Head Coach Bruce Pearl
500 win club ... 506 and counting actually.
Bruce Pearl became the 21st fastest coach to 500 wins in his 691st game in Auburn's 78-74 win over LSU on Jan. 19, 2017. He reached teh historic mark between a pair of Hall of Famers, just behind Lute Olson and ahead of Nolan Richardson.
Pearl is a proven winner ... and in the process of leading Auburn back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. This past season, he led the Tigers to their first winning season since 2008-09 with an 18-14 record, being the only team in the country with freshmen as their top four leading scorers.
He enters his 23rd season in 2017-18, averaging 23.0 wins per season.
In his 22 years, he has guided his teams to the NCAA Tournament 17 times and the postseason 18 times. And when he's not winning basketball games, he's winning the hearts of a fan base badly wanting a winner.
Pearl is ranked ranked second among active SEC head coaches in career winning percentage (.718) and fifth in winning percentage as a SEC head coach (.622), average wins per year as a SEC head coach (21.0) and SEC games only winning percentage (.540).
Auburn and Pearl had as high as the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in 2017 before 17-year-old Austin Wiley enrolled in Auburn in December, No. 25 in 2016, No. 15 in 2015 and No. 32 in 2014.
Under Pearl, Auburn has graduated 12 players in Malcolm Canada, Chris Denson, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, KT Harrell, Allen Payne, Cinmeon Bowers, Jordon Granger, Josh Dollard, Dylan Spencer, C.J. Holmes, Jonathan Walker and Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
Auburn has sold out of season tickets in all three seasons under Pearl in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Tigers had only sold out of season tickets once prior in history in 1999-2000.
"Behind Kentucky, Auburn may have the second best basketball atmospher in the SEC," said ESPN's Andy Katz.
"Auburn Arena is rocking, and Auburn basketball is the hottest ticket of the winter," said Dave Neal of the SEC Network.
Since Pearl arrived, Auburn leads the SEC with 12 graduates from May 2014-December 2016 with two straight seasons of a perfect APR score.
In his first year at Auburn in 2014-15, Pearl turned a struggling program into a must-see commodity. Season tickets sold out as Auburn Arena was filled to 85.7 percent capacity over the course of 17 home games, drawing 133,033 total fans into Auburn Arena, the third-best total attendance in school history.
On the court Pearl's first club went 15-20 but won the hearts of the Auburn Family fast. The team started out a blistering 9-1 at home and capped off the season with a memorable four-day stay at the SEC Tournament, winning three games for the first time since 1985 and advancing to the tournament semifinals.
Senior KT Harrell turned in an All-SEC performance throughout the season, finishing the year as the league's leading scorer (18.5 points per game), sixth in the SEC in field goal percentage (.464) and was the SEC leader in 3-point field goal percentage (.445/10th in NCAA) and 3-point field goals made per game (2.8/33rd in NCAA).
In 2015-16, for the first time since the 1967-68 season, Auburn defeated Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas in the same season. The Tigers defeated No. 13 Kentucky and Alabama in back-to-back games for the first time since 1967 and the third time in its 110 seasons of basketball. Auburn snapped several long losing streaks: 18 games to Kentucky, 15 games to ranked teams, eight games to Tennessee and eight games to Arkansas. All of this despite Auburn players missing 125 games on the season due to injury, etc.
Auburn averaged 8,216 in its 15 home games which was 90 percent capacity, ranking second in the SEC in percent capacity behind Kentucky for the second straight season.
"This (Auburn Arena) is a loud building," said Tom Hart of the SEC Network. "The energy and electricity in this building is second to none in the league right now. The energy in Auburn Arena is worth 10 points a night."
Auburn's 119 points scored in the win over Northwestern State were the fourth most in school history, and the Tigers' 72 points scored in the second half were the third most points scored in a half in Auburn history. The Tigers' 17 made 3-pointers were one shy of the school record.
This past season, Auburn recorded its first winning season since 2008-09 with an 18-14 record as the Tigers were the only team in the country with freshmen with its top four leading scorers. Freshmen started 110 games, breaking the school record.
The Tigers swept three teams in Alabama, LSU and Missouri for the first time since 2008-09, marking the first time sweeping the Crimson Tide since that same season.
Auburn had six true road wins for the first time since the SEC Champion Tigers in 1998-99, winning at Alabama, NIT Champion TCU, UConn, LSU, Missouri and UAB. As the Tigers went 3-0 vs. the Big 12 Conference with wins over Oklahoma, Texas Tech and TCU, Mustapha Heron was named to the Freshman All-SEC team, the first Tiger since 2007.
Auburn's 289 made 3-pointers set a school record while the Tigers ranked second in the SEC and 32nd nationally averaging 80.4 points per game. The Tigers tied an SEC record with 21 made 3-pointers vs. Coastal Carolina on Dec. 15 ... with only 42 attempts. Kentucky (1990) and Arkansas (1997) also made 21 treys in a game.
Pearl loves to play the top teams in the country. Auburn's non-conference strength of schedule was ranked 29 in 2015-16 and 54 in his first season compared to 262 and 303 in the two seasons prior to his arrival at Auburn.
"BP put me in perfect positions to showcase my game," said the Pistons' Tobias Harris, who signed a $64 million contract and is entering his sixth NBA season. "A lot of guys get to college and some coaches don't showcase their full arsenal with what they can do.
"BP put me in perfect position to show everybody my skill-set. he worked me every single day, and he was on me. We have a great relationship. He is one of my favorite coaches to play for just because of his energy and passion.
"BP is like a father figure to me on and off the court. I think that was the biggest thing that sold me and why we still have a tight relationship today."
Pearl's impact is also continually felt in the community. When he isn't out buying lunch for students on campus or dropping into Auburn marketing classes, he can be found spreading the word of Auburn basketball at Auburn Alumni events throughout the Southeast. And if he isn't there, there is a good chance he is in the stands supporting one of the other Auburn programs.
Pearl and his wife, Brandy, also remain committed to giving back to those in Alabama as they have raised $1 million in only four golf tournaments at Auburn.
The have remarkably raised $770,000 in the last three years benefitting Children's Harbor in Birmingham through the Bruce Pearl Fore the Children Golf Classic. The mission of Children's Harbor is to help children with serious illness and their families.
Over $200,000 was raised in the Bruce, Barkley & Basketball Golf Classic Oct. 23-24, 2016, benefitting the Auburn Basketball program.
Pearl started AUTLIVE at Auburn in 2015-16 to benefit cancer patients in the fight to beat cancer. AUTLIVE raises the awareness of cancer prevention and detection while t-shirt sales in 2016 and orange t-shirt sales in 2017 along with donations raise money to benefit cancer patients.
He initiated the OUTLIVE program in 2009 at Tennessee in recognition of former Vol Chris Lofton, who beat testicular cancer through early diagnosis and treatment and went on to play the entire 2007-08 season while recovering from his battle with the disease.
Pearl donated $250,000 to the Auburn University comprehensive campaign in September 2016, helping push it over the ambitious $1 billion goal ahead of schedule.
The Bruce Pearl Family Foundation in conjunction with L5 Foundation, an organization dedicated to addressing the essential and basic needs of cancer patients, donated $20,000 to five charities in Knoxville in August 2015 while he accepted a $10,000 donation to an endowed scholarship in his name to Camp Koinonia, an outdoor program for children with disabilties.
Pearl's 22 years of coaching experience covers four stops. He began his head coaching career with a nine-year stay at Southern Indiana, taking the program to the NCAA Tournament each season, going 231-46 (.834) from 1992-2001. From there he made the move to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, taking the Panthers to the NIT once and the NCAA Tournament twice, including a 2005 Sweet 16 appearance. After compiling an 86-38 (.694) record at UW-Milwaukee, Tennessee tabbed him as its leader in 2005 and he responded by taking the program to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances, two Sweet Sixteens (2007, 2008) and the 2010 Elite Eight, which was the most successful six-year run in Volunteers history.
Under Pearl at Tennessee, the Volunteers topped the 20-win mark five times and was the SEC's winningest program during his six seasons, winning the 2008 SEC regular season SEC Championship, the 2006, 2008 and 2009 SEC Eastern Division titles and earned the school's first-ever No. 1 national ranking. From 2006-11, Tennessee went 65-31 (.677) in league play, better than every team in the conference during that time period.
Pearl's preferred style of play, a high-scoring, pressure-type scheme, has proven to be very exciting and very successful throughout the years. His teams have led their conference in scoring 16 of the 21 years that he has been a head coach. Auburn ranked second in the SEC and 32nd nationally averaging 80.4 points in His Tennessee squads were the SEC's scoring champion in four of his seasons on Rocky Top, averaging 77.4 points per game while allowing 70.5 ppg. At the Division I level, his teams have topped the 100-point mark 15 times, including a high of 124 in 2009 as well as 121 points in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. In his second year as coach at Southern Indiana the team averaged 101.7 ppg. Twice he has coached the league's leading scorer in UW-Milwaukee's Dylan Page in 2004 (20.9 ppg) and Tennessee's Chris Lofton in 2007 (20.8 ppg).
"(Pearl) has taken down a lot of high-flying teams as the coach at Tennessee," ESPN.com's Pat Forde wrote in Mach 2010. "Playing his Volunteers is hazardous to your ranking."
At Tennessee, he attracted outstanding players to Knoxville. Wayne Chism was Pearl's first marquee signee at Tennessee. The Volunteers went 104-38 during Chism's four-year career, and he walked off the court in 2010 as the school's all-time leader in games played and wins. Chism also appeared in more NCAA Tournament games and logged more wins in the "Big Dance" than any Vol in history.
But perhaps more important is the fact that Chism extended a trend that followed Pearl throughout his stay at Tennessee. Every player that played four years for Pearl at Tennessee earned their college degree.
Boasting a .643 winning percentage over 13 Division I seasons, Pearl has done it against some of the toughest schedules in America. At Auburn and Tennessee, he sought out non-conference matchups with the most prominent teams and players on the collegiate landscape.
While coaching at Tennessee, the Volunteers defeated Kevin Durant and Texas, Derrick Rose and Memphis, Greg Monroe and Georgetown, Matt Bouldin and Gonzaga, Sherron Collins and Luke Aldrich of Kansas and Ohio State with National Player of the Year Evan Turner. That's in addition to logging SEC wins against future NBA standouts such as Ronnie Brewer, Glen Davis, Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo and John Wall.
In Pearl's eight years coaching in the SEC, two at Auburn and six at Tennessee, his teams have averaged a phenomenal strength of schedule ranking of 8.1 in the nation by RealTimeRPI.com, including five top six rankings being No. 1 in 2007-08, No. 2 in 2010-11, No. 3 in 2008-09, No. 5 in 2006-07 and No. 6 in 2005-06. Auburn's strength of schedule was No. 21 in 2014-15 and No. 50 in 2015-16.
Pearl's record is 7-9 vs. top 5 teams, including No. 2 Tennessee's 66-62 win at No. 1 Memphis in 2008.
Playing such a difficult schedule at Tennessee led to an average year-end RPI of 17 as well as three top-five seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Twice Tennessee landed in the top 10 in the final national rankings, with a high of No. 5 after logging a school-record 31 wins in 2007-08.
Tennessee's on-court success never came at the expense of academics. Tennessee had 31 SEC Academic Honor Roll selections under Pearl and nine members of the 2006-07 squad earned SEC Academic Honor Roll recognition.
"You can't serve unless you are called upon."
That has been an oft-quoted Pearl mantra throughout his time at Tennessee and has been carried over to Auburn.
An ambassador for the university, Pearl's selfless community service work and generous stewardship made him one of the most influential public figures in the states of Alabama and Tennessee.
He was given the "Spirit of Auburn" Award in the spring of 2015 and was named "Knoxvillian of the Year" by Knoxville Metro Pulse in 2008 and also received the prestigious "Knoxville Award" in 2010. The UT basketball program also earned the UT Men's Community Outreach Team Award twice in his six seasons.
Pearl realized a lifelong dream in the summer of 2008 when his country called upon him to serve as head coach of Maccabi USA's open men's basketball team at the 18th World Maccabiah Games in Israel. He led the American squad to the gold medal for just the third time in 24 years, toppling favored Israel in the title game.
The Maccabiah gold marked Pearl's 16th championship during his head coaching career. In 20 seasons at the collegiate level, his teams have made a remarkable 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and racked up 26 NCAA Tournament wins. Only five times in 21 years has a Pearl-coached team not led its conference in scoring, and his squads have finished either first or second in their respective leagues an astounding 15 times.
Pearl has garnered six National Coach of the Year awards, and his teams have set school records for wins at three different universities (29 at Southern Indiana in 1995, 26 at UW-Milwaukee in 2005 and 31 at Tennessee in 2008). His teams have also won at least 10 games in league play in nine out of his 13 seasons as a Division I head coach.
His NCAA Tournament resume is equally as impressive - as he is one of only seven active head coaches who has led his teams to 10 NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances. From 2007-2010, Tennessee stood alongside Kansas, Memphis, Michigan State, UNC and Xavier as the only programs in America to reach the Sweet 16 three times.
While Pearl often exults that "it's all about the players," some of his most successful pupils direct the praise Pearl's way.
"When BP first got (to Tennessee), I was just a shooter," three-time All-America Chris Lofton said. "But by the time I left, he and his staff had made me into a scorer."
Current Indiana Pacers guard C.J. Watson is one of more than a dozen players Pearl and his staff have developed in NBA contributors.
"Coach Pearl gets all the credit for my success because he turned me into the player I've become," Watson said. "He was the one who got me to attack the basket and allowed me to play more aggressive."
During the Pearl era, Tennessee played more than 70 games on national television, and a Volunteer appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated four times. In addition, Tennessee was featured in an ESPN College GameDay matchup four straight seasons.
"Pearl has done a magnificent job of building confidence and belief in his players - and of selling his program to those closest to it - his own students and fans," Bilas said.
Pearl's coaching career began at his alma mater, Boston College, as a student assistant coach to the legendary Dr. Tom Davis. After 14 seasons seated to the right of Davis, the 32-year-old Pearl embarked on his own head coaching career. But Pearl's first break came during his undergraduate career at BC when Davis offered him a position of student assistant in 1978. In 1981, the Eagles won the Big East Conference championship and reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. The following season, BC advanced to the Elite Eight.
When Davis moved on to Stanford in 1982, Pearl joined his staff as an assistant coach and then, at the age of 23, was promoted to associate head coach for the Cardinal. While in Palo Alto, Calif., they ended a streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons with a 19-12 overall record in 1983-84, laying the groundwork for a resurgence in Stanford basketball. During that time, they recruited four players who were drafted by the NBA, including Todd Lichti, who finished his career as Stanford's all-time leading scorer with 2,336 career points.
After four seasons on the West Coast, Pearl followed Davis to Iowa in 1986. Over the course of the next six seasons, the Hawkeyes received five NCAA Tournament berths while compiling a 129-63 overall record. In 1987, the Hawkeyes recorded a 30-5 mark and advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to UNLV. And in 1988, Pearl was recognized as one of the top Division I assistants in the country by Basketball Weekly while helping direct the Hawkeyes to the Sweet Sixteen.
His six seasons in Iowa City helped produce 11 NBA draft picks for the Hawkeyes, including Brad Lohaus, Kevin Gamble, B.J. Armstrong, Roy Marble and Acie Earl.
"From the time I met him he was able to get the most out of me as a player," Lohaus said. "He understood my personality and knew how to motivate me. He believed in me when others did not.
"He still stays in touch, offering his friendship and advice."
These 14 seasons with Davis provided Pearl a foundation of basketball knowledge that enabled him to move on to a head coach position.
"I feel like I had a great mentor in Dr. Tom Davis," Pearl said. "If you're any good at anything, chances are you had somebody pretty good who taught you how to do it. I had the pleasure of being by his side for 14 years. He was a brilliant defensive strategist. He taught me how to press and how to run, but more than anything else, he taught me how to work with young people, how to be patient, how to be disciplined and how to get the most out of them, even more than they ever dreamed they could have."
Pearl's first head coaching opportunity came at Southern Indiana, a Division II school located in Evansville, Ind.
Inheriting a team that had won only 10 games the previous season, Pearl's first squad at USI posted a 22-7 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. That first season was a precursor of things to come for the school. Over the next nine seasons, the Screaming Eagles posted a 231-46 (.834) record and won four Great Lakes Valley Conference championships.
They received NCAA Tournament bids in each of Pearl's nine seasons and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen six times. USI experienced unparalleled postseason success under Pearl's guidance. The Screaming Eagles won a national championship in 1995 and finished second in 1994. In nine postseason appearances, USI won 16 NCAA Tournament games.
After winning the national championship in 1995, Pearl was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II Coach of the Year. Twice (1993 and 1994) he was named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Coach of the Year, and in 2000, he garnered NABC Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year honors.
Late in the 2000 season, Pearl earned his 200th career win, making him the fastest coach in NCAA history to reach the 200-victory mark at one school. Needing just 240 games, Pearl easily broke the record of 250 that had been held by North Carolina State's Everett Case.
In Pearl's four years as head coach at UW-Milwaukee, the Panthers won a pair of Horizon League regular-season titles (2004 and 2005) and two Horizon League Tournament championships (2003 and 2005). They advanced to Division I postseason play for the first time in school history, making two NCAA Tournament appearances (2003 and 2005) and receiving an NIT bid (2004).
In 2005, Pearl led the Panthers to the most successful season in school history. In addition to winning regular season and conference tournament titles, UWM made its' first-ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.
Pearl's 51-13 (.797) record in Horizon League games gave him the best winning percentage of any coach in league history. He became the second-fastest coach to win 300 career games with a 73-56 win over Loyola Jan. 8, 2005.
A native of Boston, Mass., Pearl received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Boston College in 1982, graduating cum laude. Pearl has two daughters, Jacqui and Leah, and two sons, Steven and Michael. He is married to the former Brandy Miller of Sevierville, Tenn.