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Bruce Pearl Is Not the Answer for South Carolina Basketball

I should preface this by saying there's not a snowball's chance in hell of this actually happening, so take this with a grain of salt. However, one idea that's started to pop up in Gamecock-land is that Eric Hyman should hire Bruce Pearl to take over the hoops program after firing Darrin Horn at year's end. Again, this won't actually happen, but I think it's worthwhile to point out why it shouldn't happen.

The argument against Pearl, needless to say, is that he has a reputation for shady professional practices. That reputation came with him to Tennessee, and it's what got him a dreaded show-clause penalty from the NCAA. It's worth noting that succeeding in the rough-and-tumble world of NCAA hoops recruiting takes a little bit of edginess vis-a-vis the rulebook. There's simply a bit of a wild-wild-west atmosphere on the AAU circuits, and a good coach has to be able to navigate that to get the best players. However, Pearl is in another category of edginess, IMO. A show-clause penalty is pretty damning; by comparison, the NCAA has nothing anywhere remotely so damning on the perpetually suspected John Calipari, likely because Calipari either has some modicum of respect for the rules, or because he's too smart to reveal otherwise. (I tend to think Calipari is innocent, if anyone cares to know--I think he's the best out there at navigating hoops recruiting well without breaking the rules.) Either way, Pearl comes off horribly by comparison.

If Pearl were to come to Carolina after his show-clause is up, he would likely be able to turn things around quickly, just like he did at Tennessee. However, where would we be five years down the road? Based on Pearl's track record, we'd be where Tennessee is now, program's reputation tarnished and searching for stability again. Tennessee football is in the same boat, only worse. When the Vols canned Phil Fulmer, they went to a high-profile coach who they believed could provide a quick fix. That coach (Lane Kiffin) jumped for the next best thing, where he'll probably suffer Pearl's fate after the NCAA finally catches him. Volunteer football is in the absolute gutter, having just finished a 5-7 season under an inept coach who decided to sign a recruiting class this cycle with no offensive linemen.

This is Mike Hamilton athletics, people. It's precisely what Carolina does not need. If Hyman cans Horn, either this season or next, he needs to do one of two things: Go after a young coach who he believes is committed to building the program and enjoying a long-term career at USC, or find a basketball version of Steve Spurrier who can come in for 7-10 years, win some games, and bring some stability to the program in order to pave the way for a more career-type guy. Gregg Marshall is, IMO, the ideal choice for the first option; he's a coach with a proven record of success, and there's reason to believe that he'd be here for the long haul. That said, there are other options for this category, too; heck, I might be willing to give Horn one more year to prove he's the guy, although I think there's certainly an argument that he's obviously not. I don't like the second option as much, simply because there aren't many Spurrier-like coaches lying around out there, and, even with Spurrier, I'm somewhat amazed at how things have worked out for our football program. Regardless, neither of these options include hiring a guy like Pearl. I'd prefer to take the high road on this one--not just because I'm a nice guy, but also because it's what's best for Carolina basketball.