By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Mike and Virginia McCartney’s simple request turned into a big Auburn party on Tuesday evening (June 2).
“They asked me what I could do to help,” said new Tigers basketball coach Bruce Pearl at Back Forty Beer Company. “I told them that since I’m still new here, I need to meet some fans.
“So they arranged this and invited me up to Gadsden.”
“This” was a meet-and-greet for a few dozen Auburn fans, where Pearl and his assistant, Chuck Person, both had a chance to make a speech.
With the McCartney’s doing the arranging, all it took was a phone call to reserve the brewery.
“Tim (McCartney, son of Mike) called and said his dad had talked to Coach Pearl about coming to Gadsden,” said Back Forty owner Jason Wilson. “They asked about using the facility and I told them that I would accommodate them the best I could.”
While he still has work to do on his “War Eagle,” Pearl brought a lot of enthusiasm to the room.
“The fans are excited,” he said. “They trust Auburn and have seen some special things happen at Auburn, both academically and athletically. I hope we can bring some of those feelings back.”
On the court, Pearl hopes to revive the old feelings of what it used to be like to play Auburn basketball.
“We’ve got a beautiful new arena,” he said. “I want the fans to walk in and see the tradition of Auburn basketball. I want them to see Charles Barkley, Chuck Person, Sonny Smith, Joel Eaves.”
Speaking of Person, the former Auburn and NBA great is fully happy to be second-in-command after interviewing for the top job. Person spent the last few years as an NBA assistant coach.
“I’ve always wanted to coach at Auburn,” he said. “Coach (Pearl) allowed me the opportunity to make my circle full. I’m very excited to reestablish myself at Auburn and to help enhance Auburn, altogether.”
Enhancing Auburn is key to what both coaches want to accomplish. Recruiting will play a big part in that.
“The key to recruiting is to be patient,” Pearl said. “You need to only take players that fit and that can take you where you need to be. Don’t settle. Never settle.”
Pearl hopes to be able to play his style of basketball this season but knows he could have to settle for a different style.
“I want to play fast and spread the floor,” he said. “I want to shoot the 3 a lot and to play full-court pressure defense. That’s what I “want” to do.”