AUBURN – Heading into his 10th season as the head coach of the Auburn Tigers, Bruce Pearl addressed the media ahead of the team's first official practice of the 2023-2024 season.
"I’d say you might get asked this question sometimes: What’s the best time for you, as a basketball coach? And I’d say right now is about it, in the sense that, we’ve been going for about a month with the eight-hour-a-week schedule," Pearl said. We’ve been on the floor for about four hours and then strength and conditioning for four hours."
Pearl reflected on the team from last season and how it persevered through adversity to make the NCAA Tournament.
"Looking back, I’m proud of last year’s team for hanging in for a really grueling, grinding regular season, particularly in the conference season," Pearl said. "We lost a lot of close games in the second half of the season in some really tough places."
He continued, "We had a stretch of some really difficult games. Our ability to hang in and play well on the road as well as winning enough at home was enough of a formula to get us in the tournament, which just is not a given anymore, partly because of how good the league has become, how competitive the league has become top-to-bottom."
Pearl saw a lot of turnover on his roster this offseason. Through the transfer portal and players declaring for the NBA Draft, Auburn brought in five new scholarship players.
"We bring enough guys back from that team and enough experience back to build on, and we’ve got, probably, as many newcomers this year as I think I’ve ever had," Pearl said. "That gives us enough new players to put a little bit of pop in the lineup and give us some new things we can kind of work on with some new personnel."
With the Pearl era at Auburn nearing a decade, many remember the state the program was in when Pearl took over. The Tigers had not made the NCAA Tournament in 11 seasons. Under Pearl, however, the Tigers have made the Tournament four of the last five times it has been played.
"My goal in coming to Auburn was to get the basketball program up to the level of excellence that the rest of the sports programs enjoyed and the other parts of the university enjoyed. So whatever that means. Did I expect to get to a Final Four? You know, as a Division I head coach I had not been to a Final Four before," Pearl said. I won a national championship in Division II. I finished second one year."
He added, "I went to a few Elite Eights. So that exceeded my expectations if I had an expectation. The biggest thing about a reflection would be, I want to do the best job I possibly can with what we have."
Auburn will open up the season against the Baylor Bears on Tuesday, November 7, in Sioux Falls, S.D. The time has not yet been determined.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected]
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.