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ESPN analyst Bruce Pearl picks UK to win SEC but warns that Rupp Arena loss could happen this season

By LARRY VAUGHT

Former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl thinks Missouri, Florida and Tennessee could all be good enough to beat Kentucky in Southeastern Conference play this year. However, he still has no doubts that the Wildcats will be the league’s best overall team.

“They are so talented, so deep and John Calipari does the best job of any coach in country at getting kids to play hard and unselfishly and accept responsibility of what it means to play in that uniform,” said Pearl, who will work as an ESPN analyst this season.

However, Pearl does have one warning.

“John doesn’t have as much help coaching this team as he had a year ago. He doesn’t have Darius Miller, Terrence Jones or Doron Lamb, guys who could tell the freshmen last year not to pay attention to how John was saying things but what he was saying,” Pearl said. “John can go off on kids and challenge them. He won’t have those veteran players this year to tell the young guys not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain but to pay attention to the message he has.”

Calipari has not lost a home game in three seasons at Kentucky. Pearl says that could change, especially in SEC play where Tennessee, Missouri and Florida all come to Rupp Arena.

“I just think it will be difficult to maintain that streak of not losing at home. Young players can be more inconsistent. Will they guard and rebound every night? Will they  make clutch free throws every night, something it seems like UK has always done under John? It will be by far his youngest team and they have so many pieces that have to come together that they may well have an off night at home,” Pearl said.

Pearl said he doesn’t believe Rupp Arena intimidates opposing players. Instead, he thinks the 23,000 fans elevate the home team’s play.

“I never felt like we were intimidated by being there. Kentucky fans were so into the game and so knowledgeable and you would have 1,000 people around the floor when you had your lay-up line. Games are always on national TV. It just seems to me that Kentucky always elevates it play at home,” Pearl, who coached for 33  years, said.

As he did when he was coaching, Pearl emphasized how emotional playing in Rupp Arena always was for him.

“My eyes would water when I just walked into Rupp Arena. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I am coaching in Rupp Arena in front of these fans.’ It was quite as honor,” he said. “They honor the game in Kentucky. I have never coached for Kentucky. I have always coached against Kentucky going back to my days of competing against Kentucky Wesleyan.

“Kentucky was always so hard to beat, but it was the team I wanted to beat. I wanted to leave the building wanting UK  fans to go, ‘You know, that team played hard and that team thought it had chance to win in our building.’ We didn’t. We only one won time in five tires. There was one occasion were embarrassed. I apologized to Kentucky fans that even though they beat us by three touchdowns, I know they were hoping for a better game and we did  not give to it them.”

Pearl insists he’ll bring that same honesty and energy to his work with ESPN — and he’s hoping to get assigned to work a game in Rupp Arena.

“I don’t know about criticizing or second guessing coaches, but I will go over options. I will discuss what might be going through the coaches’ minds. Hopefully I will speak from my head as much as my heart,” Pearl said. “I want to be able to tell the viewers what to expect next and draw on my years as a coach to do that and hopefully make it fun for them to anticipate what might be getting ready to happen.”

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/espn-analyst-bruce-pearl-picks-uk-to-win-sec-but-warns-that-rupp-arena-loss-could-happen-this-season/

20 comments

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  1. TheProfessor

    Like the young players of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

    This team is more likely to run the home table again than to suffer a loss this season in Rupp.

  2. grant

    Sounds like pearl wants on cals coaching staff.

  3. Theresa Crow

    Coach Pearl definitely misses the game. He is a good coach and made the UK-UT rivalry more fun during the years he was in Knoxville. Because I am married to a UT fan, I had several occasions to talk with Coach Pearl. The first was when he was scouting a high school player at a game my husband was officiating. My husband sent him over to talk to me during warmups and he was very down-to-earth. It is nice to know that he has that much respect for Rupp Arena, Kentucky and the history of our beloved program. While he was at UT, it made my home life easier because UT generally made it a ballgame and I did not have to feel apologetic for my Cats taking advantage of my hubby’s Vols. I have nothing but respect for Coach Pearl and wish him well. However, Grant, I do not see him co-existing with Coach Cal on the same bench–two Alpha males if ever there were Alpha males!

    1. larryvaught

      Juan and Theresa, don’t tell anyone, but I like him too. Always been great to me

  4. Juan4UK

    I really like Coach Pearl. Some fans do not. Some say he’s over the top (chest painting and such), I don’t care. He’s good for the game. Extremely passionate, and I like that. What he did at UT, with the chest painting, was trying to build a brand under the shadow of maybe one of the top 3-5 coaches of all time, a pioneer in the women’s field that showed up in a man’s world. That’s a hard thing to do. So Pearl had to find a way to excel under that shadow. He was really good for UT. And he made their team better, and supported the school. All of that is good. He put great teams together, that challenged UK in the SEC.
    Another thing, he was always complimentary about us. Not just the typical, this man really respects the game and the history the same way that our best fans do. Again, I love that about him. And I do hope that he get’s back into coaching, and preferably in the SEC where I will keep up with him.
    And he is a good enough coach, that if we didn’t have Cal, I would have loved to have him. (But, we got Cal!!)

  5. Juan4UK

    and no, they couldn’t be on the same bench. Exactly as Theresa said is true.

  6. Michael Duley

    I havealways loked Bruce Pearl, not for what he did on the recruiting front. but how he coached and the passion he brought to the game. His players always played tough and aggressive, and obviously, he could flat out coach. ESPN picked up a gem in Bruce Pearl, if they would only put him with Reece davis instead of Bobby Knight… geeesh.

    1. larryvaught

      Michael, I wouldn’t wish that anybody had to be with Bobby Knight

  7. Sarah White

    He was really good for UT. The students loved him. He loved the game. But to act as if he is honorable after he dumped his wife for a younger woman, lied to his bosses and NCAA, and let his staff take the brunt of the fall is going to far as far as I am concerned. We listen to them crucify Coach Cal for doing nothing wrong, but we want to jump on Pearl’s bandwagon immediately when he did violate rules – numerous times, not just once. He is a self-promoter (and I have nothing against that), but if he is all sweet about Cal (a turnaround from how he felt when Cal was in TN and in KY), he is doing it for a reason – UK support, promotion of his new job – there is always something.

    1. larryvaught

      Thanks Sarah for your thoughts on this as I know you were closer to Pearl than most of us living in Nashville. But he is really pro UK now and that could sure help on air all season.

    2. Scott Johnson

      Yes Sarah White, I agree; He did all of those things. As far as I’m concerned I hope he never gets another job coaching because of his recruiting methods,and also his home life. God said,”one wife for life.” Not a very good example for our young college students to follow. Tennessee Wildcat.

  8. Karen Sprinkle

    I totally agree with Sarah.

  9. Coach D

    Seems like Bruce is just putting pressure on his beloved Vols. He thinks they
    can win in Rupp, and if not, same on them.

  10. laura

    ESPN wake up for heavens sake!! Nobody cares about what Pearl thinks! If you are smart you’ll get rid of him and fast! I personally will turn off ESPN anytime I hear his name or see his face. He is a fraud and liar of the worst kind. Have you really sunk this low?

  11. Earl Allen

    I don’t believe aword Bruce Pearl says not now not ever.The cats will go undefeated at home.Possibly on the road.Way to go Coach Cal and team.

  12. Dave in Bangkok

    I liked Pearl as UT’s Coach. The rest is really none of my business.

  13. Ken Swafford

    I like Coach Pearl. I am a UK fan a love the game and competition. Kentucky fans love to see the cats play and beat these icons of coaching/schools. I hated to see him leave UT. Glad to see him Espn. He will be a good addition. Can’t say the same for some of the others. Glad to see the bum Billy Packer go. Angry and negative was his norm? That must have been why he was so in love with Bob Knight. Ha! Coach Knight was brillant. Frustrating spoiled kids of today got the best of him. Well.. that and his temper. I saw him while playing golf one day. Just glad he did not see me. I had UK head covers! I didn’t want to be in the papers fighting him. I guess that could have been my 15 minutes of fame! Go Cats!

  14. neckbone

    Bruce Pearl is a real stand-up guy and great coach. Bruce was a huge asset to U.T. and it’s basketball program. It is obvious the loss that was suffered in his unfortunate departure.
    Who would not be intimidated playing against the cats in Rupp. I don’t buy that statement. Who could help but be humbled by the history, and fans, much less the power house “CATS”.
    I don’t consider Bruce Pearl’s statement regarding a possible home defeat this year , a revelation or a sneak look into a crystal ball. As Bruce makes his debut as an ESPN analyst, I would say it is a calculated statement of little magnitude . My 13 year old grandson recognizes the odds of the “CATS” making unbeaten at home this year .
    What better way of making his debut as an analyst than with a calculated statement. Based solely upon the odds, the outcome is in his favor.
    No, I would venture to say his statement regarding the “CATS” being defeated at home this season would be one intended to fuel his prowess as the new kid on the block, were it to come to fruition.

  15. BobbyBlue

    Traditionally, ESPN seems to seek out, and hire, UK haters…In this article, Big Brucie doesn’t come off that way…I’ll reserve comment until I see if that stands the test of time,but I’d lay 5 to 2 that ESPNs, methods of negativity, will be forced on him.Guess we’ll see ! As for his personal life…I don’t believe thats anybody elses business,and
    only his professional actions,as a coach,representing an NCAA school should be open for discussion.

  16. Sarah White

    I don’t mean to imply he is a UK hater. I really do not believe that. He is a salesman through and though, but his product his himself. If you know that up front, you will understand him. It doen’t take a rocket scientist to know you are better served while trying to promote yourself if you do not alienate Kentucky fans. We forgive and move on. And, remember, if he can convince Coach Cal that he is now awesome, Cal just might help him find another coach job. He was great for UT; their students loved him; Coach Summit loved him. But, he is still and will forever be a self-promoter.

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