Bruce Pearl was all but banished from the coaching fraternity nearly 20 years ago, but he's rebounded and rebuilt his reputation with highly-successful coaching stops at Southern Indiana, UW-Milwaukee and Tennessee. So what makes him a viable candidate for the IU vacancy? What makes him a long shot? HoosierNation.com has the answers...

For the second time in three years, the IU basketball program is about to embark on a search for a new head coach. HoosierNation.com will profile those candidates, including a look at what makes them a viable candidate, and why they are a long shot.

Today we look at one of the hottest names in the coaching fraternity – Bruce Pearl.

Indiana is a big-name program. And there aren't too many bigger names in the coaching profession these days than Tennessee's Bruce Pearl.

With the Volunteers' 66-62 win over No. 1 Memphis Saturday Tennessee improved to 25-2 and assumed the top spot in both major polls, marking the first time in 99 years that a Volunteer team has been ranked No. 1 nationally. Pearl has been the architect of the Volunteers' march to national prominence, and he now boasts an impressive 71-21 mark in Knoxville. His first team went 22-8 and won the SEC Eastern Division title, and then last year's team went 24-11 and advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals where he squandered a big early lead and lost to eventual NCAA runner-up Ohio State 85-84.

His run at Tennessee is no fluke, but the just the latest example of why Pearl is one of the big names in the coaching ranks these days. Before taking over at Tennessee Pearl spent four seasons at UW-Milwaukee, where he went 86-38, earned two trips to the NCAA Tournament and guided the Horizon League team to the Sweet 16 in 2005.

Pearl also had a long run of success within the state, of Indiana, building the Division II Southern Indiana program into a national power during his nine-year stint from 1993-01. His USI teams went a combined 231-46 mark, appeared in seven NCAA Division II Tournaments, and won the 1995 national championship.

Tennessee has rewarded Pearl for his work, giving him a pay hike in 2006 and then extending his contract in 2007. He's currently under contract thru the 2012-13 season with a compensation package that guarantees him $1.3 million annually. The program also has some major facility projects in the works – the Thompson-Boling Arena is currently undergoing a $20 million renovation, while the university is also building a $16 million practice facility.

Pearl was courted briefly last spring by Iowa, where he served as an assistant coach at Iowa under Coach Tom Davis from 1986-92. But after a brief conversation with Iowa A.D. Gary Barta, Pearl said he planned to stay at UT and said about the SEC program, "I want to be here as long as long as they'll be happy with me here." It certainly sounds as if Pearl is happy with his situation in Knoxville.

What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: It's impossible to argue with his coaching success. He owns a 388-105 career head coaching record, and has done things at Tennessee that have never been done in the history of the program. Indiana wants a winner, and there aren't too many that are better bets than Pearl in that regard. In addition, Pearl's salary is no longer out of whack with what the Hoosier program is willing to offer. Two years ago the $1 million-plus candidates seemed like a stretch considering IU's unwillingness to open its checkbook in the past, but the fact IU was scheduled to pay Kelvin Sampson $1.5 million this season suggests seven-figure guarantees aren't going to scare off IU's power brokers. Indiana can also counter Tennessee's facility project with a basketball facility project of its own, which could make the IU job more enticing than it was two years ago. Pearl also fits the Rick Greenspan mode in one important regard – he's a charismatic coach who's willing to work the speaking engagement circuit. Thanks to his time in the state (as well as the Big Ten) Pearl knows how big basketball is in the Hoosier state, and it could be an intriguing opportunity to play top fiddle on campus instead of second (behind UT football) or even third (behind UT women's basketball).

What Makes Him a Longshot: Tennessee isn't about to sit by and let him bolt for another program, so any courtship from the Hoosiers would certainly result in a spirited effort by the UT administration to keep him. Tennessee also has very deep pockets to entice him to stay thanks to a football program that bankrolls the Volunteer athletics programs. Tennessee has also shown that it's capable of competing at the highest level during Pearl's tenure. Often times, one of the biggest draws of a program such as IU is the ability to compete for national championships, but Pearl has shown there's no reason why that can't happen at his current place of employment. Finally, Pearl still has the Deon Thomas saga on his resume from his days as an Iowa assistant. Pearl taped a conversation with recruit Deon Thomas in 1989, during which Thomas allegedly claimed to have been offered illegal inducements to go to Illinois. Pearl then turned the tape over to the NCAA, and the episode eventually helped lead to NCAA probation for the Illini while also sullying the reputations of then Illini-assistant Jimmy Collins as well as Pearl. It's been almost 20 years, but it's an incident that hasn't been forgotten.

HoosierNation.com's Take: While some IU fans would love to see Pearl in Bloomington to further fan the flames of the Illinois rivalry, it's an extreme longshot at best. The biggest obstacle could be the Deon Thomas episode. While Pearl didn't land in any trouble with the NCAA, it was a highly-publicized case involving accusations of recruiting violations on both sides. Considering what Indiana has just been through with Kelvin Sampson, it's unfathomable that it would select a coach who has any blemish on his resume – whether actual or perceived – as far as NCAA rules compliance.

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