Bruce Pearl is the newest basketball coach of the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn officially announced Pearl's hiring Tuesday morning. Pearl, 54, has spent the last few years working as an analyst for ESPN after leaving another SEC program, Tennessee, in 2011.
"I'm humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love," Pearl said in an official statement. "I don't know how long it will take, but it's time to rebuild the Auburn basketball program, and bring it to a level of excellence so many of the other teams on campus enjoy."
Pearl coached the Volunteers from 2005-2011, reaching the NCAA Tournament in all six seasons. He led UT to the 2010 Elite 8, as well as the Sweet 16 in 2007 and 2008. Prior to taking the job in Knoxville, Pearl spent four years coaching at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and nine at Division-II Southern Indiana.
"From the moment I met Coach Pearl and heard his vision for our basketball program, it was clear he's the right man at the right time for Auburn," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said.
"Coach Pearl is a proven winner who will bring energy and excitement to our program. We have raised the bar for Auburn basketball, and I could not be more excited for our student-athletes and our future under Coach Pearl's leadership. I know he agrees with me - it's time to win."
Pearl does have a bit of a checkered past. In 2010, he admitted that he lied to the NCAA about a series of recruiting violations that centered around Aaron Craft, who eventually wound up at Ohio State. He was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty in 2011. That penalty will run out in August. Despite these concerns, Auburn felt it could hire Pearl without any real issues moving forward. From the official release:
Dave Didion, who returned to Auburn as assistant athletic director of compliance last year, was the lead investigator on Pearl's case, according to a source, and the school feels that a strong compliance department led by Didion and compliance director Rich McGlynn will be able to guide Pearl well on compliance issues.
Didion also signed off on Auburn's pursuit of Pearl, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Pearl will be introduced at a press conference later this week. He replaces Tony Barbee at Auburn, who went 48-75 in four forgettable seasons.
SB Nation's Auburn blog, College and Magnolia, weighed in on the hiring:
Believing that anything can automatically take Auburn basketball back to relevancy is difficult, but if there's a sure thing out there, Pearl is it. In 19 seasons as a head coach, he's compiled a 231-99 record overall. In six years at Tennessee, he was 145-61 with a 65-31 mark in SEC play. The Volunteers went to the NCAA Tournament in each of those seasons, and made two trips to the Sweet 16 and one Elite Eight appearance. Tennessee won the SEC regular-season title in 2007-08. At Southern Indiana, Pearl won the Division II national title in 1995.
Auburn hasn't been to the Big Dance since 2003. There's a great chance Pearl is going to be the man to end that drought.
Here was some of the reaction from the national college hoops scribes:
Bruce Pearl is an absolute stud of a hire. He wins, he promotes, he recruits. Auburn not an easy place to win, but he'll do it soon enough.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 18, 2014
Auburn tabs Bruce Pearl as next coach, per the school. Tigers no longer a hoops joke.— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) March 18, 2014
Huge hire for Auburn in Bruce Pearl. Changes trajectory of the program.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 18, 2014