Posted by Barca Blog
Like it or not, Bruce Pearl has changed the heartbeat of Tennessee basketball since arriving in Knoxville in 2005. Under Pearl, the Vols have been to the NCAA Tournament every season and advanced to two consecutive Sweet Sixteen's. Tennessee’s 42 SEC wins are the most in the conference over the last four years. In 2007-08, Pearl guided the Vols to their first outright SEC championship since 1967.
So has Pearl's success impacted the rivalry between the Commodores and Vols? Both coaches commented on the subject during Thursday's SEC teleconference.
"I think that it's always been pretty intense. I think that any time the two teams play it's been intense. The 10 years that I've been here they've all been very intense games. Some have been blow outs in both directions, but they've been intense games. The crowds have been intense. I would imagine because of Bruce's personality and flamboyance there are a few Vanderbilt fans who like to dislike him more than maybe they have some other coaches. I don't think it's changed the nature of the rivalry, because the rivalry's intense no matter who's coaching the game, me or him or the people before us.
"I think that people probably tend to dislike people who win a lot, and he's certainly won a lot. It's probably not just exclusive to our people, because he's winning too much for a lot of people's taste... including mine (laughs)."
"I don't know what the rivalry was like before I got here. I just know that historically... Vanderbilt's been a great rival... For me, it's always been out of respect for Vanderbilt's program. It's been out of respect for their tradition to honor them in a way by calling them a rival. I think now that we're in the SEC East and we play them twice a year and it's in-state, our fans live next door to their fans, I don't know how it could be any more of a rivalry with me than it's always been."
Vanderbilt (15-8, 4-5 SEC) and Tennessee (15-8, 6-3) will square off in Knoxville Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. Pearl holds a 5-2 record vs. the Commodores as UT's coach. The Vols took the first meeting this year at Memorial Gym, 76-63, on January 20.