KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl accepted a job as vice president of marketing with a Knoxville-based wholesale grocery company, bypassing the chance to coach the Texas Legends of the NBA's developmental league.
He will begin working at H.T. Hackney on Thursday. The company is led by chairman and CEO Bill Sansom, a former University of Tennessee trustee.
"It's really an answer to prayer," Pearl told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "This is where my family is. This is where I want to be. Everybody looks at me as a coach, but I'm a father and a husband, and I've got to provide for my family."
Pearl was fired in March after six seasons at Tennessee in the wake of a two-year NCAA investigation that culminated Wednesday with a three-year show-cause penalty against the coach. The sanction makes it nearly impossible for another school to hire him during that time.
He had considered an offer to coach the Legends of the NBA's developmental league, but he said he wanted to remain in Knoxville. His two oldest children live and work in Knoxville, while his youngest two children are in high school. His wife, Brandy, is from nearby Sevierville, Tenn.
Pearl majored in marketing and economics at Boston College. He said he would have pursued a career in marketing had he not gotten into coaching in 1982.
"I am a former basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, and I'm very proud of almost everything that we accomplished," he said. "I'm excited about this new challenge. I'm going to bring the same level of passion and intensity. This is a championship team already. Nobody in the industry does that better. I'm learning that quickly."
Sansom said he asked Pearl several months ago if he'd considered taking a non-coaching job with a local company.
"A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with Bruce and Brandy, and he was talking about Texas and if he really wanted to go to Texas, and I said, 'You ought to talk to us,'" Sansom said.
H.T. Hackney is a privately held company with annual revenues of about $4 billion. Sansom and Pearl declined to reveal Pearl's salary.
Sansom said he felt Pearl fit the company's culture and said he had no problem if Pearl wanted to pursue coaching again in three years.
"I hope Bruce has so much fun he won't want to leave, but if he's got that passion and has an opportunity, that's not a problem for either one of us if he wants to do that when the time comes," Sansom said.