No matter what Bruce Pearl does in his coaching career, to me he’s always going to be the guy who, as an administrative assistant to Tom Davis at Boston College, once wore the Eagles mascot costume during a game. That says all you need to know about Brucie — he’ll don any persona, no matter how unusual or degrading, in order to get ahead.
That includes Catskills insult comic, apparently. Appearing at a TVA charity fundraiser on Thursday morning, the Tennessee men’s basketball coach made a comment so inappropriate that it set off the auditorium’s automatic sprinkler system. At least that’s what I heard. Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. When will you learn? (Answer unclear).
Pearl, who speaks at many charity functions, rarely uses notes. Perhaps he should reexamine that policy. His words of wisdom:, via GOVOLEXTRA.COM:
“I’ve got a tough job. I’ve got to put these guys from different worlds together, right? I’ve got guys from Chicago, Detroit … I’m talking about the ‘hood! And I’ve got guys from Grainger County, where they wear the hood.”
Hey, I thought it was a roast!
It might be said that Pearl was just playing to his audience. In fact, one in the crowd, Doug McBee, a teacher at Grainger High School and the father of a Tennessee recruit, had no problem with it.
“There’s no hard feelings at all,” McBee said. “We are country up here, but we’re not prejudice. It was a joke, and that’s how I took it.”
The problem is that we’re way past the days when a high-profile speaker can tailor remarks to a particular audience. (See Allen, George: Macaca). Today they have things called television and the Internet, where people sometimes tend not to get the joke. In fact, Knoxville TV station WBIR covered the event, and not only aired Pearl’s comments, but put them on its Web site.
Who’s sorry now? Just hours after making the comment, Pearl issued this statement:
“This morning while speaking at a private kick-off event for a great organization that benefits many local charities, I made a statement in jest to describe the diverse group our staff recruits year-in and year-out.“Unfortunately while I was trying to excite the crowd and encourage employees to give, I made an inappropriate joke. I certainly did not intend to offend anyone and I apologize to everyone, especially the people of Grainger County.
“In no way am I trying to justify what I said, but I’m disappointed that the focus has been placed on me rather than the charities I was there to help. My only hope is that the visibility of this mistake will encourage those who can to give to those in need during these difficult times.”
Wait, was that even an apology? It was more like, “Screw you guys for not getting the joke. And by the way, give that charity some money you cheapskates.” Do over!