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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, July 25, 2014

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In Sports

In Sports

In Sports

In Sports

In Sports

Milwaukee Talks: Bruce Pearl, 2004


Editor's note: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has opened its search for a new men's basketball coach after Bruce Pearl was introduced on March 28, 2005 as the coach at the University of Tennessee. The following interview was conducted in March 2004.

Bruce Pearl has taken a UWM basketball program that had started on the upswing and brought it to heights once never imagined. Under Pearl's direction, the Panthers won 24 games last season, the most by a UWM squad since the 1988-89 season, equaling the all-time school record.

He led UWM to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth after winning the Horizon League Tournament championship. Then, in the tournament, Pearl led the Panthers within a point of upsetting Notre Dame. His work has been recognized by his peers and the media, as Pearl has claimed Horizon League Coach of the Year honors in each of the last two seasons.

In his relatively brief time in Milwaukee, Pearl also has established himself as a salesman of UWM and the basketball program. He is active in the community on several fronts.

Pearl has the Panthers poised again for a run at the Horizon League tournament title and another bid to the NCAA tournament. He talked with Ryan Julson recently about the coaches and experiences that have influenced him, and what he hopes to accomplish in the present and future.

OMC: How did you first get involved in basketball? What other sports did you play when you were younger?

BP: I played football, baseball and basketball and a little bit of tennis. For my whole life I've always coached kids. When I was old enough to coach, I just started as a volunteer, and I had no idea that I would ever try to do it as a job or as a profession.

OMC: How do you handle coaching and raising a family?

BP: I married my best friend's sister, and he was a four-year starter at Boston College. I married a woman whose uncle is "Stormin' Norman" Sloan, who won a national championship in 1974 at N.C. State, and she obviously understands the profession and the time commitments and the pressures. And my family participates in everything that we do. My wife is very involved in the relations of our fans, donors and alumni and our players.

My children go to all our games and many of our practices and some of our road trips. I'm gone too long. I take them when I go out and recruit sometimes and take them with me when ever I possibly can. It's sort of sad when you're home and rather than necessarily sitting down and doing as much homework with them as you like, you're watching tape and the only way your son can get close to you is by him giving you plays and diagrams.

OMC: Besides coaching, what other interests and hobbies do you have?

BP: Other than coaching and my family and my friends, I like to golf.

OMC: Being from Boston, are you a Red Sox fan? How do you feel about the Yankees stealing A-Rod away?

BP: I'm obviously upset about it. I am a huge Red Sox fan. I think it was another case of the Red Sox not going the extra mile. I mean, you get Curt Schilling and you have an opportunity to dump Manny Ramirez and move Nomar because he wants to go, get the best player in baseball and bring Maglio Ordonez into left field from the White Sox, and you let a couple of million dollars stand in the way. I mean, why did the players association accept the trade with the Yankees? And the answer is the Yankees put up the money.

OMC: Tell me about your experience at Boston College?

BP: I wasn't a player, but I practiced with the team. I refereed practices. I helped coach. I was a student assistant. I was a manager. I even wore the mascot outfit one day when the mascot was sick. So I just, kinda like I still do as a head coach, do whatever it takes.

OMC: How did Tom Davis help you as a person and as a coach?

BP: Tom Davis taught me many things about basketball. He also taught me a lot about working with young people, motivating them, being patient with them, caring about them and how to get them to be the best they can be.

OMC: You borrow aspects of defensive philosophy from Washington State's coach Dick Bennett and Bob Huggins from Cincinnati and offensive strategy from Bill Self and George Karl. What do they do that you like so much, that you feel it necessary to put it into your strategy?

BP: Huggins and Dick Bennett, their man-to-man defense philosophy. Bill Self, I got an interim break from him and George Karl, some of his offensive sets. But 70 percent of what we do is from Tom Davis.

OMC: How would you feel if one day other coaches around the country say they like to use Bruce Pearl's style in their strategy?

BP: I think as I look around our league and look around at other teams, they are using some of our things. We all do that. If I'm watching a tape of somebody and I see a really good out of bounds play that would fit into our scheme, we'll put it in.

OMC: What interested you at coaching at Southern Indiana?

BP: It was an opportunity to be a head coach. I had been an assistant for many years and at age 32, I thought it was time for me to try and see if I could take what I had learned from Dr. Tom and put it to work.

OMC: How did coaching at Southern Indiana prepare you for UWM?

BP: I inherited a program that had tied for last place. They were 4-14 in the league before I had got there. In my first year at Southern Indiana we were 14-4. Southern Indiana was the second largest school in the city of Evansville, or second most prominent school, similar to Marquette and UWM. So I knew things I needed to do as far as the public is concerned, the students, and the media. I try to generate some interest and support and the importance of it. And there are a lot of good coaches and good players in Division 2, and as a result it prepared me.

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