Bruce Pearl's 'business decisions' upset former assistants

Former UT basketball players Tobias Harris, Dane Bradshaw, Steven Pearl and daughter Jackie Pearl, left to right, listen as former University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl addresses members of the media in a press conference at his home in Knoxville on Thursday to comment on the punishment he received from the NCAA.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Former UT basketball players Tobias Harris, Dane Bradshaw, Steven Pearl and daughter Jackie Pearl, left to right, listen as former University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl addresses members of the media in a press conference at his home in Knoxville on Thursday to comment on the punishment he received from the NCAA.

It’s not the Hatfields and the McCoys; it’s the former Tennessee men’s basketball coaching staff embroiled in a family feud of sorts.

Animosity has grown since the June 11 NCAA hearing in Indianapolis, when former Vols coach Bruce Pearl and his assistant coaches — Tony Jones, Jason Shay and Steve Forbes — pleaded their cases before the Committee on Infractions.

Some members of the formerly close-knit staff no longer are on speaking terms after Pearl was hit with a three-year show cause penalty for misleading NCAA investigators, effectively preventing him from getting another collegiate coaching job, while the three assistants were sanctioned with a one-year show causes.

The men have found other employment: Pearl as vice president of Knoxville-based HT Hackney distributors, Jones as Alcoa High School boys’ basketball coach and Forbes and Shay as coach and assistant coach, respectively, at Northwest Florida State College.

But clearly, hard feelings remain.

“When families break up, it’s sad that sometimes these things can happen,’’ Pearl said Wednesday. “Jason and (wife) Jana expected more from the university and they expected more from me, and obviously they are disappointed.’’

Pearl disclosed Wednesday that he stood behind his staff under the duress of the NCAA investigation, declining an official request that he fire one of his assistant coaches. Jones confirmed as much on Wednesday.

“I know that had Bruce kept his job, he had conferred with me about maybe having to make changes on the staff,’’ Jones said. “I’m very surprised Jason would get caught up in this. I think he and his family are really hurt. I mean, talking about having to leave their dog behind in Knoxville? That’s too much; that sounds bitter as hell.

“Bruce Pearl is a friend of mine. I felt he took care of the staff when we worked together, and he did the best he could in giving us a fair severance.’’

One issue raised by the Shays in a story Tuesday by CBSsports.com is the lavish lifestyle the Pearl family seems to be enjoying via Pearl’s $1 million settlement. While Pearl has said he is trying to sell his $2.6 million home to downsize to a lake house, he has taken his family on a beach vacation and visited his family in South Florida and in Boston since his March 21 firing.

“They took five or six vacations, and here we were trying to sell a house and, for me, find my next job,’’ said Shay, who after drawing a salary of about $150,000 at UT makes $20,000 as a junior college assistant. “Watching them go on five or six vacations didn’t go over so well.’’

Jana Shay, who appeared in the background of the now infamous incriminating photo taken of Pearl and then-recruit Aaron Craft at Pearl’s home on Sept. 20, 2008, works as a fifth-grade teacher in Niceville, Fla. She has kept up with the Pearls’ activities via Facebook and told CBSsports.com it has been hard seeing some of the vacation pictures and posts from Pearl’s wife, Brandy.

“I haven’t unfriended her or hidden her (on Facebook) at all, but I’ve wanted to,’’ Jana Shay said. “It’s been hard.’’

The Shay family, which includes two children, have moved into a two-bedroom apartment that doesn’t allow pets. The Shays are renting out their former home and said they were forced to leave their dog behind in Knoxville.

“From this end, it’s business; that was a lesson I had to learn, I guess,’’ Jana Shay told CBSsports.com. “I think Bruce tells people he did the best he could for us, and those who don’t know him probably believe that. I just don’t know that I believe that totally.’’

Pearl said he negotiated the financial settlements for his former assistants as well as possible.

“At one point in the discussion, they weren’t going to get any severance; I had to fight for it,’’ said Pearl, who along with his attorney haggled with former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton and university counsel for hours in multiple March 21 closed-door meetings at Stokely Athletics Center. “I wasn’t happy with the settlements, either, but it was the best I could do.

“We were the third-highest paid coaching staff in the SEC, and based on our success, we were more than fairly compensated. What’s happening now is not a reflection of how well we worked together as a staff and what we accomplished.’’

UT had the winningest record in the SEC during Pearl’s six-year tenure, reaching the school’s first No. 1 ranking ever in 2008, making the school’s first Elite Eight appearance in 2009 and running up a 7-7 record against top-five ranked competition while making a school-record six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

Jones, along with Shay and former director of basketball operations Ken Johnson, accompanied Pearl to Knoxville from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where their five years together culminated with the Panthers reaching the Sweet 16 in 2005, sparking UT’s interest.

Jason Shay, whose role on the Vols staff was to prepare the scouting reports for the most challenging opponents, told the News Sentinel on Wednesday the source of his disappointment is not solely his family’s financial or living conditions.

“It’s not all about the money or about where I’m at; I realize the way that (CBSsports.com) story was written, it sounds like we’re upset,’’ Shay said. “It’s about the business decisions Coach (Pearl) made.’’

Specifically, Shay and Forbes have grown irritated with Pearl’s version of the June 14, 2010, testimonies, during which the former staff was found to have not been forthcoming about the picture of Pearl and Craft depicting impermissible contact on Sept. 20, 2008.

The assistant coaches testified before Pearl that day that they could not be certain of the location of the photo. Pearl has since said that had he not denied knowledge of the location of the photo, he would have been putting his assistants in a bad position.

Forbes and Shay have asserted that had they identified the location of the photo, they would have been putting their jobs at risk while rolling on their boss.

“You do that in this business and you’re done. Blackballed,’’ Forbes told CBSsports.com. “You’re not loyal. It was a bad situation, but we should’ve never been in that situation. It was so stupid. It was all just so stupid.’’

Attorney Michael Glazier, who represented UT in its case with the NCAA, had knowledge of the photo six days prior to the coaches being interviewed, but did not share that information with the staff.

Pearl has since said that he and his staff were under the impression the NCAA was coming to interview them about secondary violations involving impermissible phone calls, and had he known the possibility of a major violation existed, he would have retained his own legal counsel.

Both Hamilton and UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek said on more than one occasion they would stand behind Pearl and his staff, so long as there were no more major violations committed that they were unaware of.

When Pearl and his staff were dismissed, UT cited an alleged infraction from the enforcement staff that Pearl and Jones committed a major violation with an impermissible “bump” contact at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy during a September 2010 recruiting visit.

The violation was appealed by UT and Pearl and found not to have merit by the NCAA Committee on Infractions at the June hearing, but the damage was done. Pearl and his staff fired months earlier.

Like Shay, Forbes has financial considerations after leaving behind a $200,000 salary (which was docked 25 percent via a university self-imposed sanction) for a $60,000 job.

“My family is split up for the first time ever,’’ Forbes told CBSsports.com. “My daughter is a senior at Tennessee. She lived at home with us. But now we don’t have her because we don’t live there anymore.’’

Forbes also has a home on the market listed at more than $500,000 in the same neighborhood Hamilton lives in. Hamilton received a settlement worth more than $1 million after resigning the week of the NCAA hearing.

Forbes said he doesn’t concern himself with others, so much as his plight with his Knoxville home.

“I’ve tried to sell it, but I can’t even rent it,’’ Forbes told CBSsports.com. “My monthly check here doesn’t even cover my monthly mortgage payment on that house.’’

Pearl said he reached out to Shay with phone calls and invitations to family events, but Shay did not respond.

“In 19 years as a head coach, I never fired an assistant coach, and what UT decided to do on March 21 was obviously not my choice,’’ Pearl said. “We took great pride in the fact our staff stayed together. Tony, Jason and I were together all 10 years of my Division I coaching, and Steve was with me five of my six years at Tennessee. Prior to this adversity, we were a family, so I’m very disappointed they have chosen to lose contact with me and taken this public stance.’’

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 89

MidTennVol writes:

Whoa...hate to see dirty laundry blowin' in the wind like this. Understand their feelings, but why go public with this? To what end? For what purpose? Why? Does it increase their salaries? Help them get better jobs?

Nice reporting, though, Griff.

ChrisUTvol writes:

first!!!!!!

Razor784 writes:

It's just a bad situation maybe when Shay's one year show cause is up he can land a gig at a bigger school, wow $20000 is rough compared to the money he was making

veinsoforange writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

Whoa...hate to see dirty laundry blowin' in the wind like this. Understand their feelings, but why go public with this? To what end? For what purpose? Why? Does it increase their salaries? Help them get better jobs?

Nice reporting, though, Griff.

KNS = KNCNS (Knoxville "No Class" News Sentinel)

Ironcity writes:

I can understand the assistants frustrations but really this falls on Hamilton. He had the opportunity to do whats right and he chose not to.

martinvol34 writes:

in response to Razor784:

It's just a bad situation maybe when Shay's one year show cause is up he can land a gig at a bigger school, wow $20000 is rough compared to the money he was making

Why is this even news?

murrayvol writes:

in response to stkdog:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Did you read the article? When an assistant coach tells the truth in that situation, he's finished. That's the "unwritten law" that puts "disloyal" assistants under the bus.

If Pearl doesn't do what he knew to be a violation (he did it at Milwaukee), his guys are still making six figures and livin' large. He put them in a no win situation.

samvol writes:

Pearl only cares about himself, he’s selfish and could care less about his former coaches...I feel for the ones that go unmentioned...the good guys like Ken Johnson who had nothing to do with that BBQ mess but was fired, (guilty by association) and was left with nothing. it’s amazing how this idiot Pearl have turned so many people’s lives upside down and not care.

FWBVol writes:

in response to veinsoforange:

KNS = KNCNS (Knoxville "No Class" News Sentinel)

Don't blame this on the KNS, they were just following up on a story that cbssportsline.com broke.

iowa_vol writes:

Bitter beans. He could have left at any time. it is called being an assisatant and earning your way. Pearl started the same way as do most coaches. For that matter, that is how most careers work. While the whole situation is sad in how it turned oyt, the Shays need to quit looking for the handouts and go to work like everyone else.

tennrich1 writes:

I'm sorry for them BUT CBP was the Head Coach for pete sakes....and just because you start making a couple hundred thousand a year you dont go out and purchase a $500,000 home until you can pay a LARGE chunk down were you wont be strapped financially if something like this happens..Just my opinion but its kinda hard to have a whole lot of sympathy for this situation....like he and she said...its business...

murrayvol writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I can understand the assistants frustrations but really this falls on Hamilton. He had the opportunity to do whats right and he chose not to.

No it doesn't Ironcity.

It falls on Pearl. Pearl issued the invitation, Pearl lied about it, and Pearl asked others (Aaron Craft's dad) to lie about it.

murrayvol writes:

in response to iowa_vol:

Bitter beans. He could have left at any time. it is called being an assisatant and earning your way. Pearl started the same way as do most coaches. For that matter, that is how most careers work. While the whole situation is sad in how it turned oyt, the Shays need to quit looking for the handouts and go to work like everyone else.

In case you didn't notice they have.

volsreign writes:

Good Grief!! What whiners! You were just an assistant. And then you lied. If you were good enough to be a head coach at a big time school you would make big money, but you're not. Try getting a real job working 3rd shift at some factory. A lot of people would love to have any job. What, do you think the guy who gave you the opportunity to coach in the SEC should just give you free money? Call daddy, maybe he'll help.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Coach Pearl has left a trail of grief every where he has been with exception of maybe Milwakee. Watch some of the SEC coaches response after games and you will see what I mean. They all but snub him. Pearl is a good coach but has serious ethical issues. Sorry he had to go the way he went but I dont miss him.
GO VOLS !!

calvolfromkingsport writes:

in response to girlfriend:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Responsibility is a tough lesson to learn. I bet it doesn't happen to these former "asst" coaches again.Amazing how they all fell in line when the sailing was smooth.

Mansonlamps writes:

Learn how to spell, KNS. Deicisons?

ceeslouis writes:

Bruce Pearl is about Bruce Pearl

Biggie writes:

Waaaaaaaaah Waaaaaaaaah...
Dude, you should've negotiated a better contract or not taken the job. You're a grown man, act like it.

MikeInTN writes:

in response to tennrich1:

I'm sorry for them BUT CBP was the Head Coach for pete sakes....and just because you start making a couple hundred thousand a year you dont go out and purchase a $500,000 home until you can pay a LARGE chunk down were you wont be strapped financially if something like this happens..Just my opinion but its kinda hard to have a whole lot of sympathy for this situation....like he and she said...its business...

I agree with your comments 100%!!!!!

Rookie2 writes:

I can sympathize with their situation, but good grief, why don't you whine a little more about it. Do they honestly expect Pearl to cut them a check? Life's tough sometimes. You hitched your wagon to that horse, and you benefited greatly when things were going well. I hate that Mrs. Shay and Mrs. Forbes had to go back to work.., bless their little hearts. Welcome back to the real world.

Chappy writes:

I've certainly had my share of ups and downs in life. Deal with it.

Consider no man lucky until he is dead.

MusicCityVol writes:

I'm not saying I disagree with the position of Forbes or Shay but I can't for the life of me imagine why they would agree to that interview with Gary Parrish and CBS. What did it accomplish? What did they hope would come out of it?

agentorange writes:

that's a big "who gives a sh t" story.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Let's see:
a. Asst Coach makes a couple of hundred grand...lives in house that income marginally qualifies for...commits major rules violation by covering up for rules breaking coach.

b. Asst. coach's wife rather than be glad for opportunity to live like a queen @$200,000 + $125,000 additional (expenses, great retirement plan, tuition breaks, for children, top tier life insurance, health insurance, disability, memberships, meals & access to prominent people, bonuses, automobiles, national/international travel & more…

finds ways to whine/moan because she cannot continue living as pampered printheth...

Yet more 10% of the Tennessee citizens have had no jobs for almost three years, with unemployment having run out a year or more ago for about 60%. Tent cities up in the Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, etc. winter is a bit different on the homeless than NW Florida's climate ...
& this couple whines????????????????

c. Certainly had Pearl given this former assistant coach a major sized bonus, the NCAA could have interpreted it as "hush" money.Pearl did not have to give them a dime of bonus, much less bonuses at a holiday from a different religion than his own.

(The lack of severance by Mike Hamilton is just one more example of Hamilton's duplicity. But, then, how does one give a severance bonus to somebody who covered up major NCAA violations? Super Christian was Hamilton's public persona. Wonder what the Lord thinks, with what has happened to almost everybody with whom Hamilton ever worked at UT. Remember that Kiffin was his first choice .)

d. This assistant coach's wife needs to grow the H*ll up. It's tough as H#ll, almost all over the worst economy since the depression. Yet both she &her husband found work. Worst case they found places to stand while looking for better jobs, & they still have the house in Knoxville & the connections to keep it. The US & TN housing foreclosure rate is enormous for normal working people whose average incomes are about $50,000 for a family of four, in Tennessee, who did not cover up major violations in their previous jobs.
e.. Rather than be jealous of the husband's former boss &wife, maybe a better strategy is gratitude that everybody in the family is apparently sleeping indoors & eating regularly. Many, many, in America are not today, having lost jobs through NO FAULT of their own. Many have NOT found work at all. That is especially true in Tennessee, where Obama stimulus money was hard to come by, since the state did not go for Obama. Many who were fortunate enough to find new jobs, found work that paid a LOT less, had no benefits and were at part-time wages---
Yet public employees & their families at UT think like this woman? And they go public with it? Duh!!
Pearl hired some spoiled brats, it would seem---including those who would cover up what they knew to be violations, in exchange for living the high life---then whine & point fingers when the illicit party is over.

brokebackvol writes:

Geez, we are expected to feel sorry for a couple who lost a big income from $500K to $50K? HELLO, look at the median income in the land and then ask for our pity. None here!!

underthehill writes:

in response to martinvol34:

Why is this even news?

it's not..unless I don't know the difference and that is possible..but if you took a job w/pearl and agreed to the pay what does it matter what he was making..looks to me like this can only hurt these guys in the future..

jobrando#216494 writes:

Just bitter grapes. This stuff goes on everyday in all occupations.

Ironcity writes:

in response to murrayvol:

No it doesn't Ironcity.

It falls on Pearl. Pearl issued the invitation, Pearl lied about it, and Pearl asked others (Aaron Craft's dad) to lie about it.

Murray they are ticked not because Pearl lied and they lost there jobs but because they got nothing but a boot out the door while Pearl got a 7 figure settlement. Thats what I am speaking of when I blame Hamilton. I am sure they are not happy that Pearl blew it when the NCAA guys came around, however I am sure they understand the business enough to know that NOBODY completely obeys the rule and that their is always a chance phooey will hit the fan at some point.

69grad writes:

I make less than $50,000 a year and I had to get a master's degree ineducation and 15 years of experience to attain what I am making now. Yes, I chose to teach, but I'm not female doging about my pay.

69grad writes:

They changed my word, but you get the drift.

FearlessFreep writes:

True character is revealed in situations like this.

Draw whatever conclusions you want from that.

richvol writes:

Bruce caused this entire mess...it's too bad that he is not the one that has to suffer the worst consequences of his actions as his subordinates do.

The worst thing a man can be labeled as is to be a liar and a cheat...he qualifies as both. UT is so much better off without him and Lane Kiffin.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to MusicCityVol:

I'm not saying I disagree with the position of Forbes or Shay but I can't for the life of me imagine why they would agree to that interview with Gary Parrish and CBS. What did it accomplish? What did they hope would come out of it?

This is gonna sound bad but I cant believe Gary Parrish has made it as far as he has....truly...he was marginal at best when he was with the paper in Memphis....he has a radio show there and there's no doubt about it...he is an offended Memphis fan along with some guy named Easterwood...I've tried to listen to him on occasion but for me its just not tolerable....but I can't blame him for doing the "slam on Pearl story"...it's right down his alley...

slee writes:

guess your going to have to do a lot of as_ kissing like pearl did to get a job with h.t. hackney

TheStupidPolice writes:

They all cheated. They were all dirty. Shay was just a dude that rebounded for guys in shootaround. LOL What does he expect?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tennrich1:

I'm sorry for them BUT CBP was the Head Coach for pete sakes....and just because you start making a couple hundred thousand a year you dont go out and purchase a $500,000 home until you can pay a LARGE chunk down were you wont be strapped financially if something like this happens..Just my opinion but its kinda hard to have a whole lot of sympathy for this situation....like he and she said...its business...

I get your point, but the Shays family has plenty of company in their misery. When they bought their house, the real-estate market was still rising steeply and they had every expectation that their house would grow in value. There are literally dozens of millions of people in the country who are in the same situation, so it is a bit unfair, IMHO, to characterize the Shays's as less prudent than darn near every other young homeowner in the country at that time.

thevoice writes:

Welcome to the world "the rest of us" live in, coaches. Lie to the NCAA, knowingly make impermissible phone calls, leave a trail of destruction at MY university? Ought to be happy you got the Christmas bonuses AND severance pay. Sorry, no sympathy here.

1vavolfan writes:

The original story was written by Gary Parrish who lives in Memphis and is a Tiger homer. Welcome to the real work Mr. Shay and Mr. Forbes, I know a lot of people not fortunate to have any job at all, much less one coaching basketball. These guys rode the wave when things were good, you have to realize in college basketball things happen. Coaches get fired because they can't win, or they cheat, that is the way it is. You need to be smart enough to not run out and buy a $500,000 house just because you had a big time job for all of 3 years.

tovolny writes:

I don't care to know anything about this. We, as remote observers, will never know the true story. I don't believe this article should have ever been written because it only stirs up an old smoldering pile of brush that partially burned two year ago. The wind and decay will soon take care of the rest. We should just let this biodegrade and forget it.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

in response to CrippledCoon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I can match women friend rosters with you, sweetie. Promise.

GBOEngineer writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I can understand the assistants frustrations but really this falls on Hamilton. He had the opportunity to do whats right and he chose not to.

This had nothing to do with Hamilton. You need to let go of your hate.

MakinBacon writes:

" 'I haven't unfriended her or hidden her (on Facebook) at all, but I've wanted to,' Jana Shay told CBSsports.com. 'It's been hard.' "

Oh no she almost dit-in!!!

GBOEngineer writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

get into detox, quickly.

Rookie2 writes:

NCAA Committee on Infractions: "To Forbes and Shay, you shall serve a one year show cause for conduct unforthcoming, and be dishonorably discharged from the University of Tennessee."

Forbes, Shay and Wives: "What did we do wrong..?? We did nothing wrong..."

Tony Jones: "Yes we did. We were supposed to tell them dummies to stay home. Now.., all our jobs and our careers... have slowly.., evapowated."

TkelynN writes:

I agree with most on here, it is difficult to have sympathy for wealthy people who by some means have been humbled. I go to school FT and work PT and am building a 3 bd house (doing most of the work on it myself) and I only make $10k PER YEAR! I DO NOT borrow money, especially a mortgage loan. I live within my means. Mortgage loans are the dumbest mistake anyone can make. You end up paying someone $200k plus the $100k the house is worth, I can't imagine borrowing $500k, it would probably cost you well over $1m. Humble pie doesnt taste well but sometimes it is exactly what is needed to make you a better person.

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

I'm sorry, this is too much whining for me.

I'm guessing that Coach Pearl was making about as much as Jason Shay at that age - maybe even less.

Forbes is ONLY making $ 60,000 a year now. Only a small percentage of Americans have ever made $ 60,000 a year, much less $ 200,000.

Coaches, if your lives are all about the money, then go sell derivatives on Wall Street.

Sorry, again, but thousands of people in Knox County lost their homes last year. They didn't make enough to cover their payments, either.

It's bad form and very unprofessional for Forbes, Shay and Shay's wife to talk about their money situation in the press. Very bad form.

If they're going to criticize their former boss publicly, they may wind up coaching junior college for a long time.

TNVOLNTX writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

...And you'll still be the poster child for abject stupidity.

acknowledgment writes:

Reading through these comments, it speaks volumes about the times we live in. These guys covered for their head coach - for loyalty, for their careers, for friendship - and what did they get in return? An -ish job in Podunk, Florida.
Pearl on the other hand completely flubs the whole situation - freezing up and lying about a secondary violation because he "wanted it to go away" - his words. He was a coward in the heat of the moment - what does he get? A golf-on-Wednesdays job at Hackney.

They have every right to be bitter, disillusioned, to feel abandoned - just as you have every right to crow "No sympathy! Get over it! Quit whining!"

Easy for you clowns to say - easy to pop off behind a fake name on the internet. Step back and consider the entirety of the situation before you vomit out the bootstraps lecture and hope you're shown some consideration when the chips are down and life deals you a blow regardless of the size of your mortgage.

So reassuring to know everyone on this message board never got fired and never complains. Shallow, self-absorbed imbeciles - look in the mirror every once and a while.

VolunteerLifer writes:

So, We're not the only ones who are offended and upset at the financial settlement that Pearl got. After what he did, he should have had to pay UT back his salary for the past year. And to give him a million bucks in severance? Crazy. I don't blame those coaches for holding a grudge. Pearl earned their anger at him.

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