Illinois assistant relishing Pearl's missteps

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
9:47
AM ET
On Friday, Dana discussed Bruce Pearl's past. To review: Before Friday, the most notable interaction Pearl had ever had with seedy side of college recruiting was when he recorded an Illinois recruit saying he had received a car from an Illinois assistant. Pearl turned that tape over to the NCAA, which never agreed with Pearl's claim that the tape revealed wrongdoing but did punish Illinois eventually for lack of institutional control. Pearl's his peers reacted accordingly. Pearl was an outcast; it took him another nine years to receive a Division I coaching offer at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The rest is history.

Needless to say, Illinois fans do not like Bruce Pearl. They have not forgiven him. Nor, apparently, has Jimmy Collins, the recently retired Illinois-Chicago coach who was the target of Pearl's homebrew investigation as an Illinois assistant in the late 1980s. Quite the contrary. Collins is loving this. From the USA Today:
“What goes around comes around,” Collins, who retired this summer after a 14-year tenure as Illinois-Chicago’s coach, said by phone Sunday. Throughout the NCAA’s investigation of Illinois and afterward, “Bruce was holier than thou,” Collins said. “I knew Bruce and had talked to people about Bruce. Everyone knew what he was about.” [...]

“Now that Bruce got caught doing what he was probably doing all the time, he thinks it’s OK to say, “I made a mistake.’

“If I sound a little angry, I’m not angry anymore. God has taken care of that for me. But for me to say, well, I’m going to take the high road and say I feel bad for Bruce, my nose would start growing like Pinocchio.

“It will be interesting to see what happens to him. I’m watching with a microscope.”

Those are harsh sentiments, but if you ever talk to an Illinois fan, they're pretty much in line with how most fans feel about Pearl. An anecdotal example: My best friend from grade school was an Illinois fan, and so was his father. I've never seen him get so angry so quickly as when I naively asked why his family "hates Bruce Pearl as a matter of principle." (His words.) Even after the Kelvin Sampson-Eric Gordon-Bruce Pearl spat, Pearl remains the Illini's public enemy No. 1.

Now that Pearl has admitted to mistakes too -- to Illinois fans, he's no longer just a fraud; now he's a hypocrite -- the forecast should call for the schadenfreude to reach dangerously high levels in downstate Illinois in the coming weeks. Dress appropriately.

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