Who needs Kevin Durant?
Star power was aplenty Saturday afternoon at the Hardin Valley Academy gym in the BMaze Celebrity Game organized by Bobby Maze — even without Durant, an NBA All-Star for the Oklahoma City Thunder who was originally supposed to participate but couldn’t because of an obligation to Nike.
It was Pearl’s first stint on the bench since being fired by Tennessee after the 2010-11 season and being hit with a three-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA in August of 2011.
All those troubles were behind Pearl for the BMaze game, which honored Jamar Board, Maze’s cousin who died Dec. 29, 2012, in their hometown of Washington, D.C., at age 28.
“First of all, Jamar was a young man that was around our campus a lot, and he kept Bobby straight,” Pearl said. “He was a good advisor and a good friend, so it was a tough loss from that standpoint.”
There was a standing-room-only, sellout crowd of 2,600 fans (400 standing) in the steamy HVA gym. Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee also benefitted from the proceeds.
“I asked Bobby, ‘Why Big Brothers Big Sisters, Why did you choose that particular charity?’ ” Pearl, Maze’s coach at UT said, “and (Maze) just remembered the fact that when he was at UT, the Big Brothers and Big Sisters came over a couple of times a year, and that’s kind of why he chose that as the charity. I think it will do a lot of good tonight. It’s a good turnout.”
Pearl’s assistant coach for the Blue team was Tony Jones, his former UT assistant who got a one-year, show-cause penalty from the NCAA.
Their counterparts on the Red bench: Lady Vols basketball coach Holly Warlick and one of her assistants, Dean Lockwood.
Warlick seemed surprised before the game when told she was coaching against Pearl.
“Is Bruce coaching?” Warlick responded.
“Oh, piece of cake, he just sweats more than me.”
Neither seemed to do too much sweating or coaching.
Pearl’s Blue team won the game, 143-138.
Surprised? Pearl might have been.
“I already told my guys in the locker room we’re down 15 going against Holly Warlick, I’ll tell you that right now,” Pearl said before the game. “But my guys at Tennessee had to overcome my coaching for many, many years, and we did OK.”
Pearl coached UT to six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances — including an Elite Eight berth in 2010.
His show cause ends Aug. 23, 2014, meaning Pearl can return to college coaching at that time.
For now, Pearl is vice president of marketing for H.T. Hackney, a Knoxville-based wholesale grocery company — it’s a job Pearl says he loves — and also works as a basketball commentator for ESPN.
“I’ve got to see if I could be really good at that (commentating),” Pearl said. “That’s my question. They like what I did, but I’ve got to get better at that, and if I could continue to grow on that side, then maybe that could be my career, those two things there, as opposed to get back into coaching. We’ll see.”
For now, Pearl plans to stick with his current jobs — not coaching.
“Right now (coaching isn’t) in my heart,” Pearl said. “Right now I am very happy doing what I am doing, and I feel that’s the direction (God) wants to me to go, but we always stay ready when the opportunity presents itself.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.