Archive for the 'Coach Pearl' Category

The Glimpse: Pearl’s system and former, current [and future?] Heisman candidates

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Inside Tennessee’s Jeffery Stewart has a must-read analysis of coach Bruce Pearl’s system and what makes it tick.  You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt: 

Think atypical where players are concerned. Pearl proved at UMW that he likes to put personnel on the floor that creates match-up issues on both ends of the court for opponents. This strategy is an all out assault on an opponent’s comfort zone and, combined with stifling full-court pressure, disrupts continuity. In NCAA wins over Alabama and Boston College in the 2005, Pearl used 6-5 strongman, Joah Tucker on the wing to overpower smaller defenders. . . . . Pearl could use four-star signee Duke Crews in the same manner next season, playing him at power forward against slower opponents and at the wing against smaller.

On that note, Turn Up The Heat, a DVD cashing in on the surprising success of the 2005-06 Volunteer basketball season, hit JCPenney stores on Tuesday.  You can also get it at

On the football front, Arian Foster is No. 44 on College Football News’ Heisman watch list.  Former Vol quarterback Brent Schaeffer, who started as a true freshman, traded series with Erik Ainge until he broke his collarbone, and eventually transferred after being suspended for the 2005 spring practice due to a violation of team rules, is No. 67.  Schaeffer apparently had an excellent season this past year at some junior college somewhere and has resurfaced at Ole Miss.

Lastly, continues its “Up Close” series with a look at newcomer Stephaun Raines.

A Glimpse: Basketball awards; graduating prisoners

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

The Volunteer basketball team had its annual pat each other on the back postseason awards banquet last night, and the following awards were presented:

  • JaJuan Smith and Major Wingate were named the most-improved players.  (Okay, I’ll play along with that one.)
  • Dane Bradshaw took home the Team Before Self Award and the John Stucky Lifter of the Year Award.  (Good, good, good.
  • The Burchfield-Moss Most Courageous Award went to Jordan Howell.  (Hmmm.  Not sure what this is about.  Any ideas?)

Basketball head coach Bruce Pearl is still trying to fill his assistant coaching vacancy.

Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe took quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and Bo Hardegree with him to a graduation ceremony at the Morgan County Correctional Facility where coach Cut addressed prisoners who were receiving their GED or a vocational trade certificate.  That ought to give EDSBS something to play with.

Tennessee Volunteer Chris Lofton thwarts sports conspiracy-theorist’s worst fear

Friday, March 17th, 2006

It was a recipe for disaster. A sports conspiracy-theorist’s worst fear. The work of a diabolical mastermind bent on televising an upset of an over-seeded, over-confident team on a losing streak by an under-seeded, no-name school whose time had come.

Too bad Chris Lofton hadn’t read the script.

The game had turned into a defensive struggle, and the drama was building as planned. Senior and team leader C.J. Watson was sitting out extended minutes with four fouls. Coach Bruce Pearl’s spread motion offense wasn’t producing any open looks. Every time that Lofton, the team’s biggest scoring threat, tried to rub a defender off of a screen, he found himself sandwiched between two defenders instead.

With 5:00 minutes left to play and the score tied at 58, Watson finally re-entered the game. Tennessee hit a two, Winthrop hit a three. The teams traded missed opportunities, fouls, and turnovers.

With the game tied at 61 and 21 seconds remaining, Watson scambled around the perimeter awhile before stopping and popping at the top of the key. The shot was too strong, and the long rebound was grasped by six hands: Lofton’s and those of two opponents. Nobody really won this battle, but Lofton at least succeeded in pushing the ball away from the crowd, and Bradshaw ran down and secured the loose ball. Pearl called time out with 2.9 seconds left and possession of the ball.

Pearl made up a play on the spot and diagrammed it for the players. Wingate would later admit some serious confusion. “I didn’t know what was going on,” he said after the game. “Coach Pearl drew up three different diagrams and told me to go some place.” Controlled chaos without the control.

Anyway, Bradshaw positioned himself courtside to inbound the ball. Wingate decided to stand at the near post. Lofton stood at the far post, Patterson was at the top of the key, and Watson was at mid-court. The whistle blew, and all of the players moved at once.

Lofton darted to the free throw line to set a pick for Patterson, who used Lofton to scrape off his defender and headed toward the basket on the far side of the court. For a split second, Patterson was open for a lob next to the basket, but Bradshaw did not see him until Patterson’s defender caught up with him.

Meanwhile, Wingate slid toward the perimeter to set a screen for Lofton, who was continuing around the arc, his man absolutely glued to him and holding him the whole time. Lofton gained the slightest amount of separation from Wingate’s screen and raced toward the corner, looking over his right shoulder for the pass from Bradshaw. Bradshaw tossed the ball to Lofton, who awkwardly twisted and squared up to the basket in two steps. The second foot planted, he executed an amazing, high-arcing fade-away jumper over the outstretched arm of his defender.

Patterson thought it was long. Wingate thought it was short.

Lofton knew it was in.

Vols win, 63-61.

Coach Pearl began his post-game interview by ticking off a few of the more memorable finishes to games in this magical season: Lofton’s steal-and-heave to Bradshaw for a layup against Florida the first time, Bradshaw’s sweet steal-and-spin move to beat Florida the second time, and Lofton’s awkward twisting fade-away jumper with .4 seconds left for the first post-season win in what seems like forever.

Oh, and don’t forget these guys:

  • Andre Patterson had a double double;
  • Major Wingate will not have to be fed to his snakes after all, as he had one of the best games of his career, going five for eight from the field and five of six on free throws while blocking three shots. Plus, he played solid defense against Winthrop’s Craig Bradshaw, who was a handful all game.
  • Jordan Howell, who played heavy and important minutes while C.J. Watson was on the bench with foul trouble.

Bob Kesling’s call of Chris Lofton’s game-winning shot.

Coach Pearl’s post-game interview, from

Take a look at the picture of the shot just before Lofton lets it fly. Does it look like it has any chance of going in? Winthrop’s Torrell Martin, who defended Lofton on the play, didn’t think so. “It’s a one-in-a-million shot,” he said after the game. “It looked like the ball curved in.”

Quote of the year

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl:

It’s the difference between exceeding expectations and living up to them. It’s easier to exceed them than live up to them.”

He was talking about Chris Lofton, who excelled when he was the kid that Kentucky and Louisville didn’t recruit and who has struggled a bit under the glare of the spotlight.

He could have been talking about last year’s football team. He could have been talking about any sports team or athlete for that matter. Or any celebrity, any movie, or a thousand other things.

It’s much easier to exceed low expectations than to live up to high ones.

But it can be done. See, e.g., Michael Jordan.

Living up to high expectations is the infamous “next level.”

Wingate, Snakes, and the First Battle of Bull Run

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

John Pennington is on an absolute roll. He has thoughts on the Pearl Factor (head coach Bruce Pearl’s being “good for business, good for basketball, good for a quote, good for rivalries and good for ratings,” is 75% of the reason the Vols got a No. 2 seed), the double-edged sword aspect of the high seed, the Vols’ potential matchups, and an invitation to readers to publish their picks by comment.

Pennington’s best bit of the day concerns center Major Wingate’s statement upon hearing that the Vols were a No. 2 seed that “[w]e have some pretty rough teams after we get to the Sweet 16.” I’ll let John take it from here:

Ever notice how often the biggest talkers are the worst producers? I’m not the coach at UT, and if I were they’d be about 0-28 right now, but I can tell you how I’d handle this situation.

“Watch 3 straight hours of Winthrop tape. Then run for an hour. Then watch another 2 hours of Winthrop tape. Then we’re going to throw 500 passes to you in the paint to make sure you can catch the ball. If you say one more word to the press, you’ll get 500 more passes. Say another word, and I’ll feed you to your snakes.”

Agreed. I had the same thoughts when I read Wingate’s comment. It was part of the reason for yesterday’s cautionary post. The feeling grew today when I read that UT is giving the team a send off to the tourney.

It reminds me of a Civil War educational video I just previewed before showing it to my home-schooled nine-year-old. The Union was so confident of a quick victory over the Confederates in what came to be known as the First Battle of Bull Run, that spectators actually showed up with picnic baskets. When the Union army was driven back by an underestimated adversary, the hoop skirts and parasols left their fried chicken to the ants and fled in absolute panic.

By all means, let’s enjoy this. But make the mistake of thinking it’s going to be a picnic, and we’ll be headed home in a hurry.

Tennessee Volunteer basketball team suddenly finds its weekend free

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

It was supposed to be the beginning of a reversal of fortunes for tournament play.

Instead, it was a double reverse. Same as it ever was.

The Tennessee Volunteer basketball team lost — again — its first game in the SEC Tournament. Go ahead and erase those penciled-in appointments for 1:00 today and 1:00 tomorrow. Florida or Kentucky or LSU or some other team will be SEC Champions after all.

Point guard C.J. Watson showed up with 23 points on eight of 12 shooting including three of five three-pointers. Dane Bradshaw was okay, despite having a wrist injury for over a month that requires surgery. Christ Lofton and Andre Patterson, however, had subpar games with only 12 and two points respectively.

The key to the loss, however, was probably the turnovers. Tennessee had 21 to South Carolina’s 16.

What does this mean to the Vols’ chances in the NCAA Tournament? Not sure. On the one hand, Tennessee is on a skid, losing four of their last six games. Maybe their shallow depth is showing late in the season.

On the other hand, South Carolina had seen Bruce Pearl’s controlled chaos style of play for the third time, and the conventional wisdom is that it’s just very hard to beat a good team three times. How many of the Vols’ opponents in the NCAA Tournament will have seen the odd style and have time to prepare for it?

And the Vols will get some rest now. By the time they crank up the music for the Big Dance, the team will have played only one game in almost two weeks. That should help with the legs and the hops.

Back to the other hand again, there’s the rust issue.

Is Tennessee’ basketball season down to only one more game? Or do they have one last run in them?

What do y’all think?

Volunteers hope to reverse tournament fortunes beginning today

Friday, March 10th, 2006

The Tennessee Volunteer basketball team begins tournament play today, taking on South Carolina in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at 1:00 EST.

The Vols have beaten South Carolina twice this season, but the Gamecocks should not be underestimated. They’ve beaten Florida twice, Kentucky once at Rupp Arena, and played LSU tough. Oh, and they led Tennessee by 12 at halftime in one of Tennessee’s previous wins.

All the talk is about vanquishing the Vols’ tournament curse. It seems like the team has not won a post-season game in . . . well, forever. Since the divisional split in 1992, they have never reached the SEC Tournament semi-finals. They rank last in the league in wins during that time, and they’ve lost four of their last six games. The games haven’t even been close. Even when they enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the East (1999 and 2000), they’ve been upset in their first game.

So will this year be any different?

Here, the talk’s all about how new head coach Bruce Pearl’s style is just about custom-made for tournament play. It’s odd, so the short preparation times for opponents work in favor of the style, and it’s exhausting, so the team in better shape will have even more of an advantage than usual, primarily because they’re tired.

Of course, the exhausting style of play could cut against Pearl’s team this year because he’s trying to do it with only 7 or 8 players instead of his customary deep bench.

We’ll see. It’s Tournament Time in Tennessee.

This is why they made TiVo.

Tennessee Volunteer basketball coach Bruce Pearl to be given a $1.5 $1.3 million contract

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

GoVolsXtra is citing a source close to the program that Tennessee Volunteer head basketball coach and national-coach-of-the-year candidate Bruce Pearl will be given something close to a sixty percent increase in compensation. His contract would be worth between $1.3 and $1.5 million annually. He makes $800,000 a year now.

John Pennington thinks Pearl’s worth it because he’s a “marketing dynamo” that has brought more national attention to Tennessee basketball than any other coach in history (I’m guessing he’s limiting this comment to men’s basketball), and because he’s both won this year and recruited well for next.

Agreed. It’s all about return on investment, and if he can consistently fill the cavernous Thompson-Boling arena, the fat paycheck should be a good investment.

UPDATE: The official word turned out to be $1.1 million for the 2006-2007 season and a two-year contract extension. Over the life of the six-year contract, Pearl’s compensation will average $1.3 million.

Vols lose close one to Kentucky

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

Somebody stop Morris!

Somebody stop Rondo!

The Vols could not stop Morris in the first half and at times appeared not to even try to stop Rondo in the second. In the end, Tennessee lost to Kentucky 80-78 when C.J. Watson’s desperation three-point attempt found the rim instead of the net and bounced out.

Good game, though, and the giant human checkerboard was cool, huh? Anybody have their own pictures I can post?

And anybody know why coach Pearl was so steamed at Chris Lofton during a second-half timeout?

One of the coaches had this to say after the game:

When you shoot like we did the latter part of the second half, you’re going to win a lot of games. This shows we can compete with anyone, and we have the ability to go on the road and win a game like this against the East Division champions. With their power rating, it’s a feather in our cap.

That’s something you would expect from a Tennessee coach about a win over or a close loss to Kentucky, not the other way around.

Game recap here.

Volunteer basketball seniors hope to sweep the ‘Cats in final home game of magical season

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Tennessee Volunteer basketball fans get a chance to honor C.J. Watson, Stanley Asumnu, and Andre Patterson during tonight’s game against the Kentucky Wildcats. The three seniors will attempt to do what was almost unimaginable this time last year: sweep the dreaded Wildcats in front of a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena and the world’s first gigantic, human orange and white checkerboard.

As put it:

With a win, Tennessee sweeps the regular season series for the first time since the 1998-99 season, and would give Pearl a very impressive 4-0 mark against his two biggest division rivals in Kentucky and Florida. Not a bad way to punctuate your maiden voyage through the SEC.

Not a bad way for the seniors to say goodbye, either.

Coach Pearl’s thoughts on Watson:

He just does it all for us and he’s logged a lot of minutes. This league has got the best point guard play in college basketball. C.J. has to bring it every single night, and he has on most all occasions. He’ll go down as one of the best point guards in the history of Tennessee basketball, and especially now that he’s got a championship, that will add credibility to his legacy.

He’s got a great future. He will make an NBA roster. He’s just going to be one of those guys that plays for a long time because he can defend, he can run a team, he can make open shots and he’s a really smart player. He’s really, really good off the ball.

Pearl also had some good things to say about Patterson despite the fact that he introduced himself by suspending him:

Andre has been one of those guys, that if you look back at our preseason comments, we said he had to step up. I felt like of all our players, Andre had more to give, and he has stepped up. He’s still an undersized player in the SEC who is our best rebounder. He’s one of our best inside scorers and a guy that’s able to take the ball to the basket and break defenses down.

I feel closer to Andre as the season has progressed. There was a lot of discipline involved and a lot of tough love early. Andre has made progress, but he had a ways to go. His experience has helped us win basketball games.

If you can get tickets to tonight’s game, go and become part of the checkerboard. If you can’t get tickets, tune in. Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, the 2005-2006 team should be remembered and revered as one of the greatest stories in the history of Tennessee basketball. The team has over-achieved its way from obscurity to a national top 10 ranking and positioned itself for a run in the Big Dance.

Tonight will be the last opportunity for the home crowd to show the senior leaders of the team their appreciation for the magical season.