"The noise never stops." That was Bruce Pearl's beleaguered declaration to a small handful of friends and reporters as he stood in the tunnel of Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena on March 18, moments before Tennessee's NCAA Tourney opener against Michigan.
His season began with a tearful admission that he had lied to the NCAA about recruiting violations. University-imposed sanctions, a contract termination and an eight-game suspension soon followed, but the tar-and-feathering lasted for months. The buzz around his job security crescendoed two days before the Michigan game, when his athletic director, Mike Hamilton, told a Knoxville radio station that he was uncertain if Pearl would return as men's basketball coach. For 48 hours, those words permeated every space of Pearl's life, from press conferences to his hotel room TV to the Twitter account that he ultimately decided to ignore.
He trudged, bleary-eyed, onto the court, where his team was hammered by 30. It was the worst, and...