward to continued success.”
That was Hamilton’s cue to update his résumé. The last thing you want in today’s job market is a vote of confidence from the UT chancellor.
Bruce Pearl got one last September. While UT announced it was punishing the basketball coach for NCAA violations, Cheek said he expected Pearl would be coaching the Vols for a long time.
A long time lasted six months.
The dramatic shift in support from then to Monday’s firing of Pearl is what angers and perplexes UT fans the most.
Cheek and Hamilton tried to explain their revised stance. They would have been better off tweeting.
Twitter wouldn’t have provided Hamilton with enough room to write: “The cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents have led to a belief that this staff cannot be viable at Tennessee in the future.”
Somebody get him a copy editor — fast.
You have just fired one of the most popular coaches in school history. You at least owe fans a coherent, detailed explanation.
The details include Pearl’s “bump” with a recruit. That occurred after the September press conference in which UT officials pledged their support of Pearl as long as no additional, detrimental evidence was forthcoming.
Bumps usually are classified as secondary violations. When the NCAA categorized this one as major, its message was clearer than anything you’re apt to hear from UT.
The NCAA wanted Pearl out of coaching. That’s the going penalty for lying to its investigators, as Pearl did.
You could argue that UT’s brain trust should have figured that out in September. If it had fired Pearl then, at least the program would be further along the road to recovery.
Instead, the decision-making has fostered a worst-case scenario.
By keeping Pearl, the program was subjected to a season’s worth of bad publicity. By firing him this week, the negative publicity was compounded, and further questions were raised about the program’s leadership.
Those leaders are more steadfast in their strategy than their support. They’re still engaged in wishful thinking.
Writes Cheek: “Going forward, I’m confident that Mike Hamilton will find the right coach who can build on the foundation created over the past several years.”
Insert your own punch line.
I don’t fault Hamilton so much for whom he has fired or hired, but for his staggering lack of perception.
Last week, with the NCAA tournament only days away, Hamilton suddenly raised doubts in a radio interview as to whether Pearl would return. Until then, he had voiced only support for the coach.
Vols fans were understandably outraged, as evidenced by Hamilton’s approval rating, which plummeted faster than a president’s in the midst of an unfavorable war or a collapsing economy.
How could Hamilton not see that coming? And how could he be so insensitive to his student-athletes?
Never mind how difficult this season has been. The team still made the NCAA tournament, which qualifies as a college basketball player’s dream come true. Hamilton obviously didn’t consider that dream when he made his remarks.
The team was left to deal with the possibility of losing its coach.
The players performed accordingly, losing a first-round game to Michigan by 30 points.
In a season rife with distractions, Hamilton provided the greatest distraction of all. How’s that for leadership?
And how’s that for proof UT needs a new athletic director as much as it needs a new basketball coach?
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskkns