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March 18, 2014

Auburn hires Pearl


AUBURN | Auburn has found its next head basketball coach.

AuburnSports.com has learned that Bruce Pearl has agreed to take over the reigns of the Tigers' basketball program. The news comes less than one week after Auburn fired Tony Barbee after four seasons on the Plains.

Sources indicate Pearl was Auburn's top coaching target and the two parties began negotiations last Saturday. Pearl researched the Tigers' current roster and inquired about the Auburn basketball program inside and out before making the decision to accept the position.

Pearl has been considering possible candidates for his coaching staff since last Saturday. Former Tennessee assistant Tony Jones is the top candidate to follow Pearl to Auburn.

Former NCAA investigator and current Auburn compliance director Dave Didion backed the hire of Pearl to the NCAA, sources tell AuburnSports.com.

"I'm humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love," Pearl said. "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, 54, currently serves a basketball commentator for ESPN. He is best known for his time at Tennessee, where he led the Vols to the NCAA Tournament six times in six seasons. Pearl led Tennessee to a 145-61 overall record and 65-31 conference record.

Tennessee made the Sweet Sixteen twice and the Elite Eight once during Pearl's tenure. The Vols won the 2008 SEC regular season championship, and Pearl earned SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2006 and 2008.

"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 AD 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 has previous head coaching stints at Milwaukee, where he made the NCAA Tournament twice in four seasons, and Southern Indiana, where he made the D-II NCAA Tournament nine times in nine seasons, including a Division II National Championship in 1994-1995.

Pearl is the second-fastest NCAA coach to reach 300 victories, behind only North Carolina's Roy Williams. In 19 seasons, Pearl has made the NCAA Tournament 17 times. Auburn has made the NCAA Tournament just eight times in its basketball history.

Pearl will be the 19th head basketball coach at Auburn. He has also served as an assistant coach at Stanford and Iowa.

Pearl is under show-cause orders from the NCAA due to an investigation into Pearl's recruitment of a prospective student-athlete in the summer of 2008. In September of 2010, Pearl acknowledged the violations to the NCAA and was subsequently suspended the first eight SEC games of the 2010-2011 season. Pearl was relieved of his duties at Tennessee in March of 2011.

The show-cause orders are set to expire in August of 2014.

A native of Boston, Pearl attended Sharon High School in Sharon, Massachusetts and is a 1982 graduate of Boston College, where he served as the manager of the men's basketball team.

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