Pearl says he's happy at Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Bruce Pearl says he's happy at Tennessee and won't consider leaving now.

The men's basketball coach was contacted Tuesday by Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, who got clearance the night before from Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton to talk to Pearl, a former Iowa assistant.

Pearl told Barta he was not leaving Tennessee, and then he wanted fans to know.

"I'm putting it out there just as fast as I can because I don't want it to be a concern of our fans, and I want to demonstrate my loyalty and my commitment to this program. I appreciate very much being here, so I don't want them to worry about me going anywhere," Pearl told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "This is where I want to be. I want to be here as long as they'll be happy with me here."

In a statement issued by the school, Pearl expressed appreciation for support from fans, administrators and other coaches, namely football coach Phillip Fulmer and women's
basketball coach Pat Summitt.

"It was never a consideration for me to leave Tennessee," Pearl said in the statement. "I had a phone conversation with Iowa's athletic director early this morning as a courtesy for a place I have coached at and have great respect for. The University of Iowa is an outstanding school, and I know they will find a quality coach to continue their strong tradition of great basketball."

Pearl's decision to remain with the Volunteers was first reported by The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Tennessean.

Steve Alford left Iowa after eight seasons to be head coach at New Mexico.

In only two years, Pearl has turned around a mediocre program, delivering two straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament and the Volunteers' first time in the round of 16 since 2000.

"I think Bruce wants to be at the University of Tennessee," Hamilton said before Pearl released his statement. "I would expect it to be a natural progression for Iowa to be interested in Bruce because of his tenure there and the success he's had since he left
there. But I feel like, based on my relationship with Bruce and the context of our discussions about the future of Tennessee basketball, that he's very happy here and I don't anticipate him leaving."

Pearl was an assistant at Iowa from 1986 to 1992, when he left to become head coach at Division II Southern Indiana. He coached at Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 2001 to 2005 before being hired by Tennessee.

Pearl got a two-year extension after last season through 2012 with an escalating pay scale each year. His total compensation package will increase from $1.1 million this year to $1.2 million next year. Hamilton said Pearl would also receive a one-year extension through 2013. Pearl currently has a $1 million buyout clause.

Pearl caused a stir during his time at Iowa for his role in a recruiting scandal. Pearl gave the NCAA tape he'd secretly recorded that started a long investigation, resulting in Illinois being banned from the postseason in 1991.