Todd Bozeman’s tale an indicator of Bruce Pearl’s future

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Bruce Pearl passed on coaching in the NBA’s D-League for a job with a Knoxville-based grocery, which might keep him occupied for the entire run of his three-year show cause penalty by the NCAA.

Or maybe a little longer.

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman used to be the toast of college hoops. He wasn’t even 30 when Cal stunned reigning champ Duke and reached the Sweet 16 in 1993. But when he admitted to paying $30,000 to the parent of Jelani Gardner, the NCAA slapped him with an eight-year show cause. As he told Brendan F. Quinn in an excellent feature with the Chattanooga News, it essentially derailed his career. An excerpt:

“I didn’t think I would have to sit the whole time,” he says.  “It ended up being 10 years.  It was an eight-year sanction that ended up being a 10-year ban.  I thought that because of my success, someone would hire me, or at least talk to me.  That didn’t really happen.”

While it’s a common belief that a show-cause penalty is an iron-clad coaching ban, that is not really the case.  For eight years, Bozeman rested his dreams on the glimmer of hope that the penalty affords.  In reality, though, that glimmer is little more than an alchemist’s fantasy.

“Somebody can actually hire you,” he still says even today.  “It’s a misconception that nobody can hire you — you can be hired, but that school will have to go before the committee on infractions to explain why they feel as though they should hire you.  And why they want to hire you.  And the committee wants to know if you’ve disclosed all the information to the school and been upfront.”

And who would ever want to go through all of that?  Nobody.  And no one did for Todd Bozeman. 

What’s in mean for Pearl? Quinn notes that Pearl will be 55 when his show cause ends in 2014, a world of difference from Bozeman, who was 42. There’s little doubt he’ll want to get back into coaching, but his reality may dictate it be at a low- or mid-major school.

The Tennessees of the world? Those may be forever out of reach.

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