NEW YORK (JTA) — Bruce Pearl, who guided the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team to unprecedented success and the U.S. men’s squad to the Maccabiah Games gold medal, has been fired by the university.
Pearl, 51, was informed of his dismissal on Monday. The Knoxville school must reach a financial settlement with the coach and his assistants.
Pearl was charged with unethical conduct by the NCAA for misleading its investigators, which he acknowledged at a tearful news conference last September.
On an entry posted Monday on his Facebook page, Pearl said, “This is perhaps the saddest day in my life. I loved everything about Tennessee, Knoxville and the Volunteers. These were the best years of my life.”
Tennessee had docked his salary by $1.5 million over five years, banned him from off-campus recruiting for a year and terminated his contract in September. He was coaching without a contract. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive tacked on an eight-game suspension from conference play.
Pearl, who is Jewish and a popular speaker at Jewish events, led Tennessee to an unprecedented six straight NCAA tournament appearances. Michigan defeated the Vols, 75-45, in the second round of this year’s tournament.
In six seasons, Pearl led the Volunteers to their first No. 1 ranking in 2008 and first NCAA tournament regional finals appearance, missing out on a trip to the 2010 Final Four by one point.
In July 2009, Pearl’s American squad upset defending gold medalist Israel, 95-86, in overtime in the Maccabiah Games gold-medal game. His son Steven was a member of the squad, as well as the University of Tennessee team.
“It’s coaching the U.S. team, representing the United States of America in an international competition and coaching the game of basketball, the game I love, and doing it in my Jewish homeland,” he told JTA prior to the tournament. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”