As always, college basketball received a series of new hires this offseason, with a number of familiar faces changing venues on the coaching landscape. A few notable faces in new places are Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski, Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Wake Forest’s Danny Manning, Missouri’s Kim Anderson, Tulsa’s Frank Haith and California’s Cuonzo Martin. There are obviously numerous obstacles inherent in taking on the role of a new coach at a new program. Some may embrace the challenge and build to reach the greatest of heights (see: Calipari, John; Pitino, Rick; etc.), while others may face too daunting of a task and eventually fall flat. Either way, building a successful program from the ground up is a difficult process and only certain individuals have proven that they can get the job done.
When considering which new coach can get his team to the Big Dance the soonest, there’s one name that continues to pop up — Bruce Pearl. The former Tennessee coach was very successful in his time with the Volunteers, that is, until the NCAA got involved, and well, you know the story. Pearl spent his last couple of years working with ESPN as an analyst before getting hired by Auburn. Is Auburn the ideal program? Probably not. The job isn’t nearly as attractive as its football counterpart, but it does have excellent potential. Tony Barbee certainly couldn’t do it, but if anyone is going to push the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, it’s going to be Pearl. He hasn’t even coached a game, and Pearl has already elevated the basketball program. How has he gotten the folks at Auburn excited? Simple: recruiting.