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Bruce Pearl on state of SEC, Charles Barkley, raising expectations at Auburn

Bruce Pearl

Here are a few tidbits from Auburn coach Bruce Pearl’s press conference at the Final Four Friday before his team plays Virginia tonight in the national semifinals.

Q. This is for Coach. It seems that the SEC has come a long way over the last few years. Now they’ve just added another successful coach in Buzz Williams. What can you say about the state of your league and how it helped you get to this point?
BRUCE PEARL: Well, I just hope our league doesn’t go to 20 league games, that’s all I can tell you. We’re at 18 right now, and that’s plenty. Mike Slive years ago was frustrated, I think, that the SEC was dominating in every sport, men and women, and men’s basketball was behind, and I think he really challenged his athletic directors and said why?

I mean, you look across the board — I don’t mind saying this — the SEC is the best conference in the country, and it’s not even close in all sports. That’s a big statement. But not in men’s basketball. The ACC has been really, really strong. You can make an argument for the Big Ten or the Big 12, but we’ve really closed the gap because of the depth and the breadth of our program, the quality of coaching, the commitment to our facilities. You used to go to a December game in the SEC, and there would be nobody there. That’s not the case anymore. Our fan base is traveling, they’re following us, and it’s because we have better players, better coaches, and a greater commitment.

Our league now is able to compete with any other conference in the country.

Q. Hey, Coach. What’s it like having Charles Barkley cheer you on the way he has been throughout the years, and especially during this NCAA Tournament? And how cool is it that you’ve got Barkley cheering on Auburn; you’ve got Magic Johnson, Michigan State; Ralph Sampson, Virginia, this Final Four?
BRUCE PEARL: It just tells you how this tournament transcends American life. The thing about Charles is he was cheering us on, supporting us, texting, calling, even in the years we weren’t very good, when I first got to Auburn. Like I don’t have more contact with Charles now than I did two or three years ago when we were struggling to just become a competitive program.

But I think it is cool for the nation to have their alums, their donors, their students being able to walk around loud and proud that their team is still playing for a National Championship.

Q. You’ve talked a lot about building the program and building tradition. How did you go about doing that at a place like Auburn which really didn’t have a huge basketball tradition or basketball expectations?
BRUCE PEARL: The number one thing you do — and you used the word. The number one thing you do is you raise the expectation level of your players. When I have inherited different programs at different places along the way, their expectation was not to be able to compete for a conference championship. And when I say “compete for a conference championship,” that means being in the upper division. So it’s not like I came to Auburn and said we’re going to win championships. I came to Auburn and said we’re going to be relevant, and we’re going to compete for championship, which means just getting to the upper division.

And I had to raise the bar and get my kids to understand, okay, now, what do we need to do to put ourselves in position to attain that kind of a goal?

And then you do it like with everything else. When I was in Division II at Southern Indiana, I had come from the University of Iowa. I knew how we had done it in the Big Ten, and I brought that same mentality to Division II as best I possibly could, in the way we treated our student-athletes, in the way we trained our student-athletes. Our kids weren’t getting any coaching or any training that was less than what they received at Iowa, and I don’t want our kids at Auburn to be able to receive the kind of coaching or training that’s any less than any of the best programs in the country.

And we’ve proven that our kids can come to Auburn, get better, and play for championships.

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  1. Other teams are upgrading they coaching staff while ours is regressing. That is a term that Calipari coined. Its funny how no other coach uses it to describe their teams. Barnes, Pearl, Howland, White, Martin, and now Williams…forget the cheater at LSU…he is history. The point is, there are fewer teams who are perennially weak. Coach Drew got a raw deal at Vandy…if his point guard didn’t go down in December Vandy would have made some noise in the league. I thought he would be given another year. Stackhouse showed he can coach up pros, but will that translate to the college game given the impact that recruiting has? In another 2 to 4 years, Caipari won’t be able to stand the heat in this league. My guess is he will just leave the game and become a color commentator on CBS.

    1. Dukemandoo1000, do you look as stupid as you sound?

      1. Pup,
        You can’t contribute anything meaningful here. You just attack those who have opinions different than yours. As redneck as that makes you sound, you have the right to say it. Try to show some class and grow up a little. This isn’t your private chat room.

        You have to feel for Auburn. Its sad that refs influence games like this one. Its happened to us often enough and there seems to be no way to fix it. Congrats on a valiant effort War Eagle.

      2. Oh really, never said it was my private chat room. and you I guess contribute things that are meaningful, right.? All we hear out of you Dukeman is a constant chatter and berating of these UK players and coach, in any sport, all the time. Whether the UK team wins or loses. There are more on here that are in agreement with me on that than you. This is a UK support site. There is a time to bitch and complain, You never let up hoss. As far as being a red neck, I plead guilty. You are probably a city slicker sissy. Oh and I seem to recall you that saying that Virginia would “chew up” Auburn. Wow how fast you changed that tune.

        1. Pup, you are a no class, cry baby. This is a site where Kentucky fans can express their opinions, even if they are critical. Just like you sugar coat the excuses for Calipari’s failures to win multiple national titles. Your posts nauseate me, but you have the right to say what you want. Nobody made you the site police. I talk to UK fans all over KY and TN and there are more who feel the way I do, than you. You go ahead and be a cheerleader, it suits you. I will continue to tell it like it is no matter how loud you cry and scream. Rah Rah Rah!!!

            • UKFMLY on April 8, 2019 at 11:15 pm

            You are wrong Pukeman. Come see me at the BBM CAMP OUT. I DARE YOU to show up and see just how wrong you are. My friends will out number yours. There is no blind rah rah rah. But fans who are both critical but still remain respectful of the players and coaches. Way different from you. You can whine as you have all year but it don’t make you right. Come to BBM camp out and see how WRONG YOU ARE !!!

          1. Dukeman, real fans know when to complain, and when to support. We have a great Basketball coach, HOF by the way with a lifetime contract now, WOW!!! We have an elite 8 basketball team, and a 10 win 2018 football team, and Citrus Bowl Champion. Like I said you are probably a little 110 pound city slicker sissy. I doubt you have more than a couple so called UK friends as much as you whine about players all the time, win or lose. Even wins are never good enough for you. Any real UK fan would reject your constant stupid negative analysis of everything Kentucky. You are a Duke fan plain and simple. I have you figured as merely a TROLL. You have never told us where you played the game Dukeman. As much as you pop off on this site about the performance of all UK’s players and coaches you surely were a star right? Where did you play Div. 1 basketball that would allow you to say some of the things you say on here? Yeah we all have opinions that we can express here on VV’s, and sometimes all of us get upset on the outcome of a game or even a season. You take it to another level. Seems to me, you are outnumbered on VV’s. Keep up the stupid and give us all a good laugh. You are fast becoming a legend in your own mind. That is quite a feat for a Duke Troll.

  2. GO AUBURN !!!
    WAR EAGLE !!!

  3. So tired of hearing the pundits crow about how great the ACC is.
    GO AUBURN !!!

    1. Auburn beat em fair and square. That call should never have been made when it was made IMO. It’s all rigged for the ACC, even the game announcers Nantz, Hill, and that doofless Rafterry (spelling), or what ever his name is. almost cried when Auburn tied and then took the lead. They had been trashing Auburn the whole game if you listened carefully. They were so excited, and seemed glad when that last foul shot fell and Virginia was pretty much assured of the win. This is why I, down deep, hate basketball.

      1. Time for a real man’s sport, football. SEC football. On On UK.

  4. Kentucky will always be relevant. The negativity bothers me as well. Why would you ever think we would be irrelevant? We have been strong since Adolph Rupp; we won’t go down the tube now. Have a little faith.

  5. Another classic national championship game….that we didn’t play in. Just another verse to the same old song. We got the Calipari blues. Rah Rah Rah!

    1. Lifetime Contract…Rah Rah Rah!!!

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