Bruce Pearl leaves coaching for now
Less than a week after receiving a three-year, show-cause penalty from the NCAA's committee on infractions, former Tennessee Volunteers men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl has decided to leave the sport and head into the private sector.
Pearl said in a statement Tuesday that he is turning down a job offer to coach the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks' D-League franchise, and instead is joining H.T. Hackney Co. in Knoxville, Tenn., as vice president of marketing.
A news release from the wholesale grocery company cited Pearl's marketing and economic background as a student at Boston College. He will begin work there Thursday.
"I've known Bruce Pearl for years -- his leadership, competitiveness and understanding of marketing is a great fit for our organization," said CEO Bill Sansom, a former University of Tennessee trustee.
Donnie Nelson was unbelievably gracious and provided a terrific opportunity. I really thought that was what I was going to do. But I couldn't leave my children.” -- Bruce Pearl on the D-League coaching offer
Pearl received the three-year penalty Aug. 24 from the NCAA's Committee on Infractions for failing to provide initial truthful statements about a backyard cookout at his house in 2008 that included high school juniors on an unofficial campus visit. Pearl also called the father of one of the players and encouraged him not to disclose the event.
Pearl's show-cause penalty limits his ability to get another NCAA Division I coaching job, because a school would have to decide that it wants to take on Pearl with recruiting restrictions during that period.
Should he be hired by a school, Pearl is not allowed to have contact with recruits during that three-year period, but would be allowed to evaluate talent. Still, coaches are rarely hired during a show-cause period, because administrations don't want to deal with a coach having restrictions.
Pearl said the decision came down to his family. Two of his children are still in high school. Two of his older children work in the Knoxville area, and his second wife, Brandy, is from Sevier County, just outside the city.
Pearl coached the Volunteers for six seasons, leading Tennessee to a 145-61 record (65-31) and its first-ever Elite Eight appearance two years ago and its first-ever No. 1 ranking.
In early August, the Legends, a second-year franchise, had offered Pearl a package worth more than $500,000, a deal that would have made him the highest-paid coach in the D-League.
Pearl said he told team co-owner and Mavericks president Donnie Nelson Sunday night that he wouldn't be taking the Legends job.
"Donnie Nelson was unbelievably gracious and provided a terrific opportunity," Pearl told ESPN.com Tuesday. "I really thought that was what I was going to do. But I couldn't leave my children.
"He's a father and he understood," Pearl said. "I've made a great friend in basketball that I didn't really know before."
"There's nothing more important to the Legends than family," Nelson told ESPN.com. "We totally understand and respect Bruce's decision to stay close to home. There's been an overwhelming response to our head coaching position. We hope to have some exciting news in the near future."
The number of years the NCAA levied in Pearl's show-cause penalty did come as a shock and affected his decision, he said, adding that an opportunity to go into broadcasting was still there.
"A three-year show cause puts me out of the game longer than I anticipated," Pearl said. "That said, the realities of being a husband and being a father, you have to take care of your family."
As for coaching again, Pearl said: "It depends on what happens the next three years. I'm going to stay close to the game that I love. I hope that when you look at the last 33 years of my life you can say basketball was very good to me and I hope in some way I was good to college basketball.
"But I'll also try to lead through the adversity and what not to do and how not to handle an NCAA investigation, and it obviously cost me dearly."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein was used in this report.
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