Who Will Replace Pearl At Tennessee
It’s been a rough couple of days for Bruce Pearl. He loses to Michigan in the 1st round by 30 on Friday. Fans hold a rally for him on Sunday. Then Monday he posts a sad message on Facebook announcing that he’d been fire. And no one’s to blame but him.
Even while he was being investigated the NCAA he was still committing violations. First was the bump violation in September with a recruit. Then this month he committed another one by giving a player or his family extra tickets. Both small violations…nowhere nearly as bad as the ones at UConn. And while the March violation might have been the last straw it was his continued and persistent disregard for the rules that nailed his coffin shut.
But enough crying over spilled milk. Pearl is gone and their ain’t no brining him back. If you’re one of those sentimental mofo’s read this touching eulogy from a pro-Pearl site here as we move onto move pressing matters like who is at the front of the line to replace Pearl.
Brad Stevens, Butler: Only 34, he already has a runnerup finish in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and has his 2011 team in the Sweet 16 this March after beating Old Dominion 60-58 and top-seeded Pitt 71-70. As the hottest young coach in the profession, he may have zero interest in a program with Tennessee’s current baggage. It’s worth a phone call to make sure, though. NEGATIVE: Every program in the country with an opening seems to want him.
Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth: Only 33, he’s one of the rising stars of the business. After assisting Billy Donovan at Floridain 2009-10, he went 27-9 in his head-coaching debut at VCU in 2010-11. This year’s team lost 77-72 to Tennessee in the NIT Season Tipoff Tournament last November but owns a 26-11 record and a berth in the Sweet 16 after upsetting Georgetown 74-56 and Purdue 94-76 in The Dance. Known as an excellent recruiter, he appears to be the total package. NEGATIVE: He’s on the fast track and might view UT as a stepping stone.
Tubby Smith, Minnesota: He turns 60 in June, so there’s some wear on his tires, but can you imagine how motivated he’d be to beat a Kentucky program that unceremoniously dumped him five years ago? Smith went 263-83 at UK with a national title in 1998 but also proved he can win at mid-level programs such as Tulsa(79-43), Georgia (45-19) and Minnesota (80-53). His records with the Gophers the past four years were 20-14, 22-11, 21-14, 17-14 with NCAA bids in Year 2 and Year 3. The chance to play for a proven winner like Smith might convince Tobias Harris to return for his sophomore season. Moreover, a steady hand like Smith could help navigate Tennessee through the turbulent waters that may lie ahead. NEGATIVE: The opportunity for revenge against UK may not be enough to lure Smith back to the SEC.