IOWA CITY, Ia. – Bruce Pearl has a new profession.
“I’ve crossed over to the dark side,” said Pearl, a former Iowa assistant basketball coach to Tom Davis, who returned for the 1986-87 team’s 25th reunion this weekend.
Pearl has joined the media. He’s doing part-time work for Sirius XM radio, in addition to his full-time job for a Knoxville, Tenn., marketing firm, and hopes to jump into television work next season.
Pearl, who attended Iowa’s 77-64 victory over Penn State Saturday, was forced to look for work after he was fired by Tennessee March 22. The NCAA charged him with with unethical conduct, then learned of additional violations later on.
“I got what I deserved,” Pearl said. “I made a mistake. It hit me at the wrong time, when the NCAA said they were going to take all violations seriously. I paid the price for that.”
Tennessee agreed to pay Pearl $948,728 of his remaining salary, as well as benefits, as part of his dismissal agreement.
He decided to wait a year before diving into television work.
“Because of the way I fell from grace with the NCAA, it was important that I not put myself in that sort of position for awhile,” Pearl said. “I’ll just be the former coach at Tennessee for awhile. Maybe next year I’ll take a run at it.”
The Big Ten Network is a possibility. But could Pearl do a game in Champaign, Ill.? Pearl’s involvement in the Deon Thomas recruiting saga drew the ire of Illinois fans for years.
“Time has gone by in a big way,” Pearl said. “I know there are probably a lot of fans in Illinois that are happy with what I got.”
Pearl said he was honored to be invited back to Iowa City for the weekend.
“Actually, it’s pretty emotional,” Pearl said. “To come back and see a place where you went to work every day, a place you loved. A place where you were so appreciated. There’s something to be said about “It’s Great to be a Hawkeye.’ It means something. We had a lot of great memories here. Competing in the Big Ten, putting up 100 on Bob Knight here for the first time. The road to the Final Four, and getting so close.”
Several members of that 1986-87 team, including Roy Marble, said that Pearl’s intensity gave practices an edge and made the entire roster better in the long run.
“I couldn’t add much to Tom Davis and his basketball knowledge,” Pearl said. “He’s forgotten more than I knew. So I had to find a way to make a different contribution. Mine was to provide some intensity and passion…a level of expectation. I was probably on those guys more as a 26-year-old assistant than Tom was. His job was to teach and coach. My job was to make sure we competed.”
Pearl said one of the toughest things he’s ever done is attending that 1987 Final Four after the Hawkeyes lost in the Elite Eight to Nevada-Las Vegas, 84-81.
“It was one of the most depressing weekends you could spend in New Orleans , going to the Final Four, coach (Gary) Close and I, with our families, and not bringing our basketball team.”
Pearl, who coached at Souhern Indiana and Wisconsin-Milwaukee before getting the job at Tennessee, was the fan’s choice for the Iowa job when it came open after Steve Alford went to New Mexico and then when Todd Lickliter was fired.
“It was a blessing to hear from so many great friends and people in the media,” Pearl said.
Pearl said he never considered a move because of loyalty to Tennessee.
“Tennessee gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and a chance to see if I could do it at the highest level in the NCAA,” Pearl said. “The only reason I never interviewed or pursued (the Iowa job) is that I was happy at Tennessee, and I felt like she deserved my loyalty.”
Pearl hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching in the future.
“Right now there are some things about it I miss,” Pearl said. “There’s a lot about it I don’t miss. I’ve got a couple of years to sit out and we’ll cross that bridge later. I’ll stay right and ready if the opportunity presents itself.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball