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Pearl says he'll make Vols an elite team

Associated Press
Published March 29, 2005


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Bruce Pearl was introduced as Tennessee's coach Monday after leading Wisconsin-Milwaukee on a surprising run through the NCAA Tournament.

"This is a dream come true," the 45-year-old Pearl said after becoming Tennessee's sixth coach in 16 years. "I feel like I am prepared."

Pearl took 12th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the program's 109-year history.

UT failed to make the NCAA Tournament in four years under coach Buzz Peterson, who was fired March 13 after a 14-17 season. The Vols last tournament appearance was 2001.

Tennessee gave Pearl a five-year contract and will pay him $800,000 a year, plus bonuses. Pearl made between $275,000 and $300,000 in base salary at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I am going to work every day trying to reward you for this decision," Pearl said, vowing to bring a defense-driven, fastbreak style of play to the SEC that "hasn't been seen in a long time."

BOGUT GOING PRO: Utah center Andrew Bogut will enter the NBA draft, forgoing his final two years of eligibility to possibly become the No.1 choice. Bogut, the leading vote-getter on the AP All-America team, averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds while leading the Utes to a 29-6 season, which ended with a loss to Kentucky in the region semifinals. He has an agent. The 7-footer was a starter on Australia's Olympic team last summer and averaged 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds.

DIOGU TESTING NBA WATER: Arizona State junior forward Ike Diogu made himself eligible for the draft after a season in which he led the Pac-10 in scoring and rebounding. The 6-foot-8 Diogu hasn't hired an agent and could return to Arizona State. He has until June 21 to remove his name from draft consideration. Diogu, a second-team All-American and the Pac-10's player of the year, had a conference-best 22.6 point scoring average and led the Pac-10 in rebounding at 9.8.

BORROWING FROM PITINO: Reggie Theus plans to use some of his mentor's tricks as the new coach at New Mexico State. Theus said the two seasons he spent as Louisville coach Rick Pitino's chief recruiter have prepared him for his first Division I coaching job. "I'll be taking a page out of a lot of his books," he said. Theus made a quick stop in Las Cruces, N.M., and was to rejoin Louisville as it prepares for the Final Four. The Cardinals play Illinois on Saturday in St. Louis. The 47-year-old Theus was given a five-year contract with a base salary of $189,000, which goes up to $230,000 a year with incentives and perks. NMSU is coming off back-to-back losing seasons, including 6-24 last season under interim coach Tony Stubblefield, the Aggies' worst season since 1966.