Tennessee Volunteers Basketball

Tennessee Basketball Analysis: Program Would Have Been Better off Keeping Pearl

Taking over a program in disarray, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean's best record in three years is 12-20. Photo courtesy of Indiana University.
Taking over a program in disarray, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean's best record in three years is 12-20. Photo courtesy of Indiana University.
Michael BaggettCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2011

A University of Tennessee trustee said the school’s firing of Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl was made to cushion the blow of potential punishment from the NCAA.

According to the story reported in the Knoxville Sun Sentinel, similar NCAA cases indicated the basketball program would be unable to function under Pearl.

But will the program be able to function without Pearl?

Quite frankly, the job isn’t as attractive as perceived by the university. 

The best way to look into the school’s men's basketball future is to look at Indiana University, then expect much worse.

Tom Crean took over IU in the aftermath of a similar fiasco created by then-coach Kelvin Sampson. 

Crean inherited a depleted roster in 2008 stemming from Eric Gordon leaving for the NBA, D.J. White’s graduation, as well as other transfers and dismissals. 

The result for Crean was a 6-25 first year at what is known as a basketball school.

Crean’s second and third years haven’t been much better with records of 10-21 and 12-20.

Its taken Crean—known for his recruiting—this long just to establish the program with blue chippers, and that class won’t arrive until 2012.

Whoever takes over Tennessee will inherit a similar situation to Crean, as Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson are expected to test NBA waters, and top recruiting commitments are wanting out of their commitments because Pearl won’t be there. 

So judging from IU’s struggles, UT will have to hire a coach of Crean’s caliber just to achieve a 6-25 record at what is not known as a men’s basketball school. 

Would UT’s situation be any different if it kept Pearl?

Pearl is likely to get a one to two year ban from coaching from the NCAA, but an assistant could have taken over the team to hold down the fort.

In the meantime, recruiting wouldn’t take a huge hit and the program would be back on track when Pearl returned. 

Whoever takes the helm of the Vols will have to be in for the long haul and hope the university wants the same. 

He’ll also have to stand on tables in the school cafeteria giving away tickets and dress up in body paint to promote the program like Pearl. 

If not, Rocky Top will have a revolving door of basketball coaches for years to come. 

It’s something the school wouldn’t have had to worry about if Pearl was kept as originally planned. 

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