Brady firing upsets Pearl

Tennessee's Bruce Pearl probably has as much job security as any coach in NCAA basketball. Still, he's a bit alarmed by the recent trend toward changing coaches at mid-season.

LSU's John Brady got the axe last Friday, one day before his Tigers were to face Pearl's Vols at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

Brady guided LSU to an SEC tournament title and a Final Four appearance in 2006. His team slumped to 17-15 in 2007, however, and stood 8-13 in 2008 at the time of his dismissal.

Counting a 1-6 start in SEC play this year, Brady posted a winning SEC record just three times in his 11 years in Baton Rouge. He was 8-8 twice and recorded losing league marks six times.

In spite of all this, Pearl found Brady's abrupt ouster disconcerting.

"I'm deeply disturbed by John Brady's firing at midseason," the Vol coach said. "It's all of a sudden become a trend to fire guys in the middle of a season. Dave Odom (South Carolina) has announced his retirement at the end of the year. If his record was better at the time, does he announce his retirement at that time?"

South Carolina and LSU aren't the only major-college programs whose head coaches have resigned or been canned during the '08 season, however. Pearl noted that Oregon State, Pepperdine, Texas Tech and San Francisco also have announced coaching changes during the course of this season.

"I don't know all of the details," Pearl said, "but it was said that John Brady was fired because he didn't win enough games. Over the last three years – since I've been in the league – LSU has the second-highest winning percentage in SEC games of anybody out west. I believe they're fifth overall, and there are 12 teams in the league.

"They got to the Final Four 22 months ago. To me, it's setting the bar dangerously high. There's just no balance to it. Coaches aren't honoring their contracts and universities are so quick to make change, thinking it's the coach (that is the problem)."

Pearl and Brady are scarcely bosom buddies. They made headlines two years ago in Baton Rouge, when Pearl played to the LSU crowd by raising the hand of Dane Bradshaw as he was inserting the Vol senior back into the lineup late in the game. LSU's students were amused but LSU's coach was not. Brady angrily questioned Pearl's class afterward. The Vol coach apparently blew off the incident, however, because his dismay over Brady's firing appears to be sincere.

"His best player, Tasmin Mitchell, is out for the year," Pearl noted. "Big Baby (Glen Davis) left after his junior year and Tyrus Thomas left after his freshman year. They've got great young talent and they've got a top-25 recruiting class coming in."

After a long pause, Pearl sighed and said, "Deeply concerning."

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