Pearl's no pussycat

Because he is such an engaging personality away from the court, University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl is widely perceived as a guy who must be fun to play for. That might be stretching the truth a bit.

Although Pearl has a tremendous rapport with his players, he is not above occasional ranting and raving to drive home his point. Anyone who has attended a few of his more animated practice sessions or listened in during some of his more heated late-game timeouts can attest to the fact.

Pearl's booming voice can be a tremendous comfort when he is praising a player in need of a few words of encouragement. That booming voice also can be a tremendous weapon when he is chastising a player in need of correction. Realizing this, the coach is determined to make sure that his athletes do not take his occasional eruptions personally.

"My players have to take me with a grain of salt," Pearl said in an interview with 'SEC TV' that recently aired on SportSouth. "They've got to tolerate me; they've got to tolerate my intensity. I say to them: 'Do not pay attention to HOW I'm saying this. Pay attention to WHAT I'm saying.'"

Psychologically speaking, coaching is a balancing act. Quality coaches know how to gain a player's trust without losing his respect. They know how to create a relaxed atmosphere without surrendering discipline. They know when to loosen the reins and when to tighten them. They know when to whisper and when to scream.

Bruce Pearl works hard to maintain this balance, even when it means yelling at a player in front of his teammates or his fans.

"It's not personal. It's just business," he said in the SEC TV interview. "It's almost like The Sopranos or The Godfather: It's just business. Don't take it personally."

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