Pearl's recruiting challenge

Most players love the fast-paced, uptempo style utilized by Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl. But that system also limits playing time. Rather than get 35 minutes per game, most starters will get only 25 minutes. Is that a negative in recruiting?

``It hasn't been yet,'' Pearl said. ``Gary Williams (Maryland's coach) told me that it would be. People would use our style of play against us because what teams in the NBA press? And everybody wants to play in the NBA.

``But we probably had too many guys play 30 minutes last year. That's probably one of the reasons we faded down the stretch.

``It didn't affect Florida. People don't understand the difference was Florida was fresh at the end of the season. (Joakim) Noah played 24, 25 minutes a game all season long. He never played more because Florida had four quality bigs (big men). They were able to rotate on the inside. They had two guys coming off the bench (Chris Richard and Adrian Moss) that would have started for most people.''

Having explained that, Pearl doesn't see playing time as a recruiting problem.

``I don't think depth is something we're ever gonna have to apologize for and I don't think our style of play will get in the way of recruiting,'' Pearl said. ``I still think kids want to run. Kids still want to press. They still want to be the aggressor. And I think our style of play will always be an advantage in recruiting.''


A new NCAA rule that allows a team to play each year in an exempt tournament or add two more regular-season games was applauded by Pearl.

This year, practice begins Oct. 15 but the season starts Nov. 10. That leaves four weeks of practice, or about 24 actual practices.

``I think it's good to add a couple of more games on the schedule,'' Pearl said. ``Anything to get you closer to 20 (wins), I'm in favor of because that seems to be the magic number for getting into the NCAA Tournament. It could also cut down on the injuries you might have in practice.''

Imagine that. Pearl is concerned about injuries during practice, not games, an indication of how tough his practices can be.


Pearl has put heat on some other UT coaches, not just because he won, but because he promoted the heck out of his program, resulting in remarkable fan interest.

``If you do the right things, our fans will respond,'' Tennessee men's athletic director Mike Hamilton said.

Pearl seemed to do all the right things, from speaking to some 200 groups to interfacing with ESPN and CBS. He showed up on location at Vol Calls. He attended Big Orange Tip-Off Club meetings. He was everywhere, promoting his sport, his team.

``There's something to be said for energy,'' Hamilton said. ``I think Bruce has shown if you're willing to get out and interface with fans and back that up with performance on the floor, fans will respond. We like winners around here.

``It goes back to, in today's world, you have to be more responsive to the media and to the public, and we have an obligation to do that. Part of whole process of public relations and college athletics is what we owe the viewing and listening public. I appreciate the fact he's been willing to do that.

``It's been, I won't say a wake-up call, but it's been great for our other coaches to see the kind of support that it has helped engender for Bruce's program. They've sort of taken a lesson from that.''

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