Volunteers' turnaround is an anomaly for a new coach
Posted: Thursday February 23, 2006 1:35PM; Updated: Friday February 24, 2006 3:45PM
Bruce Pearl has guided Tennessee to a 20-4 record in his first season.
Seth Davis will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his Hoop Thoughts column.
Tennessee's Bruce Pearl is a virtual shoo-in for national Coach of the Year, especially after the Vols beat Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday night. He's also a fellow M.O.T. (member of the Tribe), so I usually try to write nothing but good things about him in this space.
But as I work the phones and talk to hooparazzi around the country about the many coaching jobs that are already vacant -- and those that might open up -- it is dawning on me that Pearl might be single-handedly ruining the coaching profession for years to come.
How so? Because now everybody wants their own Bruce Pearl. Everybody wants a coach who can parachute into a moribund program and instantly apply the defibrillator. They want someone who can light a fire under the players, rile up the alumni and crawl under the skin of opposing coaches, all before the start of conference play. Pearl has miraculously transformed Tennessee from a team that couldn't make the NIT to one that is ranked in the top 10 and headed for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. He's the flavor of the month, and now everybody wants their own taste.
People forget that it doesn't usually work like this. Most of the time it takes years to turn a program around. It's hard enough to preach patience in today's world, but now Pearl has justified the inflated sense of urgency. After all, if he can work this kind of magic for Tennessee, why can't someone else do it for your favorite school?
So here's my advice to any coach who is thinking about taking a new job: Make sure your new contract has a lucrative buyout clause. If the school wants to fire you for not turning things around fast enough (like yesterday), they'll have to pay. If they're not willing to give you the buyout, don't take the job. Because for all his bluster, Pearl will be the first to tell you that there's some luck involved in all of this, too.
But nobody wants to hear about bad luck. Nobody wants to wait 'til next year. All they have to do is make it to next month, when a new flavor comes along, bringing with it the promise of sweet success that can be devoured in an instant.
Other Hoop Thoughts
D.J. White told me last Friday in Bloomington that he was definitely gone now that Mike Davis is out. It remains to be seen whether White transfers to wherever Davis lands or tries to make a go of it in the pros. I know people in Indiana are hoping/expecting White to change his mind when things cool off. I think he's history.
If I had offered to make you a friendly wager at the start of the season that the Missouri Valley Conference would get more NCAA bids than the ACC, Pac-10 and Big 12, would you have taken it?
You can talk to me about Texas' talent all you want, but the bottom line is that championship teams do not get blown out.
Can everybody finally please leave Arkansas coach Stan Heath alone?
People who float Mark Few's name for all these other jobs have no idea just how happy Few is at Gonzaga. And if he's thinking about making a move, all he has to do is call his predecessor at Gonzaga, Minnesota coach Dan Monson, and he'll reconsider leaving real quick.
Time, once again, for my update on Alabama point guard Ronald Steele, college basketball's iron man. Steele has now played six consecutive games without spending a minute on the bench. That includes his 45 minutes in an overtime win at Vanderbilt on Feb. 8. In SEC games he is averaging 40.38 minutes. I got winded just writing that.
I love that Kobe Bryant went to Pepperdine this week to check out Adam Morrison and Gonzaga. That's what I call being a rock star.
The word out at Seton Hall is that Louis Orr can keep his job even if the Pirates don't make the NCAA tournament. As long as they're close, he should be fine. The real problems start next season, as Orr will be without two of his top three scorers and has no recruits coming in (mostly because of all the speculation about his status).
My guy Steve Lappas tells me that Bobby Brown, a 6-foot-1 junior point guard at Cal State-Fullerton, is the real deal. Lappas broadcast one of Brown's games and said he saw lots of NBA scouts checking the kid out.
Man, it hurts to see Maryland sinking like this. You can't blame the collapse totally on the loss of Chris McCray. This team was offensively challenged from the start and never figured out how to overcome that.
Here are two things we know from the BracketBusters games: You can't give an at-large bid to Southern Illinois but not Louisiana Tech, and you can't give an at-large bid to Wichita State but not George Mason. When the road team wins that kind of game in mid-February, it really means something.
Speaking of the BracketBusters, the team I was most impressed with was Bucknell, even though it lost in double OT to Northern Iowa. The Bison are a much better defensive team than I realized.