Bruce Pearl took the stage in Birmingham to wild applause. Several hundred Auburn fans had gathered for the Greater Birmingham Auburn Club's season kickoff party at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center. The party coincides with Auburn's day each year at SEC Media Days. It was Malzahn's party but Bruce stole the show.
If Jim Valvano and Louis Prima had a baby, it would be Bruce Pearl.
He's a wild man. He came out and said that he was pleased that his hiring had "pissed Alabama fans off so much." He claimed that Jay Jacobs told him to tell the crowd "what he did at Tennessee." Bruce said, "I can't tell them that Jay, what I did at Tennessee got me fired!" Among the highlights (this is from memory so some of the wording may be off):
- "I had a team at Wisconsin-Milwaukee that was a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament. We were playing Alabama, a 5 seed. Alabama had been to the Elite 8 the year before and had another great team that year and were favored by double digits. Mark Gottfried was their coach. Mark came up to me and said, ‘Bruce, I don't want you to take this the wrong way but when are you going to get a major job?' I said ‘Mark, I don't want you to take this the wrong way but I'm getting one in about two hours when I'm through whippin' your ass!"
- "We're at Kentucky. We had beaten them earlier in Knoxville. Everytime you're in Rupp it's 8 on 5. I got my five, they got their five, and three officials, 8 on 5. We're down 13 there's 30 seconds left. I call timeout. My players are curious what I'm going to say. There's no 14 point play. I look at my best defender and say ‘I want you to guard that official there.' He says ‘WHAT?' I said ‘Guard that official there! Not that official, not that official, not that official, but THAT official.' We break the huddle and he runs over to the official and is waving his arms. The official blows his whistle and comes over to me and says, ‘what's this about coach?' I said, ‘I learned to put my best defender on the guy who's hurt me the worst that night.' Technical foul, throws me out."
- "I keep telling Coach Malzahn, ‘I don't see what the big deal is, I've been coaching without a huddle for 25 years.'"
- [To a fan yelling at him in the middle of an answer to another fan's question] "if you'll yell that loud at Calipari I'll bring you to the game and buy you a ticket!"
- "We're going to be on national tv more than we have in the past."
- "We need to raise our expectations at Auburn."
- "We're starting the season with four teams that were in the NCAA tournament last year. And I don't know that we're ready. But I don't care because that's where we're trying to take our team."
He's expecting to field a smaller team that he hopes will be "fast" even if it isn't quite "Auburn fast." He hopes that his team will be a "real pain to play." He asked the crowd to come down from Birmingham for a couple of games this year.
I guess we'll see if Bruce still has That Old Black Magic. If he gets Auburn to an NCAA Tournament berth, I'll take the Night Train regularly to the Arena to Jump, Jive, and Wail and Sing, Sing, Sing with 9,000 of my closest friends. Whether things turn around or not, it's about to be real fun to be an Auburn basketball fan.