Although I don’t dismiss the sources for Murray’s and Pollack’s takes on Jeremy Pruitt’s time in Athens, unlike them, Hutson Mason was actually there when Pruitt was. Here’s what he has to say about the former defensive coordinator:
A lot of people at Georgia saw how Pruitt handled certain situations,” said Mason, now a sports-talk radio host from noon to 3 p.m. daily on Atlanta Sports X (106.3-FM). “He had blow-ups and antics. Those are well-documented. Those happened. … I definitely agree with what (Murray and Pollack) said about being disrespectful.”
Mason confirmed that Pruitt had confrontations with Richt, fellow assistants and several members of the support staff while in Athens.
That’s not to say Mason agrees that Pruitt’s combative personality might contribute to his eventual demise at Tennessee. On the contrary, actually.
“The part I disagree with is I think some of those traits — (Pruitt) being straight-forward and blunt and cut-throat — I think those things might suit him well for having success in this conference,” said Mason, who coached some high school ball before getting into radio. “I think this conference and college football in general is a bottom-line business. Whether you’re talking about CEOs in the business world or head football coaches, you’ve got to be able to delegate and motivate and those things.”
Mason also said he can see why Pruitt sometimes lost his cool when it came to Richt’s leadership style and personality.
“I think part of it was the kind of lackadaisical, laissez-faire-type of environment (at Georgia),” Mason said. “Pruitt came from Florida State and Alabama, where everything was planned-out in detail and he won championships. It was just different under Mark Richt, and (Pruitt) didn’t like that difference.
“You’ve got Mark Richt, who is a very non-confrontational-type guy, and then you’ve got Pruitt, who is very my-way-or-the-highway. So part of it was Mark Richt not keeping him in his place. Because, you know what, (Pruitt) ain’t going to Alabama and doing that. He ain’t talking to Nick Saban like that. So I think part of it is at Alabama he knew where he stood; at Georgia, I don’t think so.”
There is a lot of stuff in there that comports with what I’ve heard. Pruitt was a prickly guy, to say the least. Richt didn’t take to the CEO role well. That was a recipe for a lot of staff friction, which indeed turned out to be the case. And Pruitt’s tendency to show his ass, even if in a good cause, wasn’t a positive even outside of staff relations.
That being said, what Mason says about Pruitt should cause Tennessee fans to be concerned, even more so that what Murray and Pollack mentioned.
If Pruitt needed the structure he got from Saban and a Saban disciple like Fisher to rein in his more obnoxious tendencies, tendencies that were given room to fester in Athens, how confident should anyone be that Phil Fulmer is going to be the kind of guy who’s going to play the Nick Saban role now?
The cynical answer to that is indicated in Mason’s feature not a bug observation — “… (Pruitt) being straight-forward and blunt and cut-throat — I think those things might suit him well for having success in this conference…”. If he wins, Fulmer’s either not going to care about the attitude, or, perhaps more accurately, not going to be allowed to care by boosters and the fan base. If he doesn’t win at a rate that mollifies the locals, hoo, boy, watch out.
Bottom line, there’s more than one reason Pruitt is with his fourth program in five seasons. Everyone agrees he can coach. It’s the rest of what everyone agrees on that has opened up this line of questions.