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'Our fans have hope,' says Bruce Pearl at SEC's Tipoff '17
A good time was had by all: Dane Bradshaw, left, with Auburn's Bruce Pearl at SEC Tipoff '17
Oct. 19, 2016

By Charles Goldberg

NASHVILLE -- Bruce Pearl says he tells his players it's OK to mirror his coaching intensity when they're on defense.

But offense, he conceded, is a different story.

"Don't be anything like me offensively. You'd turn it over every time!"

And so it went for Auburn's basketball coach at SEC Tipoff '17 Wednesday as he made the rounds shaking hands, telling stories, promoting the conference and generally entertaining everyone in the frantic-paced media gathering in the middle of football season.

Auburn left Bridgestone Arena picked 11th in the preseason SEC media poll, and Pearl had no hard feelings there, considering 12 league teams return more rebounding 10 return more scoring than Auburn.

"I think they picked us properly," he said. "In our locker room, we'll try to prove them wrong."

Pearl has had at least six new players in each of his three seasons at Auburn. There's promise in the newcomers, but Pearl played in close to the vest at media day, thanking Auburn, again, for his opportunity.

Now, he said, "I want Auburn to have a return on its investment."

Pearl said his Tigers have had their moments, like beating Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia last season.

He talked of selling all the season tickets in Auburn Arena for three straight years. And he talked of selling more.

"You have to sell that vision to your fans and your players."


The SEC Network and ESPN booked most of his time. One segment, he was told, required one-word answers. Pearl, the personable coach, smiled at such a ridiculous limitation.

"I can't do it," he said.

Another segment on the SEC Network set came around to Auburn football. Pearl was ready to pounce, saying Gus Malzahn is "one of the most brilliant coaches in the SEC." And that he "didn't forget how to coach."

"Boom!" he said to prove his point.

All the TJs -- TJ Lang and T.J. Dunans -- were the Auburn players who represented the Tigers at the event. They were asked to impersonate Pearl by the SEC Network. "Did you yell?" asked Pearl upon hearing the news.

Pearl talked of the new season, and Auburn's past, going out of his way, again, to talk of former coaches Cliff Ellis and Sonny Smith; and of former players Charles Barkley, Chuck Person, Chris Porter and others.

Thinking of those, he said, "our fans have hope."


Pearl said he's not sure what he has.

"Like an artist, you want to turn it into a competitive team. You put it out there and see what you've got."

He said Auburn will be athletic, but not tall, especially inside.

"People think we know what we got. I truly don't know what we have."

There will be lots of shots. That's a trademark of a Bruce Pearl team.

"He'd rather them play with confidence," said Dane Bradshaw, a former player for him at Tennessee who was working the SEC Network set.

"We'll have rebounding by committee," Pearl said. "That's still a weakness for us."

What do you mean?

"Could we talk about anything but rebounding!?!" Pearl exclaimed in mock anger.

And then there's this: "We put together a very difficult schedule, probably the toughest schedule in the SEC besides Kentucky. They're picked first. We're picked 11th."

But Pearl is hopeful.

"We will get better. I'm excited."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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