Bruce Pearl is out as head coach at Tennessee, and he leaves the Vols on shaky footing, waiting for the NCAA hammer to fall. Seasoned Illini fans everywhere shared a grim smile this week, a brief moment of satisfaction. Someone once said, schadenfreude is the best freude… But so long as Pearl receives compensation from his coaching stint (which you can bet he will until sanctions are announced and the Vols can show cause), so long as there’s a chance he’ll get another shot in coaching, we won’t feel justice has been done.
Part of the problem is how major media outlets like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the Wall Street Journal have continued to portray Pearl as some kind of honorable whistle-blower when they mention the episode 22 years ago involving Illinois. This is what you might call revisionist history. It’s enough to make your stomach hurt.
If you want to know some of the actual details of this episode, download this recent podcast from WDWS in Champaign. Longtime host and former Illini color man, Jim Turpin, does a long interview and explanation with Steve Beckett, who helped represent Deon and Illinois against the NCAA. It’s about 20 minutes and it’s worth a listen.
At least the rest of the nation now knows Pearl is a liar and a cheater. Case in point: less than a week after his tearful TV interview and confession, he was once again breaking the rules. Even in the SEC (conference motto: if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’) they could not let this pass.
Meanwhile Deon Thomas is back in the USA after a long pro career in Europe. He’s two years into a stint as the head coach at Lewis and Clark Community College in the Metro East St. Louis area, where they had a great season as a Div. II Juco team last year, but struggled some this season moving up to Div I. We don’t know Deon’s career objectives, but here’s hoping Bruce Weber has his number. If an assistant slot comes open, he’s just the guy to mentor the raw Illini big men.
And on some level it would be fitting for Deon to rise again in the Orange and Blue as Pearl fades to obscurity.