AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – New Auburn coach Bruce Pearl wasted no time making an impression.
Coach Pearl celebrates with fans Coach Bruce Pearl arrives at Auburn University Regional Airport in Auburn, AL on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Zach Bland
The former Tennessee coach sprung for pizza for several hundred students Tuesday a few hours after arriving in town, some of whom took selfies posing next to him. Then he told a couple thousand fans at Auburn Arena: “We’re fixing to get Auburn into that position where we’ll be going to the NCAA tournament.”
The Tigers turned to Pearl Tuesday to revive a struggling basketball program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in more than a decade. Athletic director Jay Jacobs landed his top target with a 6-year deal worth $2.2 million annually less than a week after firing Tony Barbee.
Pearl remains under a show-cause penalty from the NCAA barring him from recruiting until Aug. 23.