Pearl says family prompted decision to pass on D-League

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Bruce Pearl always was a marketing genius. But it’ll be interesting to see how he fares when he’s not marketing himself.

The former Tennessee coach passed on a job with the Texas Legends of the NBA’s D-League team to be a vice president of marketing with H.T. Hackney, a Knoxville-based grocery company. Didn’t see that one coming. Not from a guy who proclaimed his desire to coach. Guess that didn’t apply at every level.

But Pearl, who majored in marketing and economics in college, maintains the decision was about family, not him. (Cue the skeptics.)

“It’s really an answer to prayer,” Pearl told The Associated Press. “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.”

He softened it a bit in his formal statement, where he could talk about family, the job and the guy who lured him to H.T. Hackney, Bill Sansom, a former Tennessee trustee.

“I worked for 33 years — my entire coaching career — to get to a place like Knoxville,” the former coach said in a statement. “This is where my family lives, this is home. We have made life-long friends here and we are very blessed to have this opportunity. … It took a company like H.T. Hackney with a leader like Bill Sansom to attract me. As a coach, I know the importance of being a team player. It is my goal to assist our sales and marketing staff to better serve our customers, vendors and to grow our business.”

Sansom, who apparently approached Pearl about this gig months ago, is realistic about the long-term prospects, too. Once Pearl’s three-year show cause expires, he’ll attract more interest from schools and probably get back into coaching at a mid-major school.

Where he’ll undoubtedly market himself to new fans, and thrive doing it. Where is the only question.

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