Tennessee has the unluckiest sports program in the NCAA. We finally get a basketball coach who can win and he can't even keep himself employed.
A radio report in Knoxville has shined a bit more light on the final weeks of the Bruce Pearl era today. Jimmy Hyams of WNML-AM/FM reports that — as suspected — Tennessee center Brian Williams missed two late-season games due to a drug issue. But it was Pearl’s handling of that issue that cost him some favor with his bosses.
Williams allegedly refused to take a drug test. As a result he was held out of Tennessee’s last two regular season games against South Carolina and Kentucky. According to a WNML source, Pearl was told to provide the old “violation of team rules” explanation for why Williams would miss two games. Instead, he said that his senior had a back issue.
“Backs are funny things,” Pearl told The Knoxville News Sentinel at the time.
The fact that Pearl — apparently — disobeyed the wishes of his boss AD Mike Hamilton “caused a rift between Pearl, Hamilton and UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek,” according to Hyams.
Some will no doubt say that that kind of cover-up goes on everywhere. Maybe it does. And some will likely say that the player was still punished… missing two games. True enough.
But if you’ve gotten yourself, your program, your school and your boss in hot water by committing earlier NCAA violations and attempting to cover them up, it’s probably best to follow the instructions your employer gives you.
At the very least, this report — if accurate — shows that while the Tennessee administration erred in its handling of Pearl’s ouster, the coach himself asked for said ouster by not following simple, standard directions like many other “good soldier” coaches across the country. How many times do you hear “violation of team rules” on a daily basis? Answer: a bunch.
After sticking their necks (and their reputations) out for Pearl by keeping him, Hamilton and Cheek had a right to be angry if the man they stood behind refused to follow orders.