Bruce Pearl’s shady past

At least Bruce Pearl is funny, right?

The most fascinating college basketball coach to watch on the sidelines is Bruce Pearl, who will make his first Final Four appearance on Saturday when Auburn takes the court against Virginia. He is incredibly easy to like when you see him with that big smile on TV or listen to his personable demeanor during radio interviews.

Pearl has a good sense of humor, he laughs and cries with his players as an incredibly emotional guy. You may not notice it with his quick wit, charisma and passion for coaching basketball, but Pearl might be the dirtiest fella in the sport.

An all-time snitch

We start in Iowa where Pearl was an assistant coach. A few seasons in, he lost out on recruit Deon Thomas to Illinois. After he lost the recruiting battle, Pearl secretly recorded a phone call with Thomas, who seemed to indicated Illinois offered him money and a car. Pearl sent the entire conversation to the NCAA, which later led Illinois to be hit with major violations.

Secretly recording a high school kid’s conversation to get him in trouble. What a move. At least Pearl says wacky things and took his shirt off in the student section once. Otherwise, this might make him a total douche.

When you snitch in an industry that is filled with cheaters, it’s hard to find another college basketball job. Nearly a decade later, Pearl returned to Division 1 with Milwaukee.

This is the most unforgivable misstep in Pearl’s career in my opinion, but there’s more.

An impermissible cookout

Yes, it’s a cookout. This is a shot at crazy people who think anything on a grill should be referred to as a barbecue.

While coaching at Tennessee, Pearl had a cookout at his house and invited some top recruits, not allowed under NCAA rules. He denied this happening, but then a picture of future Ohio State player Aaron Craft surfaced of him hanging out at Pearl’s house.

Yikes. Rule #1 when you’re breaking rules: no photos or videos. Rookie mistakes made all around.

After lying to the NCAA and forcing others to lie for him, Pearl then admitting to being a liar. Tennessee punished him and the staff financially, and the SEC suspended him eight games. After a few more violations, Tennessee fired Pearl, and the NCAA banned him for three years.

Arrest and suspensions

Because succeeds everywhere he goes, Pearl found a job with Auburn immediately after his three-year show-cause penalty finished.

Four assistant coaches found themselves arrested on the first day of the FBI scandal that rocked college basketball in September 2017. One of them was Auburn’s Chuck Person. Players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy sat out all of last season.

Pearl did not want cooperate with the Auburn investigation, leading many to believe he might be fired. Instead, he signed contract extension after leading Auburn to its best record in more than 20 years.

Other Bruce Pearl stuff

Pearl’s first season in college basketball was as a manager for Boston College during the point-shaving scandal. Pearl was not involved in this whatsoever, but it’s hilarious given his history since then.

While at Milwaukee, Pearl invited recruits to his house. A minor violation, but it was a sign of things to come that essentially ended his time at Tennessee.

Ira Bowman, the Auburn assistant who replaced Person, received a suspension a week before the NCAA Tournament started this March.

Everywhere Bruce Pearl goes, he brings the shadiness with him. It started with ensuring a high school student got into trouble for not playing for him, and it currently ends with him two wins away from a national championship.

The lesson? No matter how many lives you ruin or lies you tell, just make sure you’re doing it with a smile on your face or a tear in your eye.

It’s the Bruce Pearl way.

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