Last week, the sports world was officially re-introduced to University of Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl. Sure, the 59-year-old has been coaching the team since 2014 but it’s just his second appearance in the NCAA Tournament, after a second round exit last year, so some might not be familiar with his antics. But as his team continues to win, Pearl is gaining more and more notoriety – and it’s must-see TV.
It all started with Auburn’s nail-biting 78-77 win over New Mexico State, which would’ve been a major upset if the No. 5 seed lost to their No. 12 seeded opponent. It looked as though Pearl’s squad would just cruise to the opening round win but the Aggies had other plans. Leading by seven with about a minute left, the Tigers managed to turn the ball over three times, while also taking terrible fouls – each one seemingly made Pearl a little more angry. But it was a kick-out three attempt, in which the Tigers mistakenly fouled, that nearly sent Pearl to an anger management course. If all three shots were made by the Aggies, there’s a good chance Auburn goes home.
Fortunately for the coach, the Aggies missed two of the three free throw attempts and Auburn escaped with a victory. Afterwards, CBS was quick to flag down Pearl for an interview as his face began to return to its normal shade of white, after looking almost as red as the Aggies’ uniforms. With in-studio analyst and notable Auburn alumni Charles Barkley seemingly having a panic attack right along with the head coach, the stressed out Pearl had a few calming words and laughs for the NBA Hall of Famer.
“They call it March Madness for a reason and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” Pearl said in a postgame interview with CBS. “Charles, relax – we got this. I need you, brother. I need you to be healthy, I don’t need that heart palpitating. Charles was sweating in the studio more than I am sweating!”
Auburn followed up that win by defeating No. 4 seeded University of Kansas and No 1 seeded University of North Carolina. During each game, it feels like there’s a camera almost always on Pearl, as he’s constantly pacing up and down the bench, while yelling directions to players and waving his hands, living and dying by every call made on the court. But before the Tigers’ 77-71 win over the No. 2 seeded University of Kentucky in the Elite Eight round this past weekend, Pearl let his emotions spill out during a pregame interview, when asked about injured star forward Chuma Okeke:
It’s clear that Pearl knows what Auburn is capable of and is completely invested in his players and what the team has been able to accomplish this season. From yelling, to crying, to joking, Pearl’s emotions run the gamut – and we cannot wait to see what he does in the upcoming Final Four matchup against No. 1 seeded University of Virginia in Minneapolis. No matter what, Pearl is definitely this year’s version of Sister Jean.