Hard-line Pearl

Whereas predecessors Jerry Green and Buzz Peterson tended to coddle players a bit, new Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl seems to be taking a no-nonsense approach.

Look at his first month on the job:

With Jamont Gordon trying to get academically eligible, Pearl suggested he postpone a scheduled UT visit to prepare for an exam. When Gordon ignored this sound advice, visited Starkville and committed to Mississippi State, Pearl essentially said, ''adios.''

Billy Smith decided his son could do better than Tennessee and demanded a release from the Vol scholarship Tyler signed last November. When Pearl tried to re-recruit Tyler, Billy Smith closed the door in his face. Pearl declined to provide a release and said ''adios'' to the Smiths.

Maurice Thomas visited UT last weekend and was strongly encouraged by the Vol staff to commit at that time. When he declined and returned to his Philadelphia home, Pearl said ''adios'' to Thomas and offered that scholarship to Ryan Childress. By the time Thomas decided to accept the scholarship, the offer was off the table.

Here's what these events suggest:

If you have no regard for academics, Bruce Pearl doesn't want you.

If you have a meddlesome father, Bruce Pearl doesn't want you.

If you have reservations about playing for him, Bruce Pearl doesn't want you.

Bottom line: It would be nice to see heralded prospects such as Jamont Gordon and Tyler Smith wearing orange next winter. But Bruce Pearl seems more concerned with signing players who are great fits than great talents. If this strategy works, he'll be a hero. If it doesn't ... well, four years from now UT will be saying ''adios'' to him.

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