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25 Year After Bruce Pearl Narced On Him, Jimmy Collins Has Moved On

Illustration for article titled 25 Year After Bruce Pearl Narced On Him, Jimmy Collins Has Moved On

In case you were wondering: No, Jimmy Collins is not surprised by this.

Collins is the former Illinois assistant hoops coach whose career was thrown irretrievably off course in the early 1990s by then-Iowa assistant Bruce Pearl's accusations of recruiting malfeasance. He figured Pearl would be welcomed back soon enough to the high-major ranks of college basketball—well, Auburn, in this case. It's just a continuation of a 25-year-old storyline that is as much about the Big Fraud of the NCAA as it is about the petty frauds like the one that enveloped Collins and Pearl.

"It really showcases in my mind what the NCAA is all about," Collins told me earlier today, "and that is not much of nothing. I listened to Bruce on his [ESPN] broadcasts. I thought he did a good job. I always thought he was smart, in terms of basketball, but he is also smart in winning people over. That was one of his strengths. But the NCAA, which preaches sportsmanship, and good citizenship, which preaches the way you do the kids—where if the kid talks or shakes a hand, you may not let him play for a year—and then you turn your back on some of the other stuff that goes on, because a guy wins games ..."

He didn't finish his thought, but then, he didn't need to. Collins has been banging on Pearl for years. Below is my 2011 story about the Deon Thomas recruiting scandal that pitted the two of them against each other. In it, Collins said of Pearl: "It's a con man's game, and he's running it." In 2012, at the Final Four in New Orleans, Pearl apologized to Collins, chalking it all up to his youth. (He was 28 when he started recruiting Deon Thomas.)


"He extended his hand and I shook his hand," said Collins, who retired in 2010 after spending 14 seasons as head coach at Illinois-Chicago. "He gave me his business card, and I walked away. I was not so much stunned as I was surprised he had that in him, but I accepted it, and moved on."

Even for Jimmy Collins, it's not about Bruce Pearl anymore.

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