Pearl seeks 100th win at UT

If Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl ever compiles a scrapbook the UNC Asheville Bulldogs might fill a prominent role in it.

Pearl posted his 400th coaching victory when the Bulldogs visited Thompson-Boling Arena last season and goes for win No. 100 as the Vols' head man Tuesday night at TBA against ... you guessed it, UNC Asheville.

Odds are, there will never be a Pearl scrapbook, however. The coach says milestone victories may be significant to others but not to him. Even win No. 100 is no big deal.

"It really doesn't mean anything," he said Monday afternoon. "From my standpoint, if we win tomorrow night it's win No. 2. That's the only number that matters to me. It sounds good but if you've been around me, that's what it is: It's just win No. 2."

Tennessee won its opener last Friday, trouncing Austin Peay 83-54. UNC Asheville lost its opener 86-70 at Charlotte the same evening.

Should the Vols beat Asheville, Pearl will become the second-fastest UT coach to hit the 100-win milestone. John Mauer needed just 131 games to get there. Ray Mears (141 games), Don Devoe (157) and Emmett Lowery (165) rank 2-3-4. Pearl will be coaching his 137th game Tuesday night.

The Vol coach insists he isn't concerned about personal achievements, however. He's interested in getting Tennessee's program among the national elite. That's the only context in which he finds milestone victories to be meaningful.

"I care about history, and I want very badly for this to be known as a very special time in Tennessee basketball history. I do," he said. "So, from the standpoint of it adding to history, I'm all for it. But I'm more interested in how we play against Asheville and how we continue to grow and improve. I just feel fortunate to be here and have the opportunity to play these games and represent Tennessee."

Pearl admits that he finds it somewhat difficult to comprehend that he is in his fifth season guiding the Big Orange program.

"It feels much shorter than that," he said. "I still feel like I'm new, like I'm a rookie, like I just got here.

"I still feel like we're still trying to get some credibility in our men's basketball program to get it to the level that the rest of the athletic department enjoys. I don't ask for directions anymore. I know where I'm going, and I love it here but I still feel very much like a new kid on the block.

"Can you say that when you're almost 50?"

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