April 7, 2014
Bruce Pearl changes the game plan at Auburn (Zach Bland photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- He announced Monday that he had hired an Auburn legend as one of his assistant coaches, but that's not the only change in Bruce Pearl's scheme of things.
On the same Monday he welcomed Chuck Person to his coaching staff, Pearl talked of his implementing his new philosophy at early-morning workouts.
Wake up to the new Auburn.
"During the last two weeks, I think there have been some cultural changes with the way we approach practice," Pearl said. "We had a 6 a.m. workout this morning that looked much different than the 6 a.m. workout we had two weeks ago. That’s to their credit.
"We’ve been at it for two-and-a-half weeks. The key is if we can maintain it."
Pearl said he'll be cautious on his predictions.
"I'm not going to promise too much too soon. We're going to talk about the way we play, and how we're going to train, and I'm confident that the players will improve," Pearl said.
Pearl was hired March 18 and has made the rounds selling Auburn basketball, building his coaching staff and organizing his returning players. So far he's hired Person and Tony Jones as full-time assistants. He needs one more and said he's close to hiring one after interviewing 12 at the Final Four over the weekend.
But most of Monday was about Person, who was a star for the Tigers from 1982-86 and is still the school's all-time leading scorer. He's coached in the NBA, and lately in South Korea, and said Auburn is the only college team he would coach.
"It means everything," Person said of his return to Auburn.
"This is the only college job I would have taken. This is my home."
Pearl acknowledged it should stand as a popular hire.
"This is a pretty special day for Auburn basketball and the Auburn family," Pearl said. "I'm honored to have a person of Chuck's caliber to join me in this challenge to coach this team. Like he said, he's coming home. There's no place else in college basketball that he would have settled.
"He's got experience beyond his years. He's got a resume that would support him being a head coach at the highest level of this game. When Auburn made the decision to hire me as the head coach, he didn't blink an eye. This is where he wanted to be. When I think about my responsibility to coach these guys up, I've got to surround them with incredible coaches who can help them get better. The fact that Chuck is from Alabama, in high school as well as college, is significant to me because you have to make a statement in who you hire. The fact he played high school basketball in the state of Alabama, stayed home, got to the NBA, and has been such a strong role model, I don't think I could have made a stronger statement. It is a very special day for Auburn."
Pearl said Person's hire goes far beyond the PR value. Pearl will use Person as an on-the-court coach and recruiter.
"When you offer guys scholarship to play basketball at Auburn University, it’s special," Pearl said.
Pearl said he was impressed with Person from the beginning.
"There just seemed to be a number of philosophical fits that took place, from the way he liked to guard the ball, to the way he wanted to defend the post, to where he wanted to put it, how he wanted to keep the ball on the side of the floor, the terminology, was similar," Pearl said. "We just enjoyed exchanging ideas. I brought him in here to make me better, and he'll do that. I think the loyalty and the trust. I'm going to sell Chuck Person. And he's going to sell Bruce Pearl. And together we're going to sell Auburn basketball. It gives me a level of confidence when I put my head down on the pillow at night that we can do this because he's decided to join us."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine