O'Donnell: Bruce Pearl's past presents a perplexing problem for Final Four credibility of CBS Sports

  • Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, who has committed transgressions at previous coaching stops, has his team in the Final Four this weekend in Minneapolis.

    Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, who has committed transgressions at previous coaching stops, has his team in the Final Four this weekend in Minneapolis. Associated Press

Updated 4/4/2019 7:21 PM

TO SOME, THE SPECTER OF BRUCE PEARL helping to cut down the nets after the NCAA championship game Monday night is about as heartening as hearing Roger Stone has been appointed Secretary of State.

If Pearl's Auburn wins, maybe Oscar-winning Rami Malek can reprise his role as Freddie Mercury to flamboy along with "One Rapscallion Moment."


In a conference call this week, CBS minds acknowledged the pockmarked past of Pearl. But they could not yet confirm how The Fisheye Network will handle that well-sanctioned ledger once the bright lights go on around U.S. Bank Stadium.

"If there was something new to report, I think we certainly would," said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports. "I think everyone is well aware of the transgressions. It's a decision we'll make when we get to Minneapolis."

Added a most catholic Bill Raftery: "I know there've been some missteps in his career. (But) certainly the administrations that have hired him have talked about them, including ESPN. At this point in his career, I think he's been absolved."

The NCAA, at the end of a brutally image-diminishing basketball winter, can only hope the public buys into that elastic ethicality. Because Pearl -- remarkably hired at Auburn in 2014 while still under show-cause restrictions from his improprieties at Tennessee -- to many is now the most prominent embodiment of all that has gone so horribly wrong with college basketball.

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If Pearl's Auburn wins, maybe the net-cut "Shining" could be swapped out for a Waylon-esque "Are You Sure John Wooden Did It This Way?"

Because as Illinois star Deon Thomas -- an early object of Pearl's opportunistic freelancing -- once said, "It's hard to forgive a snake."

And the college bands will play on.

CREDIT STADIUM -- the pioneering 24/7 multiplatform sports network -- and producer / director Scott Diener with an evocative first out via the Derrick Rose doc "Pooh," set to premiere next Thursday at 6 p.m. (WatchStadium.com/Live, et al).

Both Rose and agent B.J. Armstrong are given executive producer credits, meaning Diener and Stadium associates had extraordinary access to the people and divergent thought processes that routed Rose's two-way trip to the stars. Joakim Noah, John Paxson and Jabari Parker, along with family and friends of Rose, are particularly candid in their framing.


The documentary's gun-barrel realism about the impact of growing up in Englewood on Rose is an enormously compelling thread. It also underscores the growing disconnect between most smartphone media and the hidden complexities underpinning some marquee sports prodigies.

MIKE CONKLIN -- who turned the sports chatter column into a reliable daily energizer during a tower-steady run at The Chicago Tribune -- has released a new book titled "Transfer U." (Amazon, $14.99; Kindle, $4.99).

It's the thoroughly contemporary tale of two very opposite college basketball teams -- one consisting entirely of undersized transfer students from China -- that wind up meeting in an improbable national championship game at Chicago's Wintrust Arena.

Conklin will return from duties in the creative writing program at Arizona State for a reading of "Transfer U." beginning at 6 p.m. April 11 at Lake Forest Book Store.

STREET-BEATIN': Frank Thomas will be MIA but Ozzie Guillen and Bill Melton will set the stage alongside host Chuck Garfien starting at noon Friday when the White Sox are now slated to open their home season vs. Seattle (NBCSCH, game at 1:10 p.m.; livestream of all available on NBCSportsChicago.com and the "My Teams by NBC Sports" app). Thomas may be busy texting fellow Auburn alum Charles Barkley trying to get down on the Tigers plus 5½ over Virginia in Saturday's Final Four opener (CBS-2, 5:09 p.m.). … If startup radio signals -- such as loading a new midday show with A-list guests -- are any indicator, Laurence Holmes will be hosting afternoon drive at WSCR-AM (670) no later than Halloween; Dan McNeil may then haul his angus over to yet another tadpole scheme promoting AC/DC memorabilia shows in the Hammond-LaPorte corridor. … With Cubs relievers about as effective as Toni Preckwinkle's mayoral campaign, daily TV sports listings should note both the starting time of games and the bullpen implosion time (BIT!) involving the urgently under-resourced Wigglies. … The DePaul men try to win their first post-season tournament since George Mikan and the Blue Demons netted the 1945 NIT when they host South Florida in the deciding Game 3 of the College Basketball Invitational finals Friday (ESPNU, 6 p.m.). Star guard Max Strus is playing his way into the NBA Summer League; breakout Demon is 6-9 sophomore Paul Reed. … Roughest part of the Blackhawks two-year dry icing is that it's come right in the middle of Patrick Kane's prime. Those are gaping black holes in the Cup-bouncing resume of Stan Bowman. … News that the Alliance of American Football suddenly bellied up this week prompted Vegas Stats and Info COO Bill Adee (vsin.com) to chisel the droll headline, "What was your favorite AAF betting memory?" (Partial disclosure: Adee is a Daily Herald alum and a keen student of The Waukegan School of Comedy.) … First Chicago-based sportscaster to accent the professional growth of Walt Lemon Jr. was Arlington Heights-bred Bill Hazen, who called Lemon's games for the G League's Fort Wayne Mad Ants until his December trade to the Windy City Bulls. "A very solid guy with NBA talent who's now trying to beat the clock after five seasons overseas and in the G League," Hazen says. … And sure it's early, but the TV golf deadpan of the season belongs to rapier David Feherty, who recently said of full-maned, bearded Brit Tommy Fleetwood, "He looks like a homeless guy who robbed a Nike store."


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