Everywhere you turn these days, it’s all about Bruce Pearl. Can Auburn get him? Will Auburn take a chance on him? But what’s the real story behind the colorful former Tennessee coach? What do we really know about him?
Most importantly, he led a down-and-out Tennessee program to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Auburn has been to eight total in its history. He’s the second fastest coach to 300 wins in NCAA history.
Prior to Tennessee, he won a Division II national title at Southern Indiana and then followed that up with two NCAA Tournament appearances while at Milwaukee.
But more than a winning record, Pearl brings excitement. The only thing worse than Tony Barbee on the court, was talking to him off it. He never connected with the students or alumni. There’s little evidence he even tried. He likely will be remembered as the worst Auburn basketball coach in the modern era.
Auburn needs excitement.
That won’t be a problem with Pearl who was almost always the most popular guy on campus. Whether it was painting himself orange or mugging for pictures with fans during football season. Hiring Bruce Pearl would guarantee a full Auburn Arena.
What are the risks?
How ironic that Dave Didion, the NCAA investigator who spearheaded the Pearl case at Tennessee, is now Auburn’s associate athletic director for compliance. Auburn’s pursuit of Pearl will likely come down to Didion’s recommendation.
In a column last week, Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky wrote that there may be “more to that story that makes hiring Pearl less objectionable than many people might think.” He didn’t provide more detail.
Pearl was found guilty by the NCAA of inviting a high school recruit and his family to a cookout at his Knoxville home while the player was on an un-official visit. According to reports, Pearl acknowledged that the recruit should not be there, but rather than ask him to leave, encouraged those present to keep silent.
When questioned by the NCAA, Pearl reportedly lied about the gathering and it all went downhill from there. Ultimately, Pearl was fired by Tennessee and given a three-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA that remains in effect until August 23rd.
Auburn is known for having one of the top compliance departments in the country. This should ease any fears it has about giving Pearl a second chance. Besides, what does the program have to lose?
Auburn has arguably the worst program in the SEC and among the worst in major college basketball. Its new arena has done nothing to boast its stature.
Speaking with athletic director Jay Jacobs before the BCS National Championship, ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd jokingly told Jacobs that he had no clue who the Auburn basketball coach was and couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.
That sums up the program now. Auburn’s not bringing in a top notch coach without some warts. Its only option is to take a chance on Pearl or give another up and comer a shot and hope he doesn’t turn out like Barbee.
I’m tired of being irrelevant. I have no illusions of being Kentucky, but one appearance in the tournament since 2003 is not going to cut it.
Roll the dice. Give Bruce Pearl a second chance.
What do we have to lose?