BRISTOL, Va. -- Bruce Pearl says he appreciated the sentiments of the fans, but there was little to no chance he would ever coach at Tennessee again.
“I don’t think my being at Tennessee again was ever going to happen,” Pearl said Monday at the Virginian, where he was participating in the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Golf Classic.
As Pearl’s three-year “show cause” penalty for breaking recruiting rules and lying to the NCAA about it was getting ready to expire, the popular basketball coach became a hot commodity again in Knoxville. Plenty of Tennessee fans wanted him back. Some even began a petition to bring him back and got thousands of signatures.
But Tennessee already had a coach, and Cuonzo Martin was on the verge of taking the Vols to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament.
“It was nice to know that you were wanted,” Pearl said. “But at the same time, I was trying to discourage folks from doing it from the standpoint we had a coach in place. It was difficult, but they wound up having a great year.”
So when Auburn came calling, Pearl jumped at the opportunity to be a head coach again.
Not too long after, a funny thing happened in Knoxville. Martin left Tennessee to become the coach at Cal.
With Pearl out of the equation, the Vols hired Donnie Tyndall of Southern Mississippi.
“Donnie is going to do a great job,” Pearl said. “I think he was a great choice. And I’m blessed to be back in the SEC. So I think things worked out really well.”
Believe him or not, Pearl says he’ll still be pulling for the Vols when they’re not playing Auburn.
“I’m a Vol for life,” he said. “We had a great run at Tennessee. We made so many wonderful friends that we now consider family. Tennessee is one of the top four or five programs in the SEC and Auburn is not. We have a lot of catching up to do.”comments powered by Disqus