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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Fundraiser marks Bruce Pearl’s return to Thompson-Boling Arena

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Whereas ex-Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin was practically chased out of Knoxville by revenge-seeking Vols fans two years ago, fired basketball coach Bruce Pearl still calls the city home.

Pearl's even comfortable making a public appearance at Tennessee less than two months after losing his job as a result of a series of rules violations that landed the program in the NCAA's crosshairs.

On Saturday, Pearl and his wife Brandy will return to Thompson-Boling Arena to co-chair a black-tie fundraiser benefiting the Cancer Institute at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The cause has been important to Pearl since former guard Chris Lofton beat testicular cancer after being diagnosed with it in 2007 prior to his senior season.

Asked during a radio interview this week if he considered ceding responsibility for the fundraiser in the wake of his firing, Pearl told WNML-AM that never crossed his mind. He has tried to stay out of the limelight the past month out of deference to new coach Cuonzo Martin, but he and his wife felt a responsibility to do what he could to fight cancer.

"This is not about me," Pearl said. "This is about my wife Brandy. This has been Brandy's project for the last year. She and I are chairs for the event. That night we're going to have about 400 UT students involved in dancing, singing, drama. We're going to show off some of UT's best and brightest students."

The subject of the interview inevitably turned to Tennessee basketball, and Pearl was very complimentary of Martin. He expressed hope that some of this past year's role players may flourish under Martin as a result of the opportunities created by graduation and by the possible departures of early-entry candidates Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson.  {YSP:MORE}

"Sometimes coaching change can be very uplifting to a returning player," Pearl said. "Particularly a returning player that may not have flourished or been presented with the type of role they may have wanted."

What's next for Pearl? He said working as a TV analyst is "certainly a possibility."

"But you know right now, we've got to get through the hearing in front of the committee of infractions coming up in June," Pearl said. "When we get through that we'll take a look at what our options are."

(Thanks, College Basketball Nation)

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