AUBURN, AL (WBRC) - Auburn's new mens basketball coach Bruce Pearl arrived on campus Tuesday to greet fans.
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs says Pearl "raises the bar of Auburn basketball" and Pearl made a big early impression. He literally jumped into a group of fans waiting to greet him at the airport.
Pearl has agreed to a six-year contract and he will reportedly earn $2.2 million per year. Pearl said Tuesday night that his first big focus will be on recruiting and coaching.
Pearl has lead three different teams to 18 postseason appearances, including six straight NCAA tournament trips as the Tennesee coach.
"I am excited to welcome Coach Bruce Pearl to the Auburn family," Jacobs said in a press release. "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."
Below is a transcript of Pearl's comments at the press conference:
WAR EAGLE! That feels so good.
Welcome to the Jungle! This has a chance to be an amazing home court advantage. One of the things I talked to our players about today was to be appreciative. We feel your love, we feel your support and we are going to represent you in a very, very significant way.
Jay talked about raising the bar in men's basketball. Have you seen the contract I signed yet? When you see this number he raised the bar in men's basketball. I'm going to work every day to reward Jay and I appreciate that. I just want to thank Jay and Dr. Gogue for giving me a second chance. I'm grateful, truly humble and blessed to have this opportunity.
It's been a long three years being away for the game, and one of the things that I wanted to tell you as a coach and even as a father is when I made the mistakes that I made at Tennessee, I let a lot of people down. I let my family down, I let my university down and I let down the people that believed in me, so I still walk around in pain. I have found this part of the country to be a part of the country that offers grace. But for the grace of God I would not be standing here today as your next men's basketball coach and I'm truly grateful. We've got a job to do and I think the first thing I want to focus on is the process of getting our men's basketball program to position that the rest of the university enjoys. We want to bring our men's basketball program up to the level that everyone is competing at and that's going to be a great challenge. I can promise you I can't do it alone. These players have told me that they're ready to have the bar raised themselves and they feel your support and together I think we have a chance to represent.
Men's basketball in the SEC has not been what it needs to be lately. The fact that we sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament as a major conference in basketball, something has got to be done. We're fixing to get Auburn into position where we are going to the NCAA Tournament. We are going to play fast, we are going to play press and we are not going to be fun to play against.
This reception is beyond our wildest dreams and expectations. Auburn basketball has great history, tradition and is respected and recognized across the county. We had our moments and had our times. When I saw that Coach Sonny Smith was coming to this press conference I was just grateful. Thank you, Coach Smith I'm honored you are here. I don't know how fast he is and I'm not sure he can shoot like he used to, but the rifle man looks like he can rebound the hell out of the ball right here, thank you Chuck Persons for coming.
Motivation on wanting to take the job…
"I think the thing that gave me confidence to take the job is the success in the athletic program, the commitment that is there, and the support. Being in the SEC one of the things we do is travel the SEC cities and you can't go anywhere without hearing 'War Eagle' or 'Go Tigers' the Auburn Family stays together. As long as you have your family with you, you can do anything. I have to tell you the process with Jay. He had an idea of what he wanted to do and he came after me so hard I'm not sure I want to work for him or hire him to go out and recruit because he came after me hard. He wasn't taking no for an answer and I didn't give him a no at all. We visited on Friday night and he would have liked to have heard and answer from me fairly quickly. I was working for ESPN at the time, I said Jay your going to get an answer from me but I am going to need to go home and see my family and he said 'Ok I will wait for you.' I wasn't home more than five minutes before Brandy and the kids said 'Would you just call him and sign that contract. We are going to Auburn."
Time Table on putting the staff together…
"I think the key, first of all, is putting my arms around these student-athletes because they have gone through a lot. I watched them play this year, they went through a lot. To start the SEC season 0-6 a lot of teams with lesser character, lesser heart, less chemistry would have quit. You all wouldn't let that happen, and I can see why you all wouldn't let that happen. That's what I have to focus on them first and then just take my time."
"First of all I'm going to bring some of my family members into my coaching staff, guys I have been with before guys that understand my system that know what I expect and how I want to prepare. I want to introduce a couple members of my coaching staff. When the SEC suspended me for eight games in my last season, I had to turn the reigns over to my associate head coach. There aren't many guys in the SEC, that are head coaches, that can go 5-3 and that's what Tony Jones did. My other assistant has been by my side since the day he was born. My son, Steven, and I have had a chance to do a lot of things together on and off the court and when you come to a new place like this, It Is so important that you bring your family along with you."
"Steven was a good high school player that had absolutely no business playing in the SEC and all he did was work his butt off and train and I can tell you this you would not want to be guarded by him because you would either not score or he would foul the heck out of you. So one of my assistants will be my son, Steven Pearl. Then what Jay has told me, and what Coach Malzahn understands, is you have to surround ourselves with great people. I can tell you I have 690 text messages right now and the great thing is that we are going to hire at least one or two and I'm going to take my time on that to bring a couple of great assistants in here that can challenge me, and help me do what we are going to try and do."
Key on making a quick turnaround…
"We are not going to put a timetable on what we are going to do. We are going to train and we are going to compete. We will play for championships at Auburn, there is no question in my mind. What has to happen is, it has to be built on a strong foundation. I think the great thing about it is that the challenge I have put forth with our team is that these guys are going to get a chance to make history because these guys are going to get to lay down the foundation of what is going to become a championship basketball program and they have accepted that responsibility."
On interaction with the students and around campus…
"Chances are I am going to keep my clothes on most of the time. I will tell you this you will see me on campus, you will see me in the classrooms. I told Jay that I really enjoy teaching in fact I want to teach an ethics class, he says "coach I'm not sure they are going to let you teach an ethics class. I can make a lot of things happen" but I'm not sure I can make that happen. We are teachers, that is what we are. I was telling the players we are on campus for you so that you can come to this university and this beautiful community and grow and develop and become something special and leave here having enjoyed your time here and become something special. If all Jay wanted me to do was coach the basketball team, which is my priority, then he doesn't have the right person. That was one of the most challenging things about my fall, is that we are going to win at basketball but how we do it that is what we will do."
On if this is his best birthday ever…
"My 32nd wasn't bad. It is pretty special. I think Jay timed it right. I appreciate everyone wishing me a happy birthday. March 18, 2014 will always be a special day. This is a place that honors people and honors tradition and legacy. Honestly, that is what I want to try to do. One of the hardest things, when I was at Tennessee, we were planning on staying there forever. I was planning on building a legacy and I wanted to bring honor and tradition to that program. My goal is to join Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis and some of the other great coaches here at Auburn and build my legacy here. I want to be the winningest coach in Auburn basketball history."
On how hard the three years off has been…
"Jay can tell you how emotional I can be, because I am really hard on myself for what happened. He saw that passion, and I have a hard time hiding that sometimes. By the way, have you not met my beautiful wife Brandy? So now you know I can recruit, right?"
On what he plans to do with the current roster…
"We are working on that. I think we had a very good visit with the players today. I asked them if they would give me some time to develop a relationship and a trust with them. It is not going to happen right away. I will study how we play and evaluate that talent. Like every year, every year, I will have no preconceived notions about where players will play. Every minute of that playing time will be earned. I am going to go into this with eyes wide open and I told them from the second we leave this meeting how they go to class tomorrow, how they dress on campus, how they are training, they are earning their spots. My job as a coach is to put them in a position to be successful. I want them to go to their strengths and we will figure out their weaknesses and hide them. We will put the pieces together. They have to rely on themselves over any other time. At this time right now they have to come together, because they are a little wounded. We will do what we can to put the pieces together and win right away."
On what allows him to be successful in his first year at a school…
"I think the common theme would be, we don't play like anybody else. We don't run the same offense everyone else runs. We don't play defense like anyone else. Therefore, we are a little unique. Our style of play is different. That perhaps has been the best way to do it. The second thing is, these players will never hear me say when we get our own players. Those are my players right there and I am their coach. We will recruit. We won't bring anybody here that can't play. We are going to build it."
On how he plans to attack the recruiting trail…
"One of the best ways we can continue to operate is by being accountable. I have time left on my show-cause. We will work closely with the NCAA on what that looks like. I have an opportunity now to work on some other things other than out being recruiting. I have other things that I need to be spending all my time on and that is what I plan on doing. We will work through those limitations in order to keep recruiting."
On what attracted him to the job with a 10-year tournament drought…
"Because it just went through its worst 10 years in history. You answered your own question. That is why I came."