By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Bruce Pearl will exchange his coach’s whistle for a microphone and earpiece Thursday when he serves as an analyst for NBA TV’s Draft Preview from 4 to 6 p.m. CT.
“The fact that ESPN, or in this case Turner Sports, values my opinion and my ability to deliver that opinion, it adds credibility to our men’s basketball program,” Pearl said. “And it gives our fans an opportunity to put their chest out. Their basketball coach is on TV talking about the NBA draft.”
Pearl will join Matt Winer, Brendan Haywood, David Aldridge and Stu Jackson from Turner’s studio in Atlanta.
“I think it’s important for our Auburn fans to see their men’s basketball coach being looked at as an analyst or a quasi-expert as it relates to player personnel, and offering opinions of guys, who can and can’t play, what kind of college players they were, what kind of pros I think they’re going to be,” he said.
To prepare for the broadcast, Pearl’s has spoken to NBA general managers, connections he hopes will benefit Auburn’s program.
“For our current players who have goals, dreams and aspirations of getting there, my being in that setting can only help,” Pearl said. “It’s given me an opportunity to connect with them, so that when the time comes for me to connect with them for Austin Wiley, Mustapha Heron or Danjel Purifoy, I’ve built that relationship with them.
“There are so many positive things that take place, and I’m grateful to the people at ESPN, and in this case the people at Turner who have given me this opportunity to share.”
The Atlanta trip continues a busy travel week for Pearl, who just returned to Auburn from Colorado Springs, Colo., where Austin Wiley and Chuma Okeke are finalists for USA Basketball’s U19 World Cup Team.
“When Kentucky is the only other program that had more than one player out there, it just tells you the position that our program is in,” Pearl said. “We’re in position right now to make a big jump, and to get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, and it’s because of players like Austin and Chuma.”
Of the 18 finalists, 12 will be selected on Thursday to represent the United States in Cairo, Egypt, July 1-9.
“How many swimmers do we have in the Olympics, representing our country and other countries as well?” Pearl said. “It’s something that Auburn does in other sports. It’s just time. It’s time for men’s basketball to contribute in that way.
“So when Austin and Chuma are out in Colorado Springs representing Auburn, it helps our university. It helps our university’s profile that, ‘You can come to Auburn and have a chance to compete on an Olympic team like Chuck Person and Charles Barkley did.’”
From a basketball gym in the Rockies to a TV studio in the South, Pearl’s offseason quest to keep Auburn basketball in the news shows no signs of slowing.
“My job as a head coach is to try to stay as connected as I possibly can,” Pearl said. “Whether it be to the NBA, or to the national media, or to USA Basketball in Colorado Springs, to be able to do the best job I can for Auburn basketball and Auburn University. You have to work at that.”
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) June 19, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer