Could “The Rifleman” Be Auburn’s Next Basketball Coach ?
Former Auburn and NBA Great Chuck “The Rifleman” Person
All the buzz about Auburn’s next basketball coach seems to have been swirling around former Kentucky Coach and present Minnesota Gopher head man Tubby Smith. However someone who probably knows the most about what it takes to produce a winning basketball program at Auburn has strongly endorsed another candidate.
Former Auburn Legend and Alabama Hall of Fame Coach Sonny Smith has gone on record recommending Chuck ” The Rifleman” Person as not only the right choice but basically the only logical choice to replace Jeff Lebo. He recently had alot to say about his former player as a man and as a possible coach. He told Phillip Marshall of Auburn Undercover.com “I think Chuck (Person) is the best man for the job. I don’t think there is any doubt.”
Let me say here that I like Chuck Person, I enjoyed watching him play, and I’ve followed his career. However until reading Smith’s comments, I didn’t really consider him as a serious prospect for Auburn’s 20th Basketball coach. But Smith’s words gave me pause for thought. To paraphrase an old popular TV commercial, “When Sonny Smith speaks, Auburn people need to listen.” Some folks reading this are probably thinking “Yea what do you expect him to say about his best player?” Well his remarks are not motivated by nepotism. He is a man of integrity who has given his honest assessment of the best man for the job. Smith has coached many great players and he has coached against many great coaches but there is only one that he sees as the man that can get it done at Auburn …” The Rifleman”.
He 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.
After 25 years at the professional level as a player, coach, and executive, Person aspires to be an NBA head coach. But he has said that he would be open to the right college job. He is an Auburn icon who loves his school. 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.” The case for “The Rifleman ” is a good one. He may not have his BA but he has his NBA. 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.
In 1982 Person wasn’t highly recruited out of Brantley High in Brantley, Alabama butAuburn took a chance on him. He went on to lead 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.
Should Auburn take a chance on “The Rifleman ” ? Sonny Smith says there is ” no doubt … He’s the ‘Best Man’ for the job “. And when Sonny Smith speaks, Auburn people need to listen.
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