published Friday, March 18th, 2011

Pearl jam: ‘I put myself in this position’

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    University of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton speaks during a meeting of the Rotary Club at the Country Place Restaurant on Shallowford Road. Staff File Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Bruce Pearl wasted little time once he took his seat at a table in front of the media in Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday afternoon.

While Tennessee’s basketball coach would have like to open the discussion on his Volunteers’ round-of-64 NCAA tournament game with Michigan today, he jumped right into addressing the comments UT athletic director Mike Hamilton made about Pearl’s future in a radio interview Wednesday.

“When you put yourself in the position where you provide false and misleading information to the NCAA and you go through an NCAA investigation,” Pearl said, “you put yourself in a position where you’re going to be evaluated at the end of the year.”

“That’s what our status is. The announcement yesterday publicly came as a bit of a surprise, but if that’s where we are, then that’s where we’re at. I think you could hear from the comments made by the student-athletes that we’re trying to focus on them.

“When our season ends is when I’ve been told we’ll sit down and talk.”

Hamilton told Knoxville-based WNML that “we don’t know today” if Pearl would return next year and that Pearl’s status would be evaluated after the Vols’ season ends. Pearl was charged with unethical conduct for lying to NCAA investigators in a Notice of Allegations released last month, and UT is scheduled to go in front of the Committee on Infractions in June.

The timing of Hamilton’s comments probably couldn’t have been worse for the Vols as they prepare to open NCAA tournament play.

“It is what it is,” Pearl said of the timing. “I think Mike would have preferred for it to not come out like this. Mike and I have had a good working relationship. We continue to have a good working relationship. I was the one that broke these rules — not Mike Hamilton, not our chancellor and not our student-athletes. I put myself in this position.”

All five UT starters appeared before the media Thursday and faced questions about dealing with the off-the-court distractions. Collectively they downplayed their coach’s situation as a distraction, as they’ve done throughout the year.

“I think the coaching staff did a great job of keeping the outside world outside,” senior center Brian Williams said. “We keep what’s on the court on the court. Coach did a terrific job of keeping that away from us. Obviously all of us watch ‘SportsCenter’ and ESPN. We know what’s going on. But we focus on the task at hand, and that’s just winning a basketball game and nothing else. I think this whole season he might have addressed us twice about this situation going on with him.”

Said junior wing Cameron Tatum: “I fully anticipate Coach Pearl and them to be back next year. As all my teammates said earlier, we can only worry about what we can control. We can’t control what goes on outside the basketball court. We can only control what we do in between those lines and our preparation.”

Pearl, who said he doesn’t believe his next loss could be his last game as UT’s coach, echoed that sentiment.

“The challenge of guarding [Michigan coach] John Beilein’s offense is much, much, much greater than the challenge of getting our guys through any kind of distraction,” he said. “I promise you this: You worry about what you can control. You spend time worrying about other things at this time it’s just not productive.”

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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Livn4life said...

It is commendable for Coach Pearl to own his mistakes. But it is utterly unthinkable that an AD could go out at such a crucial time and make the statement Mike Hamilton made. Has he no consideration for where the team is right now waiting to play an NCAA tournament game? It really looks like he is trying to save face. Sorry Mikey, you make yourself look bad here and I hope the team steps up any way and plays like champs.

March 18, 2011 at 8:58 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I agree...this was very bad timing on Mike Hamilton's part. Of all people to make a statement as this at this time doesn't help the situation and Mike should have known better. I only hope the team can play their best and bring home a win. GO VOLS!

March 18, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
Salsa said...

I hope they fire Mike Hamilton 30 seconds after he fires Bruce Pearl.

March 18, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.
Musicman375 said...

It's almost like Mike wanted to get into the athletes' heads. Does he want them to be distracted so they'll lose?

March 18, 2011 at 12:06 p.m.
d2edwards said...

I believe the University of Tennessee needs a new men's basketball coach and new Athletic Director.

March 18, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Mike Hamilton is a clown....terrible comments before a game. He should have already fired Pearl for the total embarassment on the University for lying , then trying to cover up the lie by calling Craft's parents. Then after the tears at press confernece, then commitimg another viloation....Heck, Hamilton should be fired for hiring Dooley, a coach who has NEVER beat a team that finished with a winning record in FOUR years as a head coach...Tennessee is now a NATIONAL who want to keep Pearl, are probably NOT people who went to school at UTK....alumns are ashamed and tired of the Peals, kiffins and Hamiltons....what a JOKE

March 19, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.
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