Once again, the Cobra comes through in the clutch. We had Bruce Pearl on again this morning, following his appearance last week, which led to his team's Sweet 16 run. Bruce was looking for more mojo, and who can blame him, quite honestly? I hope we gave him the edge--it is an inspiring story to see his move from D-2 Southern Indiana to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and then beyond. And trust me, after this year, it will be beyond. His answer to Eli's question regarding his future was surprisingly candid--he said that he's not thinking about it at all (which I think is true), but that he would listen to all the offers after the season is over (which is definitely true).
He will almost certainly get serious interest from Tennessee. According to Chris Low of the Tennessean, the search has narrowed to either Dana Altman of Creighton or Bruce Pearl. Pearl's been endorsed by Ernie Grunfeld, who wields a pretty influential stick in UT basketball. As for the other candidates, I think Bobby Knight is probably out of it at this point, as is Bobby Lutz. I, for one, am glad Lutz is out of contention. He got completely outcoached by Herb Sendek in the tournament, just like he was outcoached by Bobby Knight in last year's tournament. He's a good coach, but that's all. Good. Stay in Charlotte, Bobby.
I hope it's Bruce Pearl. The guy has as impressive a resume as you will see with his surprisingly limited head coaching experience--he made Southern Indiana into a massive D-2 powerhouse, he has worked with some of the best coaches in the business, and what he's done at Wisconsin-Milwaukee speaks for itself. He's put them in a big new arena, increased donations, and helped to oversee improvements in facilities and in the program itself. He's the choice. Altman is a very good coach, but Pearl is the choice.
I was at Grizzlies practice yesterday--well, check that, I was in the Forum, waiting for the Grizzlies to open practice to the media. It turned out that I (and everyone else) saw only the last 5 minutes of the Grizzlies' free throw shooting at the end of practice. The Grizzlies are supposed to allow us to see more, but, for whatever reason, that didn't happen. Anyway, I spoke with Pau Gasol, and his foot is definitely feeling better--his attitude is very good, he's positive, and he seems to have overcome the mental block of playing on his injured foot. Now he's just got to get back in game shape--he had the unenviable task of coming back for the Phoenix game, the one team in the league that does nothing but run up and down the court. After about 3 possessions, Pau looked like he had been in a marathon. He's going to be fine.
Stromile Swift, on the other hand, still has a long way to go. Not physically, because he's received medical clearance to play. Mentally, he's got to get stronger. Ron Tillery wrote an article yesterday that I thought was tough but fair outlining the key points on what's happening with Stro. The fact of the matter is that Stromile's been out for 13 games with what amounts to a mildly sprained ankle. LeBron James mildly sprained his ankle against the Grizzlies back in January, and came back that very same game to help Cleveland win. He then missed a couple of games with the injury. Stro's missed THIRTEEN games. I will say it again: he's been medically cleared to play, yet he can't or won't. Why can't he at least try to play? He says he doesn't have the lift, but perhaps he could help the team in other ways. Stromile's hurting the team with this injury, yes, but he's really hurting himself more than anything else. Going into a contract year, with his toughness already a question to many teams, this act is going to cost him money--and it will help justify why the Grizzlies didn't sign him to a long-term deal. Stro will play tomorrow night against New Jersey. Hopefully, he and Pau will be back in game shape in the next couple of weeks, and the Grizzlies will have more or less a full roster going into the playoffs.
The minutes build up, you know. Brian Cardinal's not used to playing 30-35 minutes a night, and the wear and tear on his body could be a factor in why he's been struggling offensively as of late. Same thing with Earl Watson and Shane Battier. As much as anything else, the Grizzlies need bodies to play quality minutes and let some of the players rest.
I went to WWE Smackdown last night at the Forum. It was OK. Way too long, really. The funniest part of the show was the Big Show's attempt to flip over a Jeep. You would have figured that a multimillion dollar organization like the WWE would have rigged the Jeep to be easily flipped--or at least ascertained whether or not the Jeep flip was actually, you know, possible. Instead, the Big Show tried to flip over the Jeep, failed, tried again, failed, tried yet again, failed, then smashed the windshield in anger. Twenty minutes later, he came back out to try again, and flipped the thing over without a problem. Oh, did I mention that by this time a WWE stagehand had jacked up the Jeep at such an angle that merely breathing on it would have flipped it? Edited, it will look fine. Live, it was a disaster.