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It’s Hard to Forget A Snake

Posted on March 21, 2011

Whistleblowers typically don't get second chances in the NCAA. No program is clean, ESPN told us last year. Coaches talk shit all the time about other coaches cheating -- the most recent example is then-Providence coach Rick Pitino accusing then-Pitt assistant coach John Calipari of unethical rumor-spreading to change a recruit's mind. Though accusations get passed on to favored sports journalists, coaches rarely gather evidence for a report. And they don't ever tell the NCAA.

"It's hard to forgive a snake," former Illinois player Deon Thomas said of Pearl when Pearl gave a recorded conversation between Thomas and then-Illinois assistant Jimmy Collins to the NCAA.

Bruce Pearl's punishment for snitching to the NCAA while at Iowa was to be shuffled back down the coaching ranks. He ended up at Division-II University of Southern Indiana. Even then, citizens of the Tri-State area were impressed by Pearl's charisma in local television interviews. Using his hyper, motivating coaching style, USI nearly won the D-II Championship in 1994 and finally secured it in 1995.

When his University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee scrapped their way into the 2005 NCAA Sweet 16, most of America -- especially a desperate athletic administrator in Knoxville -- fell for Bruce's charm and hyper coaching. Pearl's committed a recruiting violation in 2004 by having a impermissible visit with a high-school junior was just a minor glitch in his fantastic second-chance story.

Then, you know, he did that whole impermissible visit thing again. Then he lied about it to NCAA investigators and tried to get his assistant coaches and recruits' families to cover it up. Then got caught red- orange-handed by the NCAA for lying and covering-up the lie.

Volunteer fans are in uproar that Bruce Pearl has now been fired by the university. (Some uproars are more stupifying than others.) Pearl carried Tennessee basketball from obscurity to recent relevance; for that, all of Pearl's sins are forgiven.

Clearly Bruce Pearl has figured out the Riddle of Steel. Yes! You know what it is, don't you boy? Shall I tell you? It's the least I can do. Steel isn't strong, boy, flesh is stronger!

These fans are fools, hypnotized by a charmer. Bruce Pearl snitched on another team to the NCAA, incurred multiple recruiting violations -- including a violation just four days after his tearful apology for misleading the NCAA. He performed all these deeds under the sole purpose of bettering himself and his teams.

So, he'll just stop? Hardly. He'll keep on bending/breaking rules and will most likely get caught. (Caught by a third-party since compliance is against Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton's religion.) When Tennessee is caught again, there won't be a basketball program left after the NCAA drops the bomb. The guarantee that Bruce Pearl could give the Volunteers or any other school that he won't incur NCAA violations again is worthless; the risk a school would undergo by hiring Bruce is substantial.

Bruce will slither off into the sunset and the Cult of Pearl will remove their robes and go home. If they're smart the Vols will fire Mike Hamilton sacrifice Mike Hamilton to the SEC Gods. Big-name basketball coaches won't commit to the Vols unless the Vols are willing to overpay that coach's year-or-more patience of the Vol's sanctions. (Shaka Smart has added all the UT phone numbers to his shoe phone's block list.)

Bruce will might lay low from coaching while the NCAA hoes are hunting for snakes. Color commentary work for the MTN! or some other mid-major network will keep him in the public eye. All he has to do is keep being charming; forgiveness is easy to obtain when you can win at all costs.

And everybody loves a second chance story. Right?

Update March 22: According to official UT Press Release, Bruce Pearl committed NCAA violations as recent as this month. The violations stem from improperly reporting extra game tickets given for the Vol's home game against Kentucky. ESPN is reporting that Pearl disciplined senior forward Brian Williams for breaking a substance abuse policy for two games under the guise that Williams injured his back. The deception is not an NCAA violation but apparently caused some strife with Tennessee's administration.

While I think it doesn't absolve Mike Hamiltion and the Tennessee athletic department of the crap compliance -- can't blame Bruce for the hostesses -- the accusations of Pearl still violating rules are very believable. Still can't understand why any Vol fan would want Pearl back regardless of these new accusations.

Apropos of nothing: I really, really enjoyed having Bruce Pearl as a rival coach of my favored Kentucky Wildcats. Bruce's over-the-top personality and somewhat-dangerous teams made him quite the heel for teams in the SEC. I'm gonna miss him mostly because he didn't leave my team crucified on the Tree of Woe.

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A Cornered Animal: A Play in One Act

Posted on February 9, 2011

Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE. I'm pretty sure that using this photo to write a play is considered editorial use.

(H/T for the image: The fabulous Ms. Tyler Thompson.)

(The game is over. Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl sees Kentucky Coach John Calipari finish his post-game on-court interview. Coach Pearl moves swiftly through the crowded court and grabs Coach Calipari by the arm. Both men keep a pleasant, jovial appearance despite their conversation.)

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: Good win, Coach. What do ya want me to tell the NCAA?


FAKE-SMILING PEARL: Them seersuckers up in Indy are gonna trot me up there and try to suspend me. They're already getting the word out.

FAKE-SMILING CALIPARI: Well, maybe you shouldn't have lied.

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: I shouldn't have gotten caught, John! But he that can't endure the bad, will not live to see the good. Besides, I've got a plan: when I finally go up there, I'm gonna offer them some insider information on dirty programs, coaches and kids.

FAKE-SMILING CALIPARI: What? You're joking.

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: Hell no I'm not! They've got a hard-on for busting coaches right now. I talked to Calhoun a few days ago and he's still cussin' up a storm about it. So I figure that if I throw the NCAA a few bones, they'll go easier on me.

FAKE-SMILING CALIPARI: Bruce, you're crazy. You're--

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: No no no! See, here's the thing: Everything I'm gonna tell them is not going to be true! Or just partly true. So I'll red herring those assholes and get them off our trail.

FAKE-SMILING CALIPARI: Our trail? Look, I don't want any part of this, Bruce.

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: It'll be easy! Just make something up that sounds right. Hell, I've already written a whole soliloquy that involves the Pump Brothers setting up off-shore bank accounts to recruit middle-schoolers into a summer training camp that's funded by New Balance shoes. I'm gonna tell those double-A's that the thinner Pump called me to see if I was interested in "coaching" in their "camp".

(Bruce makes quotation marks with his fingers when he says "coaching" and "camp".)

FAKE-SMILING CALIPARI: My God, Bruce, that's a horrible idea.

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: It'll work! Those -- what do you call dumbasses in your Italian-ese, yinzers? -- those Indy yinzers will buy it hook, like and sinker. It'll be great. Give me a few names: coaches that pissed you off or some of those greedy AAU shits-- oh! What about your 2012 class? I bet most of those kids are asking for some handouts.

FAKE-SMILING CALIPARI: Bruce, you're... wait, is that a microphone inside your blazer?!

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: No! Yes! Wait what did you ask me?

(Calipari pulls Bruce close for an seemingly friendly hug. Calipari wrestles his arm away from Bruce's forearm embrace and walks away. Bruce yells to Calipari as he walks away:)

FAKE-SMILING PEARL: Just give me a few names when you come to Knoxville, okay! (Bruce tilts his head down to his jacket lapel.) How was that?

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