Bruce Pearl gets help from 3 ‘real Auburn men’ to show rising Tigers how far they’ve come – The Athletic

As the double doors opened into a meeting room on the seventh floor of the Westin Tampa Bay, Auburn coaches showed up to watch the SEC tournament preliminary games on a big-screen TV. Massive windows overlooking the bay at sunset made it a scenic spot for scouting.

“What a view!” said a staff member.

Auburn’s view of basketball has certainly improved. A breakthrough in the Final Four in 2019, sharing the conference championship a year later, and maintaining a record 27 regular season wins for what is only the third all-time SEC title in 91 seasons. The Tigers spent three weeks at No. 1, their first taste of the AP’s No. 1 spot, and nine consecutive weeks in the top five.

Did the 2014 version of Bruce Pearl — eager to restart his coaching career after an NCAA violation thwarted his tenure at Tennessee — envision tradition-poor Auburn turning into this?

“You’re talking about a school vying with Alabama and Georgia for national football championships,” he recalled this week. “But the fact that they hadn’t done it in men’s basketball for a long time made it more appealing. If we could go there and win, that would be wonderful.

On Sunday night, they received the No. 2 seed from the Midwest Regional in the NCAA Tournament.

The view is especially rewarding for three former Auburn students on Pearl’s staff — assistant coach Wes Flanigan, director of player development Marquis Daniels and graduate assistant KT Harrell — guys who have played for three decades and are stayed in touch with the school even when its basketball program failed.

“All three were leaders in different ways at different times here,” said Chad Prewett, the chief of staff who has been with Pearl throughout all eight seasons at Auburn. “They are so important to what happens here with our players.