ESPN's Katz unsure of Pearl's next move

ESPN's Katz unsure of Pearl's next move

March 1st, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

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ESPN senior college basketball writer Andy Katz has interviewed Bruce Pearl countless times and now works alongside the former Tennessee coach.

Katz is familiar with a petition containing nearly 30,000 signatures calling for Pearl's imminent return to Tennessee's bench, which would result in the ousting of current coach Cuonzo Martin. Despite his closeness to Pearl, Katz doesn't like that idea at all.

"I just don't think this is fair to Cuonzo after three seasons," Katz said. "Unless you've done something wrong, or unless a program is really just completely gone awry, which we've seen a couple of times where guys have just two years on the job and then get sacked, I just don't think that's fair to do.

"First off, we've got to wait and see what happens. They still could make the NCAA tournament."

Katz was a guest Wednesday on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM. His support of Martin was echoed Thursday night by Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, whose Commodores (15-12, 7-8 SEC) face the Volunteers (17-11, 8-7) this afternoon in Knoxville.

Pearl, who appeared on "Press Row" a couple of weeks ago, also has voiced his support of Martin, who is 56-39 overall and 29-20 in SEC play during his two-plus seasons with the Volunteers. Martin, however, has yet to take Tennessee to the NCAA tournament and is 1-2 in the National Invitation Tournament.

"Cuonzo is a different personality," Katz said. "He's not going to be wearing the orange paint, so he's not going to get everybody energized and all revved up the way Bruce did. You've got a situation now where they have lost one iconic coach in Pat Summitt and a guy who had unbelievable energy and was able to take Tennessee to an Elite Eight."

Pearl took the Vols to NCAA tournaments in all six of his seasons and apparently has Katz playing the guessing game along with everyone else.

"He has told me he really wants to make broadcasting a career," Katz said, "but I do think if someone came at him with a sweet offer that he would come back, because he wants to redeem himself. I can't tell you 100 percent that he's not stirring the pot [at Tennessee], but I don't think he is.

"I'm not surprised people want him back because they are struggling and are not consistent, but I do think Cuonzo deserves a longer leash right now than he's getting in the public."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.