Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl Continues To Apologize For Blunders

The hits just keep on coming for Bruce Pearl. The Tennessee coach opened his season this week while still awaiting a letter of infractions from the NCAA, the next step in what will continue to be a long process after he eventually admitted to recruiting infractions. Thanks to that admittance, Pearl also opens the season without an official contract in place after Tennessee voided his previous deal and the two sides are working on a new one. Then, on top of all that, the Volunteers lost an exhibition game to Chattanooga. No, it certainly hasn’t been an easy few months for Pearl. He’d love to put some of that in the rear-view with a successful NIT Season Tip-off. Bruce Pearl joined WGFX in Nashville on the Three Hour Lunch to discuss the start to the season, losing the exhibition game, giving the ball to Scotty Hopson more, how a coach figures out what buttons to push with different players, the status of his new contract, trying to get to New York as part of the preseason NIT and to apologize for his discretion.

On whether it simply feels good for his team to get to playing again:

“It’s good to be playing basketball, no question. I wish my team was playing better. I’ve got a new team, not a young team but a new team, with three or four new starters. Some of the guys who were playing complementary roles a year ago … are now asked to be the starters and the leaders.”

On losing the exhibition game:

“I knew it could happen and we certainly prepared but I certainly didn’t over-prepare them. It’s a blessing, maybe, that it happened, but it also is a red flag. My teams are rarely out there on the floor and the less-excitable club and we were that night and I think it’s a great lesson for guys to see this is what happens when the other team wants it more than you do. … When you take Belmont last year and they lose in the conference tournament first round, don’t go to the NCAA Tournament, it sits in their stomach all year. You take Tennessee and we go to the Elite Eight and the best season, at least in the NCAA Tournament, that we’ve ever had … and you feel good about yourself. And I thought that this team was feeling a little bit too good about themselves … and we got embarrassed.”

On going to Scotty Hopson more:

“We’d like for Scotty to be our leading scorer because he is our toughest matchup and our best scorer. Sometimes it depends on matchups. … Scotty did get the most shots off against Chattanooga. … He is getting his hands on the ball in the right situations. But for Scotty, it’s more than that in the sense that he can score for me and we can win games. For him to grow as a player and be the great player that we hope he’s capable of, it’s about stuffing the statsheet with other things as well.”

On the status of his new contract:

“Well, you know, negotiating is an interesting word. [Athletic director Mike Hamilton] and I, at the end of every season, basically agree in principle to what the contract needs to look like and we’ve done that here. And then basically we turn it over to the lawyers and they put something out, I guess, just shortly after my initial contract was revoked and terminated, and we got it back them within a couple weeks and they’ve had it now for about three or four weeks. And so I’m waiting for them to come back to me with something. … Mike and I have some agreements in principle and it’s just a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Would love to have it done and I’d be very, very anxious to get it back.”

On trying to get to New York City as part of the Preseason Tip-Off:

“Don’t pencil UCLA, Wake Forest, Tennessee or Villanova in because there are really good teams. At this time of year mid-majors are primed. Where was Kennesaw State picked in that league?”

Apologizing at the end of the interview:

“Appreciate your patience. I’m very sorry that I let you down. I let a bunch of folks down, but we’re going to let the good outweigh the bad and hopefully we can have another successful season.”

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