Looking back: Coach Bruce Pearl's time at Tennessee

Looking back: Coach Bruce Pearl's time at Tennessee

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By JIM WOGAN
6 Sports Director

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Six years ago, Bruce Pearl was hired to save Tennessee basketball. And he wasted no time making that happen.

He was part coach, and part pitch-man, reaching out to students, fans, and anyone else willing to buy into it. And given the depths Tennessee basketball had fallen to, it wasn't an easy job.

Pearl went beyond hype.

In his first season at Tennessee, he took a team that had won 14 games the previous year and guided them to wins over Florida and Kentucky.

The Vols won 22 games that season, and played in the NCAA tournament.

The Vols won even more games in Pearl's second year at Tennessee. UT went even deeper into March Madness leading number one Ohio State by 18 points in their sweet 16 matchup in San Antonio.

UT eventually lost the game, but Pearl was winning over doubters. Tennessee basketball indeed, was back on the national map.

Pearl's personality often overshadowed his coaching ability. There was his no-shirt appearance at a Lady Vols-Duke game and that rap video that became a cult hit at a UT function.

Pearl's best move happened in his first season, making a tradition of wearing an Orange blazer for games against the Vols two biggest rivals, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. He did so in honor of UT's winningest coach, Ray Mears, and he asked for Mears' permission before he did it.

Pearl kept winning with 31 games in his third season, a win over Memphis and the school's first-ever #1 national ranking.

The Vols made another sweet 16 appearance in 2009 and played in the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

Pearl's crowning achievement on the court came in 2010, when he guided the Vols to a 28-win season and an Elite 8 appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Vols missed the final four, losing to Michigan State 70-69.

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