As Vol fans are acutely aware, Pearl accomplished an amazing first-year turnaround at UT, elevating a Big Orange program that had gone 14-17 under predecessor Buzz Peterson in 2004-05 to 22-8 in 2005-06. Then, to prove it was no fluke, Pearl led the Vols to records of 24-11 in 2006-07 and 31-5 in 2007-08.
The swift turnaround Pearl effected at Tennessee surely was a factor in LSU's decision to fire John Brady during the 2007-08 season. After all, Pearl proved conclusively that the right hire can make a dramatic difference in just one season.
Like Tennessee, LSU made the right hire. Brady's successor, Trent Johnson, is having a Pearl-like first season in Baton Rouge. Johnson has elevated the Tigers from 13-18 overall (6-10 SEC) in 2007-08 to 20-4 (8-1 SEC) in his very first year on the job.
Johnson isn't the only rookie coach who is burning it up in the SEC this year, however. Darrin Horn is off to a tremendous start in Year 1 at South Carolina. He has taken a program that went 14-18 overall (5-11 SEC) for Dave Odom last season and fielded a team that is 17-5 overall (6-3 SEC) this season.
Like Pearl, Johnson and Horn are having the kind of first-year success that ratchets up the pressure on their fellow SEC coaches. Fans of struggling programs are screaming, "Let's fire Coach X and hire a Bruce Pearl or a Trent Johnson or a Darrin Horn, so we can get this thing turned around."
It appears the "instant gratification" thought process has begun taking root in SEC football, as well. Here's why:
- Assuming a Florida program that had gone 7-5 under predecessor Ron Zook in 2004, Urban Meyer went 13-1 in his second year on the job (2006) and claimed the national championship. Then, for good measure, he won another national title in Year 4.
- Assuming an Alabama program that had gone 6-7 under predecessor Mike Shula in 2006, Nick Saban went 12-2 in his second year on the job and had the Tide ranked No. 1 in the nation for part of 2008.
The immediate success Meyer had at Florida and Saban had at Bama helped grease the slide that carried Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville and Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom right out of the league in recent months.
And you figure things will be even worse in 2009, now that Houston Nutt has ratcheted up the pressure even more. Assuming an Ole Miss program that had gone 3-9 under predecessor Ed Orgeron in 2007, Nutt guided the 2008 Rebels to a 9-4 record and No. 14 national ranking.
Every time a new coach enjoys immediate success he makes life a little tougher for his peers in the league. And that's just one more reason for SEC basketball coaches to dislike Bruce Pearl.