Bruce Pearl ready to hit the recruiting trail
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ¯ Bruce Pearl has been out recruiting fans for Auburn basketball, speaking to any alumni or civic group that would listen, putting in the miles and time for 45 official speaking engagements, enjoying even more chats with students who happened to cross his path.
Bruce Pearl recruiting will add an important element a minute past midnight Saturday when the Auburn basketball coach, after five months on the job, can start recruiting players for his team.
He hasn't been allowed to do that while working under a show cause penalty imposed by the NCAA from his previous job at Tennessee. That restriction hasn't allowed him to even talk to recruits or watch them in person. He has instead entertained, sold his program to the masses and worked with his current players.
"I've told my story…the good, the bad and the ugly," Pearl says. "I hope the students can learn from my experience and mistakes."
Auburn signed five players for the upcoming year, though Pearl didn't have a hands-on role. His assistants found the players, watched the players, signed the players. When recruits came around, Pearl left, sometimes the city.
"My coaching staff told me they’re tired of carrying me," Pearl joked.
Midnight tonight plus one minute is when things change. He'll begin working the phones.
"We've got some catching up to do," he says. "There’s a lot of people I need to thank, a lot of people have been supportive. We’ve got some players on our roster right now, people in that recruiting process, I’ve not been able to talk to. That’s probably going to be my focus as much as anything."
He'll be too busy for anything else.
"Having a show cause is negative. There's nothing to celebrate. I've been able to work. I will now be able to reach out and reconnect. There's not going to be a big celebration," he said.
Pearl hasn't hid from the penalty, often bringing it up on his own.
"I've had to live it for three years, and probably a couple of years before my penalty, so it's been a part of my life the last four or five years," he says.
Auburn gave him a chance, and he seized it by talking Auburn basketball to groups around the state.
"I've never left one of them and said, 'That was a waste of my time.' Every single one of them was valuable," he said. "I'm glad I'm at a place that wants more of their staff, and for me, that means more than just coach basketball."
Now, he can recruit basketball, too.
"The challenge this past July was I wasn't able to evaluate, and there were a lot of young prospects I would have liked to have seen," he said. "In some ways, we're still behind. But what I did was to take some of that time when I couldn't be on the road and I spent time at practice. In July, the assistant coaches were on the road recruiting and I was here running practices by myself. That was productive. The second thing was to develop the program and serve Auburn in as many ways as I could.
"Just because I can start recruiting now doesn't mean the development of the program stops. I'm trying to change the culture. I've been to Huntsville, I've been to Muscle Shoals, I'm going to be in middle Tennessee. We open the SEC schedule at Vanderbilt, and one of the steps in developing the program is to get our fans to travel. I've been reaching out to those different communities. I will continue to do that.
"Because of our donor base, because of the Auburn family, we have alums throughout the SEC, I think we could be a place that travels as well as anybody in the league. All you've got to do is reach out."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine