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Auburn hires Bruce Pearl as men's basketball coach

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn has hired former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to revive a struggling basketball program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in more than a decade.

The school on Tuesday announced the hiring of the charismatic coach, who remains under a show-cause penalty from the NCAA into August.

Pearl had plenty of success on the court, taking Tennessee to the NCAA tournament in each of his six seasons before getting fired in March 2011 in the wake of an NCAA investigation.

Spokesmen for Auburn and the NCAA did not immediately respond to emails regarding the show-cause status.

“I’m humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love,” said Pearl, who turned 54 on Tuesday, in a statement. “I don’t know how long it will take, but it’s time to rebuild the Auburn basketball program, and bring it to a level of excellence so many of the other teams on campus enjoy.”

Auburn did not release terms of the deal with Pearl, who will be formally introduced Tuesday night.

Pearl replaces Tony Barbee, who was fired about two hours after the Tigers lost to South Carolina in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. They went 18-50 in the SEC during Barbee’s four-year tenure, which coincided with the opening of the $90 million Auburn Arena.

“From the moment I met coach Pearl and heard his vision for our basketball program, it was clear he’s the right man at the right time for Auburn,” athletic director Jay Jacobs said.

“Coach Pearl is a proven winner who will bring energy and excitement to our program. We have raised the bar for Auburn basketball, and I could not be more excited for our student-athletes and our future under Coach Pearl’s leadership. I know he agrees with me – it’s time to win.”

Pearl was cited for unethical conduct for lying to investigators in June 1010 about improperly hosting recruits at his home. He was placed under a three-year show-cause penalty, which expires in late August.

The penalty barred Pearl from recruiting during that span, and any school seeking to hire him would have to ask the NCAA to remove that penalty.

He also was found to have interfered with the NCAA’s investigation after he contacted a recruit’s father who had also been interviewed by investigators.

Two months after his initial interview, he met again with NCAA investigators to tell them he had misled them.

Auburn hired former NCAA director of enforcement David Didion as an associate athletic director for compliance in April 2013.

Pearl has been working in private business in Knoxville, Tenn., and as an ESPN analyst. He has led nine of his 10 Division I teams to the NCAA tournament, including three times in four seasons at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Only North Carolina’s Roy Williams reached 300 career wins faster among NCAA coaches.

Auburn hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2003, the longest drought in the SEC. The Tigers’ average attendance last season was 5,823, 13th in the league.

The last seven Auburn coaches have left with losing marks in the league, dating back to the Joel Eaves era from 1949 to 1963.

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