Around the SEC: The anti-Pearl crowd reveals itself

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 1:15am

Lest anyone thinks Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl is not the most polarizing coach in the Southeastern Conference, here’s all the proof you need:

On Tuesday, he was named co-SEC Coach of the Year, sharing the award with Kentucky’s Billy Gillispie, in a voting of his peers.

And it was highway robbery.

How UK finished 12-4 in league play after the embarrassments of November and December is still a mystery. Gillispie did an admirable job in salvaging Kentucky’s season and deserves credit accordingly.

Here’s the catch: Gillispie had to dig himself out of his own hole and still doesn’t have a championship to show for it. Pearl, meanwhile, had the Vols rolling along all season, culminating in UT’s first-ever No. 1 ranking and first outright SEC title in 41 years.

And for that, he is forced to share the award?

This proves conclusively that while Pearl might be the SEC’s flashy, rising star, he’s also among the most despised coaches in the conference.

Had any other coach in the league guided his school to its first No. 1 ranking and first SEC championship since before Woodstock, he would have been a slam-dunk pick for Coach of the Year.

Not with Pearl, though, and it’s because his combination of winning and bombast rubs people the wrong way.

Were Tennessee not winning, Pearl’s orange coats, Patton-like public speeches, bare-chested TV appearances and windy self-promotion would not be a source of such consternation.

Start winning conference championships, however, and all those things become doubly irritating. Suddenly, Pearl is like an annoying gnat that can’t be swatted away.

Contrast Pearl with Florida coach Billy Donovan, who has won two consecutive national championships but still is well-liked. You’ll rarely, if ever, hear a coach say a bad word about him.

Why? Because Donovan plays it close to the vest, espouses humility and even dresses “appropriately” for every game. In coaching, there are certain things that are acceptable and certain things that aren’t.

As for a slick-talker such as Pearl, the other coaches’ attitude is, ‘Well, we’ll show him by not voting for him as Coach of the Year when he clearly deserves to win it outright.’

Funny thing is, Pearl knows how he is perceived around the SEC and doesn’t care. He just goes about his business – which has at times justifiably been criticized – and is building Tennessee into a national power.

Pearl has a prime opportunity to get under everyone’s skin again as the SEC Tournament begins Thursday in Atlanta.

Unlike the women’s tournament, which is often a three-day dog-and-pony show to get to the inevitable Tennessee-LSU championship matchup, the men’s tournament is usually unpredictable.

In two of the past four years, the regular-season championship hasn’t even played in the SEC Tournament championship game.

Further, Tennessee hasn’t won the tournament crown since 1979 and hasn’t even competed in the title game since 1991.

We look for that to change this season and for the Vols to knock off Mississippi State on Sunday.

If so, rest assured there will be a lot of annoyed coaches around the SEC.

Brett Hait covers Vanderbilt athletics and the Southeastern Conference for The City Paper. He can be reached at bhait@nashvillecitypaper.com.

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By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am betting on UK to go deeper into the NIT than any Tennessee team will go in the NCAA.

By: brye on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If you believe that it's "highway robbery" that Coach Pearl has to share the award, I'm merely wondering why you didn't write the same article re: Coach Donovan last year. And regarding talent levels, your insinuation about the NBA and UT doesn't seem relevant to this year's discussion; the more relevant question is: top to bottom, who has the most talent in the SEC this year? UT, hands down. It simply seems odd to see an inflammatory article written about a coach who actually won an award when an even more egregious situation occurred last year. It was you who brought up Donovan as a contrasting figure in the article, which just seems absurd.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier, still living in the past? By the way are you a UT fan or UK fan? I'm just asking because you seem to know alot of UK history but you can't seem to talk about UT's history.Sorry, forgot I covered UT's history a few posts ago. Anyway, when the UT men can win something get back to me then. Maybe I'll still be living.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I shall predict the near future. Hait, Ingram and/or McFarland will make the case for Kentucky in the NCAA tournament not based on their mediocre RPI or SOS, or lousy W-L record. Forget Patterson may be lost for season. Even the Cats' storied NCAA tournament record may not save them. The media blue mist homers such as Ingram et al will say,"Well, Kentucky travels better than any other fans in the country. I guarantee the Cats fans will fill up any arena anywhere. Ashley Judd will be there too. That is why Kentucky should be in the tournament." EXCAT, you had better hope for three straight wins this week.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT, I enjoy picking on any program whose fan base is arrogant enough to believe their program is above suspicion, scrutiny and reprimand.Wait until UT's Phat Phil starts suspending third string cornerbacks for minor traffic tickets, but keeps the woman slapping, drug using first string running back around because Big Orange neeeds them.Like Mel Borrks, I am an equal opportunity offender.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier, why do I need to hope for 3 straight wins this week? We will be in anyway. I mean we beat y'all once and then lost by 3 to then #1 team. Are you saying that beating y'all and playing y'all tough at TB doesn't count for anything?

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Cats are already in. You don't go 12-4 in the SEC and not get in. They are not even listed on the bubble, most experts have them as a 9 seed.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It counts as one win and one loss. The same number of losses at Gardner Webb, the same number of losses as that 11-point first half your kittens had at Vanderbilt.NIT all the way.

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Gillispie has won COY in his conference for the fifth straight year, is that a coincidence?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

borrks = Brooksfour posts back...

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier, I never said that our program is above suspicion, scrutiny, or reprimand. I was talking strictly about basketball on the court. I believe there are lots of teams doing things not exactly by the book.I loved Ron Mercer when he was at UK, doesn't mean I agree with everything he has done or will do. I think every school has had their share of thugs & idiots.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Texas A&M had nowwhere to go but up. Five years ago two Big 12 victories would have doubled the previous year. George McIntyre pulled the doubling wins trick four consecutive years with Vanderbilt football 1 win in 1979, 2 in '80, 4 in '81 and 8 in '82. Remember this, Gillespie was UK's second choice at best.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT, you can't separate the school from the actions at your whim. I bet if I mentioned Dan Issel, Kevin Grevey, Jack Givens, Mel Turpin or Sam Bowie, you would likely give me a litany of their successes.The NBA programs listed Mercer as from kentucky. In print, get used to it.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I will not make excuses for those 2 games you mentioned. I will only say that you have enjoyed your LAST year of even dreaming of winning against Kentucky. So get your jabs in now, because the Cats are going to take back the throne in the SEC & the nation.

By: grapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If everone did what was expected of them it would be a perfect world! It is the handling of the unexpected along the path to get to the golden ring is what makes a champion. If a team won the championship every year and the coach never won the COY Award during that period then voters would not be fufilling their responsibilities. It is one of the reasons there are two polls for these awards.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier, what has-been's jersey are y'all gonna retire next year. Chris Lofton's might be a good one, if y'all can find out what european league team he's playing for. When was the last time UT put a player in the NBA?

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Kentucky's own Alan Houston? Why does all of UT's most beloved players come from Kentucky?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

By the same argument can UK give back a few of those SEC titles that the inept coaching of Wade Houston brought the bluegrass?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT, let's retire some number of players who didn't cheat. Did UK retire the Richie Farmer and the probation team's numbers because they dare--gasp--were recruited within the rules? How lame must it be at UK when mediocre, slow, legally recruited players palying barely .500 ball are having retired jerseys?

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hey, that's all on UT, sad that's the only way they could get a top recruit, was by hiring their Dad.

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Richie says thanks for those 2 guaranteed wins every year!

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT, you will not win another SEC title until Slick Rick comes through that door again. Or if the DHL envelope doesn't break open and cash falls out. Obviously Wayne Casey never heard of an electronic transfer, blank money prders or simple bank deposit to hide the Chris Mills money. The best team in the commonwealth resides in Jefferson County.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Marscatt, thankfully Denny Crum did not sell his soul to his Louisville alumni base. Big gesture of Crum to release younger Houston from letter of intent. The Cats are the Al Davis and Oakland Raiders of NCAA hoops. What's next for UK, retiring the trainer's water bottles? Or Eddie Sutton's empty bottles?

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It was an Emory package, can you at least be accurate?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Oh my goodness, a UK fan actualy used facts. Hell is freezing over. When is the next UK glazed knuckle session with Hait, McFarland, Ingram and the blue mist alumni at Corner Pub?

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Why did Lofton get 2 Senior days? And why did his highlight film only have UK highlights? Obsess much?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This year's hoops highlights against UK are aking to any college football program using Vanderbilt as football highlight opponent. I bet that VU whipping in Nashville makes it to recruit's houses. Better break out the Oujia boards Cats fans. The ghost of Rupp is needed.

By: liveblueorfyou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier37027 you really dont have a clue do you, you have to be a UT fan

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier, first of all slick rick isn't coming back or wanted back. Second, maybe you've been seeing all those DHL boxes you keep mentioning in Pearl's office.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

And don't forget the ambivalent UK football fans. Run Rich Brooks out of town, oops, he made two consecutive minor bowl appearances. Nah, let's keep Rich Brooks.Look Cats fans, the way you celebrate football this year is how other SEC fans celebrate basketball victories over your beloved hardwood hoopsters. Take the good with the bad all year long.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT, Cats fans would take Pitino back in a second. Those national championships mean something. Yes I used plural because Tubby won with Rick's players. Much like your beloved Joe B. won with the Baron's boys.

By: liveblueorfyou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier37027 why are you so angry

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT you would be pleased to know I went to New Orleans in 2001 and enjoyed my time around Cats fans. The SEC tournament proved Cats fans will travel. I sat with the blue mist nation, er, region, er, trailer park at the last two Music City Bowls. You make it, you earned it. But let's not dress up a sow's ear and call it a silk purse. Which is the primrose pats UK fans follow, just a notch under Bama football fans and their beloved Bear.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier, lest you forget that UT was wanting Fat Phil fired just a few years back. Why do you keep bringing up football? I thought you were talking about your great basketball team? How quickly you forget that Chism, Crews, or one those thugs on your team was suspended before this season. What did he do give Brucie the money back?

By: liveblueorfyou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

courier37027 i agree with you on the tubby championship but the Joe B. he won his title in his fifth year.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

liveblue, courier is so angry because no matter how high the mens team can get ranked they will always be 2nd to the women

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

liveblue, I am among the happiest people you will meet. Sports are entertainment. I don't face paint kids or spend money on useless PSLs. The comparison of records versus perception and loyalty is entertaining as well. In the great radio and print forums it is great picking on Hait, Ingram and Mcfarand with their blue allegiance when less than 1% of Nashvillians are blue misters. Not anger, but pure fun. EXCAT and marscatt seem like intelligent, reasoned people. I like this typing battle we are having.

By: liveblueorfyou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

EXCAT93 you are right

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

UK had the chance to hire Pat Head Summit long ago but could not pony up the extra $1000 salary. Money better on Chris Mimms or Tito Horford I assume.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Phat Phil should be fired. Summitt should be given a blank check and keys to the state. And wherever Pearl goes or stays, he will always siphon off your prize recruits. How sad is it when Buzz Peterson can come to Kentucky and steal Chris Lofton?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

And how many championships NCAA did you win with those twin towers, perhaos the greatest recruting class other than Michigan's Fab Five?Joe Hall could take talent and coach them into average players. Eddie Sutton would have 1000 wins by now had he been sober on the sidelines.You should include Pitino in your prayers. He brought UK nearly 15 good to great years, including protege Tubby.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

UK fans are just bitter because Tubby left before you had a chance to fire him. Tubby's arrogance was an in-your-face gesture to the blue nation.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Nobody stole Chris Lofton. He wasn't that great of a player coming out of HS. Plus, he wasn't as good as the guys we had already signed. You have admit he wasn't, he has worked his butt off and improved greatly. I give him all the credit in the world for that. You also have to admit that under Tubby he wouldn't be as good as he is today.

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Oh the great Lofton only went 3-5 in his career against UK. But you can bet every 3 he ever hit against them was on his resume I mean highlight film, that should really help him when he's plying in Pakistan.

By: Fed on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'd take Lofton ANY day over retarded Eddie Murphy.

By: marscatt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

We took Crawford over Lofton, but who wouldn't have taken the #2 shooting guard in the Nation?

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

That's good because you've got him. Just remember you said that when Ramel torches Lofton in the tourney if UT makes it that far.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The UK fans saying a three-point loss to UT at Rocky Top is good for an NCAA tourney bid is the same logic Vanderbilt football uses to explain near losses as moral victories.

By: EXCAT93 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

That's not what I said. I was just saying that if UT was as great as you act like they are, that UK beating them must mean a lock in the tourney. Just a little sarcasm.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I know, but you have to admit the analogy was funny too.