ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. — In his words, Bruce Pearl spent April “scrambling.”
After all, Auburn was behind all but three other teams in the country. While the Tigers kept playing their way to Minneapolis, the rest of college basketball began hitting the recruiting trail.
“When the season ended, we really felt like we were behind in recruiting,” Pearl said before his annual “BP Fore the Children Golf Classic” in Alexander City. “We’d been working for three or four more weeks than most people. As soon as the season ended, we went out until May 3. The whole month of April, we were kind of scrambling a little bit.”
And it’s that drive from Pearl, Auburn’s sixth-year head coach who all but personifies the rise of Auburn basketball as a national power, that earned him a shiny new contract last month. The five-year extension, worth nearly $4 million per year, made him the third-highest paid coach in the SEC — and the third-longest tenured.
“John Calipari and Frank Martin and Bruce Pearl?” Pearl said of being the third-longest tenured coach in the conference. “I just got to Auburn and I’m already third?”
Pearl said the contract discussions with athletic director Allen Greene and University president Steven Leath centered around the fact that his earnings were approaching the lower stratum of the conference, and his assistants were scraping the bottom of the barrel.
After the best season in Tigers basketball history, a change was obviously warranted.
“Dr. Leath and Allen Greene both recognized that an adjustment needed to be made,” Pearl said. “It really wasn’t anybody’s idea; it was something that obviously we were rewarded because we were competitive.”
As a coach, Pearl has rapidly ascended into the sport’s elite thanks to his wild success on The Plains. As a result, it’s not far-fetched to gather that other schools will — if they haven’t already — come knocking.
But Pearl has a message of assurance for the orange and blue faithful: he wants to close out his college coaching career with the Tigers.
“You don’t work this hard to try to establish yourself and build some trust and credibility and then up and just give it up and let somebody else walk into it and leave it,” Pearl said. “That’s just not how I roll; that’s now how I’m built. … I hope this is my last college coaching job — at Auburn. I’ve got plenty left in the tank.”
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Nathan King, senior in journalism with a minor in business, is The Plainsman's sports editor.