Pearl's 6-0 start

Bruce Pearl has won his first six games as Tennessee's basketball coach which, surprisingly enough, is the second-best start in program history. Even more surprising: The only guy who had a better beginning was Jerry Green.

Inheriting a ton of talent from predecessor Kevin O'Neill, Green swept through his first 10 games unbeaten in 1997-98.

Three other Vol coaches won their first five games – John Mauer (1938-39), Emmett Lowery (1947-48) and Ray Mears (1962-63).

In a way, Pearl's 6-0 start is more impressive than Green's 10-0 start. Pearl's sixth win came at the expense of No. 6 Texas Saturday in Austin by a 95-78 score. None of the victims in Green's 10-0 start were ranked in the top 25, let alone the top 10.

Here's a recap of Green's 10-0 start:

Tennessee 75, Winthrop 62

Tennessee 75, Miami, Ohio 74

Tennessee 75, UNC Asheville 69

Tennessee 74, Austin Peay 65

Tennessee 69, Appalachian State 46

Tennessee 83, Tennessee Tech 69

Tennessee 92, Wofford 63

Tennessee 74, St. Joseph's 54

Tennessee 68, Memphis 66

Tennessee 74, Southern Cal 70

Following the 10-0 start, Green went 0-3 once his team began Southeastern Conference play – losing 83-69 at Florida, 74-69 at home to Auburn and 80-79 at Vanderbilt. The Vols finished the ‘97-98 season 20-9, meaning they went 10-9 after the 10-0 start.

Like Green, Pearl feasted on so-called "mid-major" programs at the beginning of Year 1, beating East Tennessee State (106-83), Louisiana-Lafayette (106-83), Eastern Kentucky (92-58), Murray State (64-53), and Appalachian State (89-81) in Games 1 through 5.

The big difference in Green and Pearl – other than the level of talent they inherited – is that Pearl stepped up in class and still won, whereas Green lost his first three games once the level of competition improved.

To break Green's record for victories to open a UT career Pearl must win five more games – vs. Oklahoma State (Thursday in Oklahoma City), vs. Alabama A&M (Dec. 27), vs. Lipscomb (Dec. 29), vs. South Alabama (Jan. 4) and at South Carolina in the SEC opener (Jan. 8).

The three home games certainly appear winnable but the two road games will be quite challenging. Of course, after you've gone to the Erwin Center in Austin and won, Oklahoma City and Columbia don't appear nearly as daunting.

For what it's worth, interim coach Cliff Wettig (1977-78), Don DeVoe (1978-79), Wade Houston (1989-90) and Buzz Peterson (2001-02) won just one game each before suffering their first losses at UT. Kevin O'Neill (1994-95) won his first three before losing.

And, just in case you're wondering, Pat Head lost her first game as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, bowing to visiting Mercer by an 84-83 score in the 1974-75 opener.

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