NCAA: Justice Served With Tennessee
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The NCAA Gets It Right: The NCAA catches a lot of heat for the way that they operate and how unfair their punishments can be at times. However, we just witnessed a major change in their philosophy in the case of former Tennessee Volunteers head coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl and his staff, who were found guilty of multiple recruiting violations and fired at season’s end, received the show-cause penalty while Tennessee went virtually unpunished.
Pearl’s penalty is for three years while his staff’s is just for one. Until these penalties expire it will be quite difficult for them to find work in the NCAA as whatever institute that hired them would have to deal extensively with the NCAA to keep them employed. Most institutions won’t want to deal with the hassle.
Pearl already has other options lined up as he is currently considering becoming the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate the Texas Legends.
This is one of the few cases where you can say that the NCAA got it right. It wouldn’t have been just if Tennessee’s new head basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, and his players especially, had to pay the price for Pearl’s wrongdoing. They had nothing to do with it.
It’s great to see the NCAA learning from their mistakes because it wasn’t but just a few years ago when they banned the USC men’s basketball team from postseason play for a season due to former head coach Tim Floyd’s dealings with Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo.
While Floyd and Mayo were the main culprits in the case, it was USC that took the hit. Floyd and Mayo meanwhile made it out just fine. Mayo is in the league making millions while Floyd is already back to coaching at Conference USA’s Texas-El Paso.
Hopefully this ends up being a landmark trial that changes the way things are done for good. For far too long innocent coaches and players have been negatively affected by the mistakes of those who were there before them. That’s not how things should work and it’s nice to see the NCAA finally come to their senses.
There’s still a lot that the NCAA could change and do better with, but it’s all about making progress towards going in the right direction and this was a major step.
Walton Joins Tigers: Memphis Tigers head coach Josh Pastner announced this week the vacant assistant coach position on his staff would be filled by Los Angeles Lakers forward Luke Walton. Walton, a former All-American at Arizona, has an out in his agreement allowing him to return to the Lakers as soon as the lockout is over. Until then, he’s a Tiger.
This is a very interesting choice by Pastner, who had several different routes he could have gone in hiring a third assistant. He talked about just shouldering the extra duties himself; he also could have worked the NCAA’s gray areas and hired someone close to a top-ranked recruit to ensure he gets their signature on a letter of intent.
Instead he opted for Walton, who he formed a relationship with through their Arizona ties. Walton has been in the NBA for eight years now and has won two championships. He’s renowned for his incredible basketball IQ and has been coached by one of the greatest coaches ever in retired Hall of Famer Phil Jackson. Jackson was actually grooming Walton for a future in coaching by having him join the staff in games when Walton was inactive due to injury.
At the age of 31 with a troublesome back, Walton isn’t far away from moving on to life after playing basketball. His current contract has two years and $11.7 million remaining on it. The experience he will gain as an assistant for Memphis is going to be invaluable. Meanwhile, he’ll also be bringing a lot to the table.
Walton is expected to work with the big men and help with recruiting as soon as he passes the NCAA’s certification test. The only problem, though, is that there’s no telling when he could leave. Technically, he could leave in less than a month for training camp if an agreement gets worked out on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the players and owners.
Luckily for Memphis, that seems highly unlikely. So, they’re going to have Walton for the foreseeable future and potentially even the whole season.
This time will serve as a bit of an audition period for Walton. In two years as a head coach Pastner has proven to be a young star. He works as hard as anyone in the country and is already a fine head coach. Come two years from now when Walton’s contract expires he could be the head coach of one of the premier high major schools in the country. If Walton does enough during his time under Pastner now, there could be a spot on his staff waiting for him again when he decides to retire as a player.
Miami Takes Another Hit: The University of Miami just cannot catch a break right now. Their entire athletics program is under investigation and it looks like football could potentially receive the death penalty. The basketball program looks like they’re going to be alright in terms of NCAA violations, but they keep getting hit by injuires.
Already without starting center Reggie Johnson until conference play due to a torn meniscus, the Hurricanes also lost forward/center Julian Gamble this week to a torn ACL. Gamble started 13 games last year, averaging three points and four rebounds a game. He was expected to have a bigger role while Johnson continued his rehab.
In a league like the ACC with plenty of good big men, this will greatly hamper the Hurricanes in their first year under Jim Larranaga.
Yannis Koutroupis is a senior NCAA and NBA analyst for HOOPSWORLD. You can follow him on Twitter.