UT denies Pearl in talks with Memphis - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

UT denies Pearl in talks with Memphis

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Tennessee is denying that anyone connected with Memphis has spoken with either coach Bruce Pearl or its athletic director about replacing John Calipari as the Tigers' basketball coach.

Action News 5 reported Thursday morning sources said Memphis had offered Pearl a seven year, $21 million contract to take over for Calipari. Calipari was introduced Wednesday as Kentucky's new coach and the highest paid in college basketball with an eight year, $31.65 million deal.

The source told Action News 5's Jarvis Greer that Pearl has expressed interest, and was expected to be in Memphis Thursday or Friday to interview for the job.

After Action News 5's initial report, WATE-TV in Knoxville reported Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton denied Memphis has offered Pearl a job.

"I feel strongly that Bruce would tell me if anything were going on," Hamilton was quoted on WATE's web site.

Hamilton said Memphis has not asked for permission to talk to Pearl, and to his knowledge has not made any contact.

Pearl was in Detroit, site of this weekend's Final Four, to present the Adolph Rupp national coach of award to Louisville coach Rick Pitino and was seen Thursday morning wearing a tan suit with a Tennessee orange tie and orange and blue pinstriped shirt.

But The Commercial Appeal reported on its Web site that Memphis planned to ask for permission to talk to Pearl.

Memphis spokesman Bob Winn said he conferred with athletic director R.C. Johnson at approximately 10:30 a.m. Central Thursday morning about Pearl.

"To the questions of is he coming here to be interviewed and have we made an offer? No and No," Winn said.

Pearl, a two-time coach of the year in the Southeastern Conference, took Tennessee to the first No. 1 ranking in school history in February 2008 by beating then-No. 1 Memphis and Calipari on the Tigers' home court. He has a $2.5 million buyout in his contract if he left Tennessee this year.

He earned $1.6 million for the 2008-09 season but is averaging $2.3 million a year under the six-season contract signed last summer that goes through 2013-14.

Also Thursday, Winn responded to reports former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight had interviewed for the open Tiger coaching position.  According to Winn, Athletic Director R.C. Johnson denied meeting with Knight, saying he may have been in town for an NBA event, sparking speculation he was interviewing for the Tiger coaching job.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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