All eyes will be on the Tennessee players Saturday to see how they respond.
“You know, Bruce being able to be in practice every day and participate in the preparation is going to be a positive,” said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg. “The other thing, and it might be a short-term affect, would be that I think the kids will have a cause to come together. Can that last eight games? I don’t know his team, so it’s hard for me to have an opinion on that.”
It was Jan. 10, 2010 when Tennessee walked onto its home court and handed No. 1 Kansas its first loss of the season, an impressive and emotional 76-68 win without four key players lost through suspensions, dismissals and injuries.
“It’s pretty amazing what chemistry can do when guys put their minds to something and know their backs are up against the wall a little bit and they rally, and they don’t quit and they believe in themselves,” Pearl said after beating Kansas.
But Pearl was there that day to help the Vols believe in themselves. There’s no doubt Pearl is a gifted coach, one with the ability to instill hope and draw the X’s and O’s that can pull a team away from that wall. This isn’t about coaching ability. We understand Pearl has elevated Tennessee men’s basketball to a new level and that is why so many want to retain him.
But Pearl made mistakes and the consequences should match. He shouldn’t be slapped on the hand for eight games and then return Feb. 8 at Kentucky. His punishment should be more severe.
Tennessee won its first seven games, including big wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh. Since then the Vols have lost four of six and Pearl has had trouble finding the right rotation, the proper combination of players. The Vols have slacked off defensively and they are fighting to get back into their groove.
When asked his opinion on Pearl’s penalty, Greenberg declined. There isn’t a Division I coach in his right mind who would want to condemn a peer, an institution, or a commissioner for the handling of this case. No one knows when a similar situation will strike close to home.
But the bottom line is this: Bruce Pearl should have been fired when he was terminated. In this day and age, a major program can’t operate with a coach who is an “employee at-will.” It only leads to awkward situations such as the upcoming suspension.
Now he’s here, now he’s not.
It’s not magic. It’s a poor decision. And it’s bad for college basketball.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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