Former Auburn great Chuck Person with legendary Coach Sonny Smith. (photo:Julie Bennett, al.com)
Even though Auburn is not a part of this year’s March Madness, there has been a lot of excitement about Auburn Basketball the past two weeks. The hiring of Bruce Pearl on March 18th has fired up the fan base and he hasn’t even coached his first game or signed his first recruit.
The new round ball skipper has given the Tigers positive exposure across the country during the time of year that the nation’s interest is at a peak for college basketball. In addition he has popped up all over campus; whether it’s attending the Auburn women’s WNIT game or throwing out the first pitch of the Baseball’s game against Missouri – he’s been busy selling the program.
However, creating goodwill is not all that’s on his agenda. He has to complete his staff in order to get the program rolling with recruiting and coaching up the players. With his son Steven hired as the strength coach and Tony Jones on board as an assistant, Pearl now needs to fill three more assistant positions.
You can bet he has been contacted by a bevy of applicants and there’s one name that stands out above the rest … of course we’re talking about Auburn legend, Chuck “the Rifleman” Person.
Most Auburn people know that Person has been called the Rifleman for a couple of reasons. First his mother named him for two sport professional ball player and actor Chuck Conners who starred in the 1960′s TV western “The Rifleman “. The second reason was the Rifleman shot a rapid fire riffle with pin point accuracy. Well Person is ranked 17th in the NBA for 3point shooting and is the all time leader in points scored at Auburn with 2,311 points (a record set before there was a 3 point shot). He also holds the Auburn record for most points scored (747) in a single season.
Yes the case for “The Rifleman ” is a good one. He led the Tigers to their first ever SEC Tournament Championship in 1985. In 1986 the two time All American provided the leadership that led the Tigers back to the NCAA and an Elite Eight appearance before falling to eventual National Champion Louisville. He went on to be the NBA Rookie of The Year and has spent his life working at all levels of professional basketball.
He is arguably the best player in Auburn history and he understands Auburn’s situation. He has said “Basketball is important to me at Auburn … Auburn can win at Basketball as well as football, you just need to get the right players to do it with.” He is an Auburn and NBA Legend, he knows the game, he loves Auburn, he has honed his coaching skills under legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson of the Bulls and LA Lakers, and he has been endorsed by legendary Auburn Coach Sonny Smith.
Hiring the Rifleman would make sense for both Pearl and Person.
For Pearl, the hire would be similar to what the Dameyune Craig and Rodney Garner hires meant to the football program. Like those two men, Person is a former Tiger and a proven coach with a strong knowledge of Auburn University. And like Rodney Garner, Chuck has the added incentive for recruiting players who aspire to get into the pro’s sense Person was an NBA star and a coach for 25 years.
For Chuck it would be a chance to not only return to his alma mater but provide him with an opporyunity to complete his degree (something that is seen as almost necessary for landing a college head coaching job some day himself).
He told Al.com yesterday that he has interviewed with coach Pearl. Chuck said, “I would love to be on coach Pearl’s staff, but I know there are other qualified candidates that he’s talking to. The main thing is to get Auburn basketball back to where it should be.”
This is one writer that believes that one way to get the Tigers back (to where they should be) would be to hire the man who was instrumental in getting the Tigers to the top of the sport when he played on The Plains.
Pearl will probably complete his staff in the next week, with at least one hire possibly coming by Friday. If that hire is Chuck Person … Bruce Pearl will have hit a homerun in basketball.
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