- They share a practice facility, Pratt Pavilion.
- They share a corridor on the office level at TBA.
- They share a vision – making Tennessee basketball the best it can be.
- They share unprecedented levels of success. Summitt posted her eighth national championship last season. Pearl posted a school-record 31 victories, the program's first outright SEC title in 41 years and an unprecedented stint as the top-ranked team in America.
- They share a passion for the game that shows in everything they do.
- They share a mutual respect.
And they share a challenge this season – blending a glut of newcomers with a few holdovers (including just one senior) into a cohesive 2008-09 team.
OK ... scratch that last item. Pearl says the challenge his staff faces this season is "totally different" than the one facing Summitt and her staff.
To the casual observer, that does not appear to be the case. Summitt is working hard to define roles for a redshirt freshman (Kelley Cain) and six true freshmen (Alicia Manning, Amber Gray, Alyssia Brewer, Brianna Bass, Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen). Pearl is working hard to define roles for a redshirt freshman (Cameron Tatum), four true freshmen (Scotty Hopson, Emmanuel Negedu, Renaldo Woolridge, Philip Jurick) and a junior college transfer (Bobby Maze).
Given all of the above, Pearl's challenge seems awfully similar to Summitt's. So, the Vol coach was asked, how are the challenges different?
Pearl started to reply, paused, gathered his thoughts for perhaps 20 seconds, then offered his reasoning:
"The Lady Vols have got five or six McDonald's All-American kids who were planning on coming in to start because they lost five starters," he said. "This group here (men's roster) is a blend.
"Pat's first practice almost everybody's on the same page, except (lone senior) Alex Fuller. All of them learn at the same pace. I've got guys who have been in the program two or three years AND there are guys that are new. It's different because of the learning curve."
As Pearl noted: "Wayne and Tyler are like, 'Let's go. We're ready to go. What's next?' But we've got to wait for these (young) guys to get caught up."