The 2014 NCAA tournament hasn’t even started, yet the madness is in full effect in Knoxville and Bruce Pearl is once again the focal point.
Only this time around, the shade of orange that Pearl adorns is slightly different than the Pantone 151 that Vol fans prefer.
That’s because Bruce Pearl has been hired as the head basketball coach at Auburn. Ironically enough, it was on this day three years ago (March 18, 2011) that Pearl coached his final game at Tennessee.
Now that Pearl is off the table, Vol fans can stop chasing rainbows, signing petitions and tweeting #BBB in the hopes that Tennessee would indeed “Bring Back Bruce”.
The sad — but simple — truth is that Pearl to UT was never ever going to happen. Logically it’s a no brainer. What organization in it’s right mind would rehire a man they had just fired for breaking multiple rules and then lying about it?
It’s not like Pearl’s troubles at Tennessee were a new revelation either. He’s been hounded by incidents throughout his career. Most notably the Deon Thomas incident during his Iowa days, a story which Deadspin recounts flawlessly.
On top of that, it’s not like Pearl was setting the world on fire when he departed Tennessee. Sure he had great success, including one truly great season in 2008 and a Cinderella type run in the tournament in 2010, but otherwise his teams were mediocre, doing just enough to make the tournament.
Pearl wasn’t doing anything unheard of at Tennessee either. Yes the six straight tournament appearances were a school record, but the Vols had made four straight appearances in the big dance from 1998 to 2001 under Jerry Green, hardly a hall of fame coach.
The pedestal that Pearl’s been put on by Vol fans, while simultaneously painting Cuonzo Martin as an unfit coach, is stunning.
Martin has three more losses in three seasons at UT than Pearl had over his last three seasons at Tennessee. Pearl’s conference winning percentage at Tennessee was 67%, Martin’s is 61%. It’s not rocket science, the two are comparable. The only difference is that Pearl found lighting in a bottle, something Martin hasn’t done yet.
But what surprises me the most about the infatuation with Pearl is the two sides of Vol fans.
On one hand they praise a football coach — Butch Jones — for doing things the right way, for having integrity.
Can you imagine Butch Jones co-existing with Bruce Pearl?
Butch Jones is everything that Bruce Pearl isn’t — respectable and honest.
At the end of the day, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t laud a football coach for doing things the right way, then secretly hope for an individual that has repeatedly made the same shady decisions to come “save” your basketball program.
Bruce Pearl cheated to get to where he was.
Tell me, is that how you want to win basketball games?