With Bruce Pearl fired and the University of Tennessee looking for a new basketball coach, you might think folks in Knoxville want to forget their Pearl relationship ever happened. But Vols fans aren't ready to forget why they loved him in the first place.
Among other things, Bruce Pearl was the best men's basketball coach the school's ever had, he brought big time talent to a school without much of a recruiting base, and in Knoxville, he made men's basketball mean something.
Over at SB Nation's excellent Tennessee blog, Rocky Top Talk, they've already forgiven Pearl, as Joel Hollingsworth writes, "Folks without orange corneas may have trouble understanding the outpouring of support for a coach who, by his own account, brought this tragedy on himself, but that's just because they didn't experience the past six years with us." And he continues:
Pearl walked into Knoxville in 2005 as death rattles of the program were echoing off the walls of a cavernous arena. To make matters worse, the football program that had begun the season ranked in the top 5 had just capped off an absolutely horrid season with a loss to Vanderbilt. Into this atmosphere, a completely unknown Jewish yankee came to the South and almost immediately and entirely stole our hearts by standing on tables in the cafeteria promising that we'd be proud of his teams and their effort, working the concourse after games, and asking his guys to do the same. Yes, he won, too, but really it was much, much more than that.
It says a lot about Pearl's talents as a coach that he could forge a relationship with fans strong enough to withstand this latest controversy. It wasn't enough to save his job, but if the fans in Knoxville are any indication, it's more than enough to justify another program taking a chance on him soon. If you're still convinced, check out a collection of Pearl's Greatest Hits over at Rocky Top Talk.