Don’t Forget about Bruce Pearl’s Former Tennessee Assistants

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 30th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Show-cause penalties are permanent stains on a coach’s resume. They don’t expressly prohibit coaches from moving on to a different program, but they do make it exceedingly hard for any such programs to even stomach the thought of hiring violators by (1) transferring that coach’s sanctions from his former job to any new position he may inherit, and (2) forcing the prospective new employer to stand in front of the NCAA’s infraction committee and explain its motives for making the hire. They must, in effect, “show cause” for hiring the equivalent of a modern-day coaching pariah. Basically, If you’re show-caused, don’t expect to re-enter the coaching profession until the penalty expires.

the carnage left in the wake of Pearl's NCAA bombshell, which diverges from his favorable post-scandal employment, is often overlooked (AP Photo).

the carnage left in the wake of Pearl’s NCAA bombshell, which diverges from his favorable post-scandal employment, is often overlooked (AP Photo).

For former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl – who was issued a three-year show-cause penalty for attempting to cover-up the barbeque he used to host then-high school junior Aaron Craft and members of his family – that expiration date comes in 2014, when he is widely expected to re-enter the coaching ranks after enjoying a multi-year stint with ESPN’s college basketball studio analysis team. Pearl wasn’t the only one penalized for his recruiting violations; three of his former assistants (Tony Jones, Steve Forbes, and Jason Shay) were also hit with one-year show-causes. Their comparatively low-profile status didn’t afford them the solace of a big-time TV job – a luxury Pearl, with his vibrant personality and witty commentary, was readily granted – which forced them to navigate the unforgiving coaching job market with one of the biggest black marks any job-seeking coach can carry. Pearl may have gotten the harshest punishment, but his dismissal landed him in a job (and, presumably, with a salary) most any fired Division I coach would jump at. His assistants weren’t quite so lucky. Pearl’s backup plan involved fame and fortune; his assistants’ fell into coaching purgatory. The comfortable and financially stable lives they once led were thrown into sharp distress.

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Morning Five: 07.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 30th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday for Vanderbilt might have been as bad of a day as a program could have without a NCAA investigation. The big news from the program was that Kedren Johnson, its leading scorer last season, was suspended for the upcoming academic year. Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds leading a Commodore team that managed to go 16-17 last season despite losing its top three players from the previous season. The wording on Johnson’s apology (“It was a violation of the good conduct expected of all Vanderbilt students. I take full responsibility and now must begin working to regain the trust and respect of my school, the student body, our fans and especially my coaches and friends on the team.”) and the fact that this has not been reported in the mainstream media would argue against it being a serious legal matter and more likely something academic (perhaps like what Harvard experienced last season). If Johnson is able to atone for whatever he did, he should still have two more productive seasons remaining at Vanderbilt.
  2. One player who will apparently not be returning to Nashville is Kevin Bright, who has opted to pursue a pro basketball career in Germany after averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a freshman. Normally we would consider such a move premature, but Bright was not your typical freshman. For one thing he is already 21 years old, but perhaps more interestingly he grew up in Germany and also played in a German youth program before coming over to Vanderbilt. Of course, that may not sit well with Vanderbilt’s staff as Kevin Stallings was not told by Bright of his decision to leave the school and to play internationally.
  3. Yesterday EA Sports filed a motion in federal court asking the judge to allow the company to respond to the plaintiff’s latest complaint in the notable Ed O’Bannon player likeness case. Using a recent Supreme Court decision as its authority (Comcast v. Behrend, decided in March 2013), attorneys for EA argued that the company has the right to ”test the legal sufficiency of the complaint before a class is certified.” Since the court has not yet come to a decision on the issue of certifying the case as a class action (and correspondingly exposing the NCAA, EA and others to billions of dollars in liability), EA wants to have an opportunity to get out of the cross-hairs before that decision is made. According to the article, a sports law expert named Michael McCann believes that the judge will allow EA to make its response. Will it ultimately matter? Mostly this is a case of CYA, but given the huge potential numbers surrounding this case, it makes sense that EA Sports would give it a try.
  4. We would really like to be more excited about the announcement that Dereck Whittenburg is coming back to North Carolina State as an assistant coach, but it is kind of hard to do since this will be the third time he is doing so. Whittenburg is best known for the most famous air ball in basketball history also has served as an assistant at George Mason and Long Beach State before serving as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham. Although his head coaching career was less than distinguished he did manage to lead Wagner to the 2003 NCAA Tournament. It appears that Whittenburg’s primary role will be as director of player development at the school so we are not sure what his intentions are in terms of getting back into full-time coaching.
  5. It seems like show-cause penalties are not quite the death sentence they previously were as former Bruce Pearl assistant Jason Shay is on the verge of becoming the second of that staff to get a Division I job after receiving a show-cause. Shay has reportedly accepted a position at North Dakota. In Shay’s case like that of Steve Forbes (the first Pearl assistant to be hired again at the Division I level) the show-cause was only one year so he sat out an extra year before coming back to Division I. Pearl still has one more year left on his show-cause and although he is certainly a much bigger name than either of these two his hiring would attract much more scrutiny although we would not be shocked to see a desperate program go after him.
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Morning Five: 10.03.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2011

  1. Welcome to next year.  After six roiling months of will-he/won’t-he interspersed with typical summer drama and another session of non-apocalyptic conference realignment, it’s time to get back to basketball.  In a little over eleven days from now, official practices will commence around the country with Midnight Madness.  Three weeks after that, the first real games will tip off in Queens, Starkville and Tucson as the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic gets under way.  Basketball season is just around the corner, and starting today, we’ll be unveiling our 2011-12 Season Preview with comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 31 auto-bid Division I leagues and a number of other features.  We’re also proud to announced that our first RTC Microsite, featuring the venerable and historic Atlantic Coast Conference, will officially roll out a little later this morning.  The calendar may only say it’s a few days into October, but as far as we here at RTC are concerned, the season starts today.
  2. Fifteen Big East presidents met in Washington, DC, on Sunday to discuss the future of that league in the aftermath of Syracuse and Pittsburgh’s sudden departure a couple short weeks ago.  According to this Andy Katz report, the league brass unanimously authorized commissioner John Marinotti to “aggressively pursue discussions” with targeted schools that the league hopes to add to its lineup.  Several of the schools being mentioned as possibilities include Army, Navy, Temple, Central Florida, Air Force and SMU, with two of the service academies rumored as the top targets for membership as football-only institutions.  Connecticut’s future conference status is the biggest wild card right now, as its president Susan Herbst re-affirmed the school’s commitment to the league after the meeting, but it is widely regarded that the Huskies would quickly take an ACC spot if offered one.  In other words, not much has truly changed.
  3. One Big East team that is fighting for its legitimacy to remain a major college program in both basketball and football is Louisville.  Despite a $68M sports budget that would rate second only to Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 and the most profitable basketball program in America, the Cards are worried about being left out of the superconference picture if the Big East continues its degradation and the Big 12 eventually falls apart.  To put its athletic program in perspective, Eric Crawford at the Courier-Journal created three interesting tables showing the relative specs of the Big East, Big 12 and SEC (budgets, enrollments, expenditures, etc.).  He even adds an academic component (research and development) and each school’s Sears Cup placement from the 2010-11 academic year.  It’s worth a look.
  4. This is a somewhat dated story, but we hadn’t gotten around to mentioning it yet.  Last week Gary Parrish wrote about how two of Bruce Pearl‘s former assistants’ lives have been turned upside down in the intervening months since the whole house of cards came down at Tennessee.  We found the tone of the article to be somewhat sympathetic — perhaps too sympathetic — to the plight that the assistants now find themselves in, coaching at Northwest Florida State for salaries far below what they were making in Knoxville.  He makes the case that Steve Forbes and Jason Shay were in no-win situations where they faced punishment one way or another — either by ratting out their boss to the NCAA, or by failing to be forthright and going down with the ship as a collective.  Apparently a number of people took issue with Parrish’s stance, as he addressed it again in his Five For the Weekend column on Friday.  We’re of a similar mind with his critics — just because the assistants found themselves in a tough spot didn’t mean that both choices were equally meritorious, and Bruce Pearl’s own career trajectory should have taught them that.  He dropped dime on Illinois twenty years ago, and yet through his subsequent hard work and on-court success, he was able to become one of the highest-paid coaches in America despite for a long time suffering a reputation as a snitch.  Remember the tried-and-true lesson — the cover-up is always, always, always worse than the actual crime.
  5. Speaking of recruiting violations, this report by Pete Thamel at the NYT takes a look at one of the areas of college basketball recruiting that knowledgeable observers suggest is among the most abused: unofficial visits.  According to NCAA rules, an unofficial visit is one where a recruit visits a campus but pays his own way for all expenses related to travel, food, and lodging.  Using a Lane Kiffin allegation of a booster paying for a recruit’s unofficial visit at Tennessee as an example, the report suggests that there is little to no oversight or scrutiny focusing on how high school students are in fact paying for these visits.  Over half of this year’s top 100 seniors have already committed to schools without taking their official visits, so it’s clear that these players are getting to those campuses somehow.  Interesting piece.
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