- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Jimmy Collins said he received an apology from Bruce Pearl in New Orleans on Friday dating back to when Pearl accused Collins in the late 1980s of offering money to a high school basketball recruit while Collins was an Illinois assistant.
Collins and Pearl, then an Iowa assistant, were both recruiting Deon Thomas, a highly-touted player out of Chicago. Pearl accused Collins of offering Thomas money and a car. Pearl secretly taped a conversation he had with Thomas and handed it over to the NCAA. Collins was cleared of the charges.
Collins never held back his distaste for Pearl after the accusations. Collins refused to shake Pearl's hand while both were head coaches in the Horizon League from 2001-2005. Collins also said to USA Today, "What goes around come around," when Pearl admitted to lying to the NCAA and Tennessee was sanctioned in 2010.
Collins hadn't communicated with Pearl since the 1980s until Pearl approached him on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during the Final Four festivities on Friday night.
"I was just walking down Bourbon Street talking to some people and when I looked up, he was walking toward me," Collins said on Saturday. "When he got to me, he started to apologize for what had happened. He made it clear that he was young and didn't understand things. He ended up by saying he really felt bad because he knew Deon Thomas got hurt.
"The truth of the matter was it was fine. It was a guy who had gone through some changes, and as he's gotten older, he realized some things were wrong, and he apologized for it."
Collins said he accepted the apology and has moved on.
"I let it go," Collins said. "There's nothing I can do with what happened then. I'm not going around with a lot of hate in my heart. I'm not going to hold a grudge all your life."
Collins also said he ran into Thomas later in the evening and told him of Pearl's apology.
"Deon's one of the nicest people you'll meet in life," Collins said. "He didn't want to elaborate on it one way or another. He just said okay."
Bruce Pearl has apologized to Jimmy Collins for an incident in the 1980s.