As we mentioned in passing in this morning's Talking Points, Bruce Pearl really lit into his team in front of the media following Tennessee's one-point loss to Mississippi State Saturday. One of his primary criticisms was that the team lacked leadership.
If that comment raised your eyebrows a bit, you weren't the only one. VolQuest.com's John Brice says that Pearl voicing such a criticism now is at the very least ill-timed, coming so soon on the heels of the NCAA's Notice of Allegations. Color Melvin Goins confused, too, as he first simply disagreed but then decided to say what was really on his mind:
"I don't agree with that. Well, I do agree. From the top all the way down, you know," said an exasperated Goins, a classy player who has never shied away from tough questions. "So I guess so. If that's what (Pearl) says, that's what it is. Lack of leadership."
Oh, boy. Credit Brice for getting that quote, but I sure hope it doesn't completely unhinge things. I'm not sure, though, that you can really fault Goins for saying it, either. Honestly, how many of us had a vicarious initial defensive reaction to Pearl calling out the team for a lack of leadership when he's been absent for half of the SEC season due to his own problems?
On the other hand, what is he supposed to do? He may have damaged his credibility as a leader of the team, but he's still the coach, and if he's identified a problem that needs to be addressed, it can't just go unaddressed because he feels like he's not the right guy to deliver the message, right? So he can risk being called a hypocrite or he can coach without really coaching to the best of his ability. It's a mess, but I'd choose the former rather than the latter because of the shelf life of that particular strategy, and although rehabilitation is often a much slower process than we'd like, it's really the only way out.