March 28, 2005
COMMENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE ATHLETICS DIRECTOR MIKE HAMILTON:
"A short two weeks ago we began the process of turning the page for a new and bright future on Tennessee basketball. Today is a successful culmination of those efforts. I must tell you that the interest in this job is nothing short of phenomenal. Our candidate pool was much more broad and deeper than was ever reported in the press. It was obvious from the outset that we had options that we could pursue.
"I would be remiss as I start if I did not hand out a few thank yous. First, a few select members of our staff were intimately involved in this process over the last two weeks in particular. Associate Athletics Director John Currie handled much of the detailed legwork. Tiffany Carpenter, our Public Relations Coordinator, handled all of my informational needs in our research. Finally Tyler Johnson, our Assistant Athletics Director for Operations. Assistant coach Chuck Benson has been responsible for and admirably performed the role of running our basketball office the last two weeks. In addition, many others of our staff had a significant function along the way.
"Secondly, I would like to thank the folks at Champ Search, particularly Cedric Dempsey and Dana Pump. Their knowledge of the industry and in particular their contacts in basketball allowed us to move more quickly and confidently.
"Lastly, I want to thank our president, Dr. John Petersen and his wife, Carol, for their support during this process. Dr. Petersen shares my vision of what our athletic success should look like and how it should manifest itself, and I thank him for that. Now, as they say, on with the show.
"It is with great pleasure and excitement that I introduce today to you Bruce Pearl, as our new men's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. Many of you are familiar with Bruce for his recent run to the Sweet 16, including wins over Alabama, which we all like here, and Boston College. And certainly throwing a scare into No. 1-ranked Illinois.
"However, Bruce has had a long track record of success. He coached under nationally respected Dr. Tom Davis at Boston College, Stanford and Iowa. Thus, he understands the pressures we face to win in the Southeastern Conference.
"Bruce then moved to the University of Southern Indiana, where over a nine-year span, his teams ranked No. 1 in America six out of seven years. He won a national championship in 1995 and finished runner-up in 1994. Four years ago, he headed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has led them to unprecedented success.
"He has taken the Panthers to two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT, while accomplishing those on limited resources. He has been named coach of the year in his league five times in his 13 years as a head coach. He was the National Coach of the Year in the NCAA in 1995 and this year is one of 10 finalists for National Coach of the Year honors.
"Most impressive to me is fact that he has the third highest winning percentage in college basketball and that he is the second quickest to 300 wins among men's basketball coaches.
"Asked to sum up Bruce Pearl in a recent conversation, Steve Newton, now retired athletics director at Southern Indiana, said, `He's electric.'
"Bruce's teams play hard. They're mentally tough, disciplined and exciting to watch. He's a relentless recruiter, a well-respected floor coach, a passionate promoter of his program and a consummate family man. His wife, Kim, and their children, Jacqui, Steven, Leah and Michael, are here with us today. We look forward to welcoming them into our family."
COMMENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE PRESIDENT DR. JOHN PETERSEN:
"It is a pleasure to be with you all here today. I would like to first offer my congratulations to Mike Hamilton for doing an outstanding job in terms of positioning our players, our team and our university for the future. So my part is the easy part. I get to introduce our new coach and his wife and his family. It is indeed a pleasure to introduce to you Bruce and Kim Pearl.
"As Mike has pointed out, Bruce has been successful in 13 years as a head coach, so I don't think there is anything more appropriate than maybe to give him his first Tennessee era jersey, No. 14. I would like to have the opportunity to give him jersey No. 24 in about ten years on my way out to retirement."
COMMENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEAD BASKETBALL COACH Bruce Pearl:
"Mike, I'm going to work every day trying to reward you for this decision to make me your next men's basketball coach. It's a great country, isn't it, when you can start from really humble beginnings, work hard, believe passionately and accomplish just about anything.
"For me, to be a head coach of men's basketball in the Southeastern Conference is truly a dream come true. I feel like I'm prepared. I feel like I had a great mentor in Dr. Tom Davis. If you're any good at anything, chances are you had somebody pretty good who taught you how to do it.
"I had the pleasure of being by his side for 14 years. He was a brilliant defensive strategist. He taught me how to press and how to run, but, more than anything else, he taught me how to work with young people, how to be patient, how to be disciplined and how to the most out of them, even more than they ever dreamed they could have. From that standpoint, I feel like I'm prepared.
"Today is a special day for lots of coaches around the country in Division II and Division III, who know how good the basketball is there. One of their own has now broken through and is going to try to take a style of play to the SEC that it hasn't seen in a long time.
"SEC basketball, as an outsider looking in, was certainly recently in the 1980s and 1990s, what Nolan Richardson was doing at Arkansas, what Rick Pitino was doing and to a certain extent what Tubby Smith has continued to do at Kentucky. Those teams played the best defense out of any team in the conference and those teams won championships. That's going to be the foundation. That's where it's going to start.
"On the offensive side, things have got to get loosened up a little bit. We want to be aggressive. We want to run the floor, run the break. Players can't worry if this is a great shot or that's a great shot. They have to have confidence in themselves and their teammates that, if they don't make it, we'll get the rebound. If we don't happen to take care of every possession, that's O.K. We'll take create a possession at the defensive end.
"One thing I can tell you about our basketball teams. They will play hard and unselfishly. You won't ever leave this beautiful building or even when we're on the road thinking that we ever got outworked by our opponent.
"The one thing about coaching that is the most challenging is that it's nomadic in nature. If you win, they'll worry you're going to leave. If you lose, they're packing you bags. There just doesn't seem to be anything in between. That's just the one thing that doesn't sit well with me or Kim or our family.
"One of the hardest decisions I ever made was leaving Southern Indiana. Probably the second hardest was leaving Milwaukee. It was the second hardest because of the opportunity at Tennessee. It was my dream to run a program like this. Because I'm built that way, I'm digging in.
"If there's one thing I can point to about this great university and its great athletics program, it's the longevity and success of its great coaches. That's what I'm here to try to do. That's what required of men's basketball now. It's time for us to hold up our end and add to the tradition of this great university and this great conference.
"The fact the very first person I met when I walked through that door was coach Phillip Fulmer is something I will treasure forever. That tells you a little about the fabric of the coach. It told me something We are going to bring the men's basketball program up to speed. There's a great tradition here.
"I am very fortunate to have gotten to know Ernie and Nancy Grunfeld when Kim and I were in Milwaukee. Ernie is as proud of his days here as anybody could possibly be. I was very pleased to hear from Ernie when this opportunity opened up. I'm very pleased to be here as your men's basketball coach."