When you think of Auburn basketball, you have to ask yourself how did Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis have any degree of success? Sure, Smith and Ellis were fine coaches but Auburn hasn't exactly been competing for SEC upper division finishes after their departures.

You almost have to feel sorry for former coach Tony Barbee. He had a major reclamation project and although the Tigers made strides this season, it wasn't enough.

Barbee was fired by athletic director Jay Jacobs shortly after losing to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. Jacobs moved quickly to hire former Tennessee boss Bruce Pearl.

Say what you want about Pearl, but the guy is a winner despite his somewhat checkered past. Yes, there was the secret taping of a phone conversation during Illinois' recruitment of Deon Thomas. There were the lies he told to NCAA investigators about what amounts to secondary violations.

Pearl has been called a rat, fink and a con man. He might be all of the above, but man can he coach.

Pearl has proven that he can win at every level. He won at Division II Southern Indiana. He won at mid- major Wisconsin-Milwaukee and he revived a Tennessee program that had fleeting moments of success.

Auburn will now see if Pearl can work his magic on the plains. My bet is that Pearl will win at Auburn. It might be a risk to hire Pearl, but the reward will be greater if he piles up high numbers in the W column.

Even though Pearl most likely won't be able to recruit until August, he can recruit high caliber SEC talent to Auburn. The Tigers might struggle on the court this season, but Pearl is a self and program promoter and will be a winner off the court.

Auburn made the right call hiring Pearl to coach the basketball team. Tennessee fans are still pining for him, and I bet the folks in Tuscaloosa are probably gnashing their teeth at the fact that Auburn will surpass Alabama on the court.

The question is will Pearl stay at Auburn for the long haul and build a winner, or will he catch the next money train out of town when a bigger name program comes calling?


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