Bruce Pearl outlined in an interview this week what he would look for in another coaching job.
The former Tennessee basketball coach’s answer wasn’t surprising.
To paraphrase: He would like a new job just like his old one.
“It’s going to need to be somebody that has the vision that Tennessee had,” Pearl told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. “Tennessee had a vision to try to get its men’s basketball program to the level of its football program and where Pat Summitt had the women’s basketball program.
“They said, ‘We’re winning in everything else. We want to do it in men’s basketball, too. So that would be the job I would want.”
Tennessee got just what it wanted and more from Pearl — at least until he ran afoul of the NCAA a few years ago. And boy, has he paid for it.
He lost his job after the 2010-11 season. He got slapped with a three-year “show-cause” penalty, which basically means a school could risk incurring the NCAA’s wrath by hiring him before the penalty expired.
The penalty will expire in 364 days, if not sooner.
You would think the NCAA wouldn’t have a problem with a school hiring Pearl at the end of next season. By then, he would have paid his dues for lying to NCAA investigators about a recruiting violation.
Since then, Pearl has expressed remorse in a number of interviews and got on with his life as best he could outside of coaching.
He took a job as vice president of marketing for the H.T. Hackney Company in Knoxville. He took another job as an ESPN college basketball analyst.
He seems happy with that. But no matter how happy he might be, how could he say “no” to another coaching job if it met his criteria?”
And how could any school serious about reviving its program not ask?
Start close to home. Kentucky with John Calipari and Florida with Billy Donovan are the only schools in the SEC who couldn’t improve themselves by hiring Pearl.
So what if some of those programs are winning. Pearl doesn’t just win games. He sells tickets by promoting as well as he coaches.
The average SEC basketball coach is an empty suit when it comes to promotions. And the average SEC arena has way too many empty seats.
Pearl’s appeal would hardly be limited to the SEC. He could fit in anywhere.
Don’t bother asking “What about the NCAA stigma?”
Think Kentucky was worried about the NCAA stigma when it hired Calipari, who is the only coach to have a Final Four appearance vacated at two schools (Memphis and UMass)?
Although Calipari wasn’t personally implicated by the NCAA in either case, he didn’t achieve coaching sainthood, either. In fact, he has been credited more with staying ahead of the posse than adhering to the rule book.
Since his hiring at Kentucky, he has won one national championship and contended for two others.
Pearl didn’t win a national title at UT. But he took the program to new heights in the NCAA tournament and averaged 24 victories per season in his six years on the job.
Given the necessary resources, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t do as much somewhere else.
And given his track record, there’s no reason to think schools won’t be lining up to hire him after next season.