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Sunday, February 27, 2011
Leadership
Last week, I killed a few electrons discussing a caller on a local sports show who stated that maybe Bruce Pearl should be let go as Tennessee's basketball coach. At the time, I was quick to dismiss the guy and say that while the Vols aren't living up to their potential this year, the team has a pretty solid record over the past couple of seasons and that we are in the midst of a great run of men's basketball at the University of Tennessee.

Tuesday night, we beat Vandy at Vandy and all seemed right with the world.

Then the NCAA delivered the letter. And then I watched the Vols implode once again on their home floor against an inferior team yesterday. On national television no less. With a whole lot to play for--including seeding for the SEC tourney and seeding for the NCAA tourney, assuming we get an invitation to the Big Dance.

In the heat of the moment, I was upset and shaking my fist at the skies, figuring the basketball officials had met with the football officials to find creative new ways to get my blood pressure up and to arrange certain expletives in interesting new ways. After a few minutes, I was able to let that pain go and remind myself that it's just a game and that watching the Vols play is supposed to be how I unwind, relax and enjoy myself...not get into such a fit.

And I was doing OK with all of it until I saw the story in this morning's News-Sentinel with Pearl questioning the leadership of his team. Here's what he said:

There was plenty of blame to go around in UT’s loss, and Bruce Pearl was as pointed in his criticism of his team as he’s been at any time in his five-plus years as the men’s basketball coach.

“We are not getting good leadership within the team,’’ Pearl said. “We have some competitors, but we have no leaders.

“Defensively, we played pretty well . . . we held them to 40 percent (39.7 shooting), out-rebounded them (48-40), we didn’t turn them over enough (seven), and I didn’t think our energy or our passion was what it needed to be,” he said. “The team does not play well together offensively.

“We haven’t all year, it’s been a struggle . . . I don’t see that effort on the offensive end; we slop through things.’’


Really, Bruce? Really?

I understand you want some leadership out there on the floor. And there are times its been blindingly evident that there isn't any out there (see much of the second half of yesterday's game in which the team would grab the ball, run down court and toss up a three-point shot in the hope that maybe the basketball gods would smile upon us and it would happen to go in). But leadership starts at the top Bruce and I hate to say this but the seeds sewn are beginning to bear fruit. Specifically, I mean that the lack of leadership could be that your team is worried or distracted or confused or discombulated by the off-court stuff going on around our program this year. Off-the-court issues that you created by breaking the NCAA rules and then lying about it to the NCAA. Yes, you came out and cried for us and accepted responsibility. But then we've got the question of whether this season will count or not...will we be eligible for the post-season or not? Will you still even be the coach next year, the year after that or when whatever class of recruits you're working on now get there.

It's probably not helped by on the day after the Vols should have been walking on cloud nine, the letter arrived. But still, I can't help but think that without these distractions and off-the-court issues going on that my team might be working their way toward a first-round SEC tournament bye and a strong seed for the Big Dance. Instead now we've got a great RPI, a strong strength of schedule and a team that is Jekyll and Hyde not only just game to game but possession to possession.

So while I agree that the leadership on the floor has been an issue, I still think it goes higher than that. It goes to the man I love to see wearing the orange sport coat when we play Vandy and Kentucky. It goes to the guy whose disregard for the rules and even telling the truth created this whole circus that has been going on this past year and may go on for another year or two before its all over. This program rose when Bruce Pearl stepped into the building. And now it seems to be stumbling as Bruce Pearl has stumbled.

Leadership starts at the top, coach. Show some and let's get this thing going in the right direction.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/27/2011 04:54:00 PM | |
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