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March 17, 2011
Dealing with a mess
The intent of the comments made by Tenenssee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton in a radio interview on Knoxville's WNML radio is anyone's guess. Was it a simple mistake? Was it calculated to try and test the waters or prepare fans for change? No one knows for sure, and we may never know.
Hamilton has privately indicated that it wasn't to create a firestorm. Wednesday night in Charlotte, Hamilton apologized to the basketball staff at a dinner that was previously planned with the coaching staff and administrators.
Whatever the reason for Hamilton's comments, they were ill-timed, ill-warranted and have created more than a firestorm.
They've created a mess.
In the interview when asked if Bruce Pearl would be back next year Hamilton, have saying with conviction for months that Pearl was his coach left the door open for possible change.
"We don't know the answer today," the AD said when asked if Pearl will return. "We've done a lot of soul searching about the direction of our program and we'll continue to do that and we'll decide after we're out of the NCAA Tournament what direction it is that we're going to go next."
"We're not going to finish our evaluation until after the season is over."
It's worth noting that Hamilton and every AD around the country evaluates their coaches at seasons end, but the comments seem like a 180 turn from previous comments that Hamilton has made including some as late as last Friday.
The simple timing is the biggest mess. Today, Bruce Pearl and his players will spend the mid-morning at their mandatory NCAA media session answering questions about whether or not Friday could be Pearl's last day as the Vols head man.
The timing has left everyone scratching their heads, even the likes of Dick Vitale, who tweeted Wednesday night how absurd Hamilton's comments were on the eve of the start of college basketball's finest hours, known as March Madness.
One of the obligations of an athletic director is to protect and assist student athletes. As players spend an hour tomorrow answering questions about a possible future without Pearl, Hamilton has failed to protect them thanks to his interview.
Hamilton's comments have also placed Tennessee as a national headline for the entire weekend. Win or lose, the Vols will remain a national story all weekend long. And not the kind of story anyone wants.
Finally, Hamilton's comments and the timing of them have sent plenty of waves throughout college basketball and you do have to wonder how it would affect potential candidates if a change were to take place. Hamilton's lack of a vote of confidence 48 hours before his team takes the floor will be something that's noted by coaches everywhere.
Why Hamilton said what he said two days before his basketball team looks to go 5-1 in opening-round NCAA Tournament games under Pearl is anyone's guess.
What we do know, based on reaction, is that the results of those comments have created a firestorm not just for Pearl and his players as they meet the media, but a firestorm of criticism for Hamilton as well.