Sources: D-League team eyes Pearl as head coach

CHICAGO – The Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League are courting ex-Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for its head coaching job, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Maine president and general manager Jon Jennings recently made contact with Pearl to express an interest in hiring him, and the two are expected to talk further about the job in the near future, sources said.

When reached by phone on Friday, Jennings confirmed Maine's interest in Pearl but declined to comment on the search.

Pearl has privately expressed a preference for his next move to be in television or as an NBA assistant coach, but he's open to hearing out Maine's pitch, a source with knowledge of his thinking said.

After six seasons at the University of Tennessee, Pearl was fired at the end of the 2010-11 season after lying to NCAA investigators during an inquiry. Pearl has been anxious to find out whether the NCAA will impose restrictions on his immediate return to college coaching.

Pearl, 51, has New England roots, and a combination of his considerable coaching talent and marketing acumen make him an attractive candidate for the Red Claws. Pearl reached the NCAA tournament in each of his six seasons at Tennessee, including two trips to the Sweet 16 and another to the Elite Eight. He has a 231-99 record in 10 seasons of Division I coaching, and won a national championship for Division II Southern Indiana in 1995.

Just two seasons into its existence, the Red Claws have become one of the D-League's most successful business operations with a strong season ticket base and string of 48 consecutive sold out games.

Nevertheless, Pearl could make more money in television. Even the plumb D-League coaching jobs don't exceed the low $100,000 range. The Maine coaching job recently came open when its coach, Austin Ainge, left to become director of player personnel with the Boston Celtics.