But it all may have ended in stunningly bad fashion on Thursday. The Vols "quit" in the second half of a 30-point loss to Michigan, according to one player. And the postgame press conference was dominated by talk of Pearl's future.
But Pearl did not show signs he would go quietly.
"We made mistakes," Pearl said after his team fell 75-45. "We're going to try to be accountable for those mistakes, but my goal and desire is to be the basketball coach at Tennessee next year and for a long time."
It won't be up to Pearl. Tennessee is due to go before the NCAA's infractions committee in June, then have punishment doled out for a serious of offenses by Pearl, including lying to the NCAA.
Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton gave a radio interview Wednesday on the eve of the tournament where he declined to say Pearl would be back. That caused major waves, and Vols senior guard Melvin Goins said "of course it was a distraction."
Pearl disagreed, saying the team's abysmal second half – it was outscored 42-16 – was not a result of Hamilton's comments. Vols freshman Tobias Harris was the player who said the team "basically just quit" in the second half.
But Pearl sounded like someone who was going to fight for his job. He pointed out that the team has gone to the NCAA tournament in all of his six seasons, including an Elite Eight appearance last year. He also cited the pending graduation of six players, and the improved attendance at home games.
"Certainly when your coaching staff and the kids find out that .. there's some chance that you might not be back, when you hear that for the first time, it gets you," Pearl said. "And I know it's on Mike's heart too. I know he's apologized for saying that. But I don't put the loss on that."
Huskies go bigger
Washington's versatility is such that head coach Lorenzo Romar spent the days leading up to the NCAA tournament debating whether to go bigger or smaller with his starting lineup. He went with the former.
Darnell Grant, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, was inserted into the starting lineup in place of 6-5 guard C.J. Wilcox. That left Washington with just one starter under 6-6: Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who is 5-9.
Grant had come off the bench during Washington's three-game run to the Pac-10 tournament title, while Wilcox had started all three games.
Romar has started 10 different players this season, each with three or more starts. Thomas and senior forward Justin Holiday are the only two that have started every game.
UGA football news
Georgia has added South Alabama to the football schedule for the 2014 season, the Mobile-based school announced on Friday. South Alabama is transitioning to FBS and will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. It is scheduled to visit Athens on Nov. 8, 2014.