09-24-09 – In the final installment of “Coaches Gone Wild”, we’re treated to a true ‘Pearl of Wisdom”. If Bruce Pearl thought his job was tough before throwing around race jokes at charity events, the next few months should prove to be several times worse. Pearl, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, was one of the featured speakers at a kickoff for charity fundraiser among Tennessee Valley Authority employees. He took questions from the crowd, and one person asked him about his three new players this year. Part of his response was as follows:
“I’ve got a tough job. I’ve got to put these guys from different worlds together, right? I’ve got guys from Chicago, Detroit. I’m talking about the hood! And I’ve got guys from Grainger County, where they wear the hood!” Pearl said. After a pause, he added, “That wasn’t part of the script.”
“This morning while speaking at a private kick-off event for a great organization that benefits many local charities, I made a statement in jest to describe the diverse group our staff recruits year-in and year-out.
“Unfortunately while I was trying to excite the crowd and encourage employees to give, I made an inappropriate joke. I certainly did not intend to offend anyone and I apologize to everyone, especially the people of Grainger County.
“In no way am I trying to justify what I said, but I’m disappointed that the focus has been placed on me rather than the charities I was there to help. My only hope is that the visibility of this mistake will encourage those who can to give to those in need during these difficult times.”
The man is charismatic, there’s no denying that, as evidenced in the photo where he painted a “V” on his chest in support of the Lady Vols. He’s a great motivator and speaker, apparently knowing his audience there in Tennessee to a fault. Even the folks from the county to which Pearl refers, Grainger, didn’t have a problem with the comment and laughed it off, saying they understood it to be a joke. That’s fine, I guess, but what about the kids he referred to from “the hood”? So far we haven’t heard from them, and I doubt we will, but I’m curious to know what they think.
After further review, Bruce Pearl seems to be getting a free pass and that really worries me. It shouldn’t be ok for a coach to slip up and draw race cards to excite the crowd. The fact that the crowd enabled the joke to succeed, at a charity event, is pretty scary as well… but that’s a different story for a different day. I just hope Bruce Pearl can think of better ways in the future of getting his audience to donate to charity.