SANDESTIN – Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl doesn’t get it. He
doesn’t understand why writers are walking around at the SEC spring
meetings this week asking the football and basketball coaches about why
Lane Kiffin is so disliked.
Pearl doesn’t see it.
“Maybe he’s misunderstood,” Pearl said of the controversial new UT football coach. “He’s not disliked.”
Pearl said that whatever/however Kiffin is doing things, it’s obviously working.
guys are asking me about Lane and about Tennessee football,” Pearl
said. “I’m on PTI (Pardon The Interruption on ESPN) during March
Madness and they’re talking about Lane. He’s playing you guys perfectly.
excited, he understands the challenge. Look at the staff he’s put
together. I know from taking over at Tennessee four years ago, one of
the biggest problems was they (the fans) didn’t believe, the kids
didn’t believe. I’m not saying that’s the case at all. What I’m saying
is your coach better believe. He certainly is believing in his guys. My
line when I came to Tennessee was it was my goal to be the least
popular coach in the SEC. I managed to do it in a year. He managed to
do it in a week.”
Pearl said he was a huge fan of Phillip
Fulmer, but that UT athletic director Mike Hamilton made a bold and
positive move when hired Kiffin.
“I hated to see Coach Fulmer
go,” Pearl said. “Mike Hamilton made a change. I commend Mike for the
change he’s made in the sense that he’s brought something in that’s
different. (Kiffin) is setting the ball extremely high.
look at who they’ve recruited. I think you have to do that with a
certain confidence, a certain swagger. I don’t know how long it’s going
to take for those results to be in place on the field. I go back to my
first here at Tennessee. If you don’t believe in your kids, who will?
He absolutely does, and he’s not afraid to say it. He’s probably said
some things that other people thought weren’t right to say. But I
really believe he’s misunderstood. There’s nothing to dislike about
Pearl said Kiffin’s presence likely will have an impact on the UF-UT rivalry.
“Florida-Tennessee is a great rivalry,” he said. “Maybe it’s just gotten better.”