What a strange, surreal day in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Bruce Pearl, who took the Vols to unprecedented heights as head coach from 2005-11, returned to Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time since being fired after NCAA sanctions four years ago. He coaches Auburn now, but is still very popular in Tennessee -- remember that petition to re-hire him last year? -- and the local fans greeted him accordingly.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl gets standing ovation from Tennessee crowd. But louder cheers for current UT coach Donnie Tyndall.
— Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis) January 31, 2015
Pretty positive welcome for Bruce Pearl at TBA. A lot of clapping. Some Brucing. Donnie Tyndall got a louder cheer, for those keeping score.
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) January 31, 2015
How many times do you see a fired former coach high-fiving students as head coach of a conference rival?
But Pearl wasn't the only coach fired by Tennessee in the house on Saturday. Phillip Fulmer, who won the 1998 college football national championship and coached 16 seasons at UT before being canned in 2008, sat courtside and even donned an orange blazer, which Pearl used to famously wear during games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Fulmer got a standing ovation as well.
— Football Time in TN (@FootballTimeMag) January 31, 2015
As if that weren't enough, current football coach Butch Jones was also in the house, sitting in the student section and hosting recruits on the final weekend before national signing day.
Loudest cheer of the day here at Thompson-Boling Arena when they showed Butch Jones in the student section.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) January 31, 2015
— Vol Photos (@Vol_Photos) January 31, 2015
Butch Jones and Drew Richmond. https://t.co/P5yhC5S4d1
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 31, 2015
Bruce Pearl, Donnie Tyndall, Butch Jones and Phil Fulmer all in the same building... I must be dreaming
— Nick Campbell (@NickyPu_30) January 31, 2015
Donnie Tyndall, Bruce Pearl, Butch Jones, and Phillip Fulmer are in the same room with me and I don't think I've ever been so happy 😍🍊🍊
— Hannah Hinson (@HannahxMargaret) January 31, 2015
And oh yeah, the basketball game. The Vols won that 71-63. So with two fired coaches and a popular football coach stealing much of the spotlight in Knoxville, it was a pretty big day for current basketball coach Donnie Tyndall as well -- and the student section chanted his name as the final buzzer sounded.
Really glad to hear our student section chant @UTCoachTyndall 's name! Passing of the torch if you will!! You the man Donnie!!
— David Cullop (@GiveHim61016) January 31, 2015
This day belongs to Donnie Knoxville, 71-63.
— Mike Strange (@Strangemike44) January 31, 2015