Question of the Day: Who are the best and most likely choices to replace Bruce Pearl at Tennessee? [Updated]
Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the men's basketball coaching vacancy at Tennessee. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
The best option to take over the Tennessee men's basketball program, replacing Bruce Pearl, would be women's coach Pat Summit, but why would she want to leave the security of her job for this shaky one?
In reality, the Volunteers will want to look for a young coach who has a history of winning, can recruit well and can energize the fan base that was deflated by the firing of Pearl after multiple NCAA violations. The names of Richmond's Chris Mooney and VCU's Shaka Smart will be tossed around, but the Vols need someone a little more proven to continue the streak of NCAA tournament appearances.
The best choice might be Baylor's Scott Drew. Only 40, Drew helped rebuild Baylor and led the Bears to an NCAA tournament Elite Eight and a Sweet 16. He's known as a strong recruiter, which will be essential in keeping Tennessee from slipping backward after Pearl's departure.
Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
The bandwagon is rolling past -- on its way to the Sweet 16 -- so Tennessee had better be smart and jump on.
Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart has Southeastern Conference savvy, having been an assistant under Florida’s Billy Donovan. He showed recruiting skills at Florida and Clemson. He has that mid-major-coach-cred, with Purdue, Georgetown and USC in his NCAA tournament wake. VCU's two-year contract extension won't be enough to keep him if the big fellas, like Tennessee, come calling.
As for the outgoing Bruce Pearl, El Paso awaits. UTEP is the rehabilitation center for coaches -- Mike Price, Tim Floyd. Just as soon as Floyd is done massaging his image, Pearl can move in to spruce up his. And, if there are any more NCAA troubles, he can skip across the border. Mexico doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the NCAA.]
[Updated at 12:37 p.m.:
Dave Fairbank, Newport News Daily Press
Far be it from a keyboard jockey to offer professional advice to a man whose recent track record includes the Lane Kiffin Experiment and who chose to throw his water-treading basketball coach a cinder block on the eve of the NCAA tournament. As a personnel and public relations whiz, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton is a darn fine fundraiser.
That said, this is low-hanging fruit. Belmont’s Rick Byrd has won 518 games in 25 years at the Nashville school. Four NCAAs in the past six years. UT grad (Class of ’76). Grew up in Knoxville. His teams score a bunch of points and shoot a ton of threes. He’s not the hot, young assistant, or the NCAA tournament flavor of the month. He’s a native son, with a track record. You’re welcome. Happy to help.]
[Updated at 1:02 p.m.:
Todd Adams, Orlando Sentinel
If I were the Volunteers, I'd be chasing Butler Coach Brad Stevens with fury.
The job Stevens has done at Butler, leading it to the title game last year and into the Sweet 16 this season, is simply phenomenal -– and at a school that should not be performing at this level in consecutive years. If he had Tennessee's recruiting resources, the Vols could be a Final Four contender almost every year.
It's not likely they will get him, though. Stevens signed a big contract extension with Butler last year, and his buyout is likely more than Tennessee would be willing to play. Look for the school to scour the other mid-majors, especially in the South. Belmont Coach Rick Byrd, a Tennessee grad, could be a possibility.]
Top photo: Bruce Pearl. Credit: Curtis Compton / McClatchy Tribune
Bottom photo: Pat Summit. Credit: Grant Halverson / US Presswire