As concern grows for Alabama’s basketball team, many fans are finding it hard to yell “Roll Tide” when losses come so easy. After Tuesday night’s defeat to Kentucky at Rupp Arena, more and more of the Tide faithful are ready to see Coach Anthony Grant make his exit.
As it sits, Alabama is 12-18 on the season, and hosts Arkansas in its final game in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. With only six wins in the conference, a victory against the Razorbacks will prove to be too late for Grant. After going 0-11 on the road, his termination seems to be inevitable. The SEC tournament is around the corner, but it doesn’t look as if the Tide can make a run at the championship.
Discussions on who will replace Grant are becoming more popular by the minute. A few names are in the mix, but none catches the eye quite like that of Bruce Pearl.
Pearl is the former head basketball coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, but was fired after recruiting violations surfaced related to a cookout with recruits at his home. Pearl was then handed a three-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA for committing major violations, including falsifying information, essentially banning him from coaching in college for those three years.
If Pearl had been honest with the NCAA on a questionable situation, he would more than likely still adorn the sidelines of the Orange and White. However, the NCAA frowns upon dishonesty, and a harsher punishment was the outcome. But now his three-year ban has come to an end, so the question is:
Where is Bruce Pearl headed?
Rumors have surfaced in Knoxville concerning Pearl’s next step. Some say that he will be joining the Volunteers once again. Some say he will make his way to a different university. Others say he will take on a larger role with ESPN.
Most Tennessee fans have not been shy about vocalizing their wish for his return, but the majority believe that he will not be coming back to Rocky Top. The general consensus in Knoxville is that he will be joining another university next season. A few claim to know exactly where he will land:
According to CBS Sports Baketball Insider Gary Parrish and his article “Which School with a ‘Vision’ will Hire Bruce Pearl Next Year?”, Pearl had this to say:
“It would almost need to be a school that’s won a national championship in football or baseball. Somebody who’s done it and wants to try to do it again in men’s basketball. And I’m not saying I can win a national championship. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying it would need to be somebody who wants to try to do those things. Let’s upgrade the facilities and schedule [national opponents] and engage the fans and be relevant. Just be relevant. That’s what we did at Tennessee.”
I think Alabama fits that criteria.
But does Pearl have what it takes to turn the Tide?
Some Alabama faithful are concerned about his past run-in with the NCAA, and fear the possibility of Pearl causing future problems for the Crimson Tide. While he will definitely be under the microscope, a three-year ban is a hearty punishment for any coach. Rest assured, he won’t make that same mistake twice. If his less than spotless reputation is cause for concern, his coaching abilities on the court will surely ease your mind.
If statistics are what you’re looking for, Pearl has a pretty impressive resume. After going 86-38 with Milwaukee, he made his way to Tennessee where he went 145-61, leading the team to the NCAA tournament all six years.
He’s held a .700 winning percentage rate throughout his career, making him an ideal candidate for any struggling program.
During his first season (2005-2006), Pearl was named The Sporting News’ National Coach of the Year, and led the Orange and White to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In his second season (2006-2007), Pearl guided his team to a home record of 16-0, and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. In his third season (2007-2008), he coached the Volunteers to 31 wins and 5 losses, setting the school record for victories in a single season.
Pearl and the Vols won the SEC regular season championship, while making their second straight appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. He was also named the SEC Coach of the Year.
In his fourth season (2008-2009), he hit the 400 career win mark, while also leading Tennessee to the SEC Tournament Championship Game. In his fifth season (2009-2010), the Vols became UT’s first men’s basketball team to appear in the Elite Eight, barely missing the Final Four with a one point loss to Michigan State.
More impressive than Pearl’s statistics is his ability to interact with the crowd and the students. His enthusiastic nature and animated demeanor draws positive attention to any basketball program. Not only does he show genuine excitement and admiration for the game, he also shows appreciation to his players, the fans and the university. He devotes his energy, time and attention to his program, on and off the court. Even if you aren’t a fan of basketball, rest assured, after attending one game with Pearl on the sidelines, you will be. His energetic personality is infectious, as well as his leadership.
Alabama basketball needs motivation. It needs intensity. It needs enthusiasm. The old saying goes, “it only takes a spark to get a fire going”.
Bruce Pearl is that spark.