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April 23, 2014
AUBURN | Cinmeon Bowers became the first player committed during the Bruce Pearl era after a visit 10 days ago.
Since Pearl is prohibited from interacting with recruits due to his show-cause penalty, though, Bowers figured he wouldn't speak with a head coach. He was wrong.
Coach Gus Malzahn volunteered to visit with Bowers and provide his view of what it means to live, study, train and flourish at Auburn University. The meeting made a difference; Bowers committed the next day and said his time with Malzahn brought some clarity to an otherwise cloudy situation.
Pearl and top assistant Tony Jones were astounded by Malzahn's show of solidarity.
"(Jones) called me about that -- and he was almost choked up with how much support we've had here," Pearl said during a recent interview with AuburnSports.com. "Charles Barkley told me: Coach, I know everybody talks about family, but you won't understand it until you get there. He was right. We're going to help each other here. We're all supporting each other."
Pearl and Auburn football are a perfect match.
Malzahn, master of misdirection and proponent of pace, has become perhaps the most intriguing coach in all of college football. His offensive system has set scoring records at three college programs and defensive strategists haven't made much progress toward undermining Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle system.
Pearl hopes to have the same effect in his world.
He has promised to bring an up-tempo brand of basketball that sparks fan interest based solely on aesthetics. They will run. They will press. They will deflect passes. They will dunk. Pearl is certain they will win over a fan base that lusts for effort and excitement.
Fans enamored with Malzahn's methods are sure to appreciate how Pearl's team will operate next season.
"You do understand that the rest of the country understands that's (Malzahn) is a genius," Pearl said. "They're trying to figure out what he's doing and how he's doing it. They're not doing that with Bruce Pearl. Not even close. But we both understand spacing, we both understand the utilization of depth and we both like to play at a faster tempo. Wouldn't that be great if somebody could look at my team and see some similarities between my team and Auburn football?"
Much as Malzahn did one year ago, Pearl talks about team goals in a generalized sense. He doesn't entertain discussions about wins and losses or even statistical markers. The new coach, at least for now, is focused on sparking individual improvement and conformity with his practice methods.
He'll build from there.
Pearl knows that the football team's remarkable success under Malzahn creates an expectation that all Auburn programs should be similarly strong. He believes his Tigers will ascend to those heights in time and that fans will savor their rise.
"Winning will transform them into basketball fans," Pearl said. "If the winning doesn't happen as fast as we like, then it's how we play. Will the kids look any different? I don't know. That's our goal. If they're better, that's progress. (Fans) will have to find ways to look at our staff and evaluate us. It's not going to happen overnight, but it's going to happen."