H.T. Hackney was a mid sized wholesale grocery company before Tuesday night, not well known to many outside of the business or the state of Tennessee. Now, at least for the short term, they are a household name in college sports. the company announced that they had signed former Tennessee hoops coach Bruce Pearl to a “marketing position,” giving the embattled former Vols coach a chance to stay in Knoxville, and giving the grocery company a huge PR lift before even stepping in the door.
Pearl in the grocery business? Not quite. In the selling business of a brand, one that needs a leg up to compete with others in an ultra-competitive b to b marketplace in challenged times. You betcha. Now of course pearl could, and may still, find his way to the TV booth as well. What he does not have to do now is coach in the D-League, a place that is grown in stature from a brand standpoint but probably would not do much for the image of the ultra-successful on the court Pearl. What would the D-league had brought him? A chance to coach on the professional level? If there is an NBA team interested in Pearl, his work in the D-League could probably only hurt. It would take him out of the limelight, except for an occasional feature story by a writer or two. If another college comes calling in a few years, a poor record in the D-League hurts his chances, not helps. By staying in Knoxville and out on the road glad-handing wholesalers and vegetables, pearl remains a vibrant personality with a great won-loss record. He also gets to spend some time away from the court and perhaps helping a growing business to leverage itself in a challenged marketplace. The cost to H.T. Hackey? Very little. The p.r. bounce they got in the first 24 hours far outweighed the salary cost, and the ability to have a personality as Pearl, even with a tarnished image at this point, in their stable is akin to any host of wholesale companies bringing in a retired athlete to glad hand and lend an opinion or two on a business.
Make no mistake, Pearl knows how to sell, and knows how to market. You don’t become successful in the coaching game without those tools, and now he gets a chance to enjoy the sidelines from the sidelines, retool, and maybe give a local company a boost in brand and dollars. Even with a little bit of a hit, the reward for H.T. Hackey already outweighs the risk.