Bruce Pearl: Where Does the Ex-Tennessee Coach Go from Here?
The Bruce Pearl era is officially over at the University of Tennessee.
If the administration was at all on the fence as to whether or not it should fire Pearl, the 30-point beatdown courtesy of the Michigan Wolverines definitely helped solidify its decision.
After a year filled with ups and downs, scandal and underachievement, Pearl enters the job market with far less value than he had several years ago, when he jumped from Wisconsin-Milwaukee to Tennessee.
The question is, which fired-coach path will he take?
Bob Knight Path
In terms of coaching legacy, Bruce Pearl has a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Knight.
However, Pearl could hop on the same fired-coach route that Knight took after the 2000 Hoosiers season.
Here's what you do:
1) Get fired by a major program.
2) Take the job at Texas Tech or some other bottom-dwelling team in a major conference.
Unfortunately for Pearl, Billy Gillispie has already hopped on the Bob Knight path and taken the job at Texas Tech.
Instead, Pearl could follow the Bob Knight path to a different Tech and take the newly opened head coaching position at Georgia Tech.
Bob Huggins "Prodigal Son" Path
This journey is a little more complex, but ultimately most rewarding.
After Bob Huggins was fired from Cincinnati, he went away to Kansas State as a type of coaching rehab. After one year with the Wildcats, the West Virginia job opened up, and Huggins made his way back to his alma mater.
Bruce Pearl's alma mater is Boston College, but that coaching position will not be open for at least a few more years. What Pearl can do is take the job with Oklahoma and show that he is still capable of winning big games.
At Oklahoma, he will have two chances a year to beat Texas and one chance a year to beat Kansas. If Pearl can knock off one of these two giants, Boston College will scrap Steve Donahue and embrace the Bruce Pearl era.
Steve Lavin "Analyze Then Return Prized" Path
This is a common route for fired or temporarily retired coaches.
The process is simple: After you're canned/removed from a college program, you take a job at ESPN analyzing college basketball. After a few years of people saying, "Wow, he really knows his stuff," a job opening will appear, and the revolving door will swing in Bruce Pearl's favor.
The only catch to this plan is you have to move to the other side of the country. Steve Lavin went from Los Angeles to New York, and Pearl may end up doing the reverse, flying from Tennessee to Oregon.
Bruce Pearl would transition well to the studio and could return to the sidelines in no more than three years.
Larry Eustachy "Oh That Guy!" Path
Larry Eustachy had a far more embarrassing exit from Iowa State than Bruce Pearl did from Tennessee. For those who have forgotten, do a quick Google search to see the drunken Eustachy photo album in its full glory.
Eustachy's strategy after being fired was to lie low for a year and then take a job at a small, unsuccessful program. After nearly a decade, Eustachy has slowly built a decent program at Southern Mississippi and will have people all over the country next year saying, "Oh yeah, I remember that guy," when his team lands a first-round upset in the tournament.
Bruce Pearl could disappear back into the Horizon League, or even the Atlantic 10, and build a tournament-bound mid-major squad.
Kelvin Sampson NBA Path
Bruce Pearl may decide he doesn't want to put up with the NCAA's rules anymore and disappear to the NBA.
Kelvin Sampson is secretly an assistant coach on the Milwaukee Bucks, and I could see Pearl taking a similar route to the Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies or Indiana Pacers.
After a few years, maybe he'll be given a head-coaching chance with an NBA team, or he could return to the college game the way Mike Montgomery did after a failed experiment with the Golden State Warriors.
John Calipari Path
John Calipari had his first success at Massachusetts, failed in the NBA and then came back stronger than ever at Memphis and Kentucky.
Bruce Pearl could try the NBA route, as mentioned in the last slide, and then come back to the college game at some place like New Mexico State.
After a few 30-win years at the mid-major, a high-level program like Texas or Arizona may come to Pearl after it loses its coach to the NBA.
Rick Pitino "Win in the Same State" Path
Rick Pitino had a massive amount of success at Kentucky in the 1990s.
Now, despite the upset loss to Morehead State, here he is a decade later having success in the same state at Louisville.
The best route for Bruce Pearl is to use any of the paths mentioned in this slideshow but to ultimately set his sights on landing the Vanderbilt coaching job. There is no better way to get revenge on Tennessee for firing him than to antagonize the Volunteers year after year in the SEC.
If given another chance, Pearl can build another high-level team. For his personal gratification, he should do it in the same state that tried to kick him out.