Person Happy to Be Home Again

Comments from Chuck Person, Bruce Pearl and Sonny Smith are featured in this report on Auburn's newest assistant basketball coach.

Auburn, Ala.--It took a while for the paperwork to be processed, but Coach Bruce Pearl finally was able to announce Chuck Person as a new member of the Auburn basketball coaching staff on Monday.

Person, who had already purchased a house in the area for his return to the place where he was a collegiate star, said he is excited about returning to Auburn University where he is the leading scorer in school hoops history. His duties will include on-the-court coaching of both the offense and defense, and he will be one of the staff's recruiters.

"I want to thank President (Jay) Gogue, (Athletic Director) Jay Jacobs and Coach Bruce Pearl for hiring me and allowing me to fulfill my journey and come full circle by being an assistant coach at Auburn," Person said.

"Before this journey happens I have to thank a couple of people--my mom and dad, my wife and my kids, but a special thank you to my high school coach, Coach Earl Henderson. He really nurtured me along the way to get this path started and to pass me off to Coach Sonny Smith--Coach Sonny Smith, the greatest coach in Auburn history. He really sent me off to the pros where I became a man. Everything has come back full circle, and I really appreciate them and thank them."

A two-time All-American for the Tigers, Person scored 2,311 points (18.3 per game) and has the school record for most field goals made with 1,017 and is third in career rebounds with 940. Auburn honored Person by retiring his jersey in 2006.

The fourth pick in the first round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, Person was named NBA Rookie of the Year.

He played for 13 seasons in the NBA for five teams while averaging 14.7 points per game. Person played six years for the Pacers, two for Minnesota, three in San Antonio and one season each with Charlotte and Seattle.

Person began coaching with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2000 and also coached in Cleveland, Indiana, Sacramento and for the Los Angeles Lakers. This past season he was associate head coach for the Jeonju KCC Egis in the Korean Basketball League.

Asked what it means to be back at his alma mater, Person said, "It means everything. Being in the pros was a lifelong dream as a player and as a coach, but to come back to the university where you really made an impact in the culture of the university, to come back to this staff to help with Coach Pearl's vision of our university moving forward with our basketball team is very special.

"I'm really looking forward to working with Coach Pearl, Tony Jones, Steven Pearl and the rest of the staff. It's a great time for Auburn. We are really looking forward to going into the next generation of players coming to Auburn to make things get back to the way they were."

Pearl said he wanted to "make a statement" with the hire and thinks he did by bringing in one of the greatest players in Alabama high school history, who was also one of the top players in SEC history who enjoyed a long and successful career in the NBA as a player and assistant coach.

"The fact that he played basketball in the state of Alabama, stayed home and got to the NBA and has been such a great role model, I don't know if I could have made a stronger statement," Pearl said.

Auburn's new head coach has one more spot available for his on-the-court coaching staff. He said that he interviewed around a dozen candidates at the Final Four weekend in Dallas and hopes to have an announcement on another hire in the next week or so.

"This is a pretty special day for Auburn basketball and the Auburn Family," Pearl said. "I am honored to have a person of Chuck's caliber join me in this challenge to coach this team. As he said, he is coming home and there is no place else in college basketball he would have settled.

"He has got experience beyond his years," Pearl said. "He has got a resume that would support him becoming a head coach at the highest level in this game. When Auburn made the decision to hire me as head coach, he didn't blink an eye. This is where he wanted to be."

Pearl noted through the interview process he was very impressed with Person's knowledge of the game. "I brought him in here to make me better and he will do that," the head coach said.

"I am going to sell Chuck Person and he is going to sell Coach Pearl and together we are going to sell Auburn basketball," Pearl said. "It gives me a level of confidence when I put my head down on the pillow at night we can do this because he has decided to join us."

Pearl said that he expects Person's name recognition will be high among high school coaches and the parents of recruits, particularly the fathers. "He can go anywhere in the country and recruit," Pearl said. "He can certainly help us regionally because he lived it. So many of the high school coaches are coaches that watched him grow and know who he is. He knows many of them personally."

Person's college coach, Sonny Smith, and his coach at Brantley High School, Earl Henderson were on campus on Monday for the announcement that the 1980s Auburn star was joining Pearl's staff.

Person is shown with Sonny Smith at an Auburn basketball game.

Smith noted that Person was a student of the game when he played for the Tigers. "He's a sponge," Smith said. "Chuck is the only player that I coached that came to the coaches meetings and sat in on game plans. I never had one do that."

The former Auburn head coach added, "He's the one guy that I coached that I would trust in any situation, and I think he's the same way. Whoever he is working with or for, he'll get the job done for him because he's going to trust them or he wouldn't come to work with them."

Henderson said that he plans to be a regular at Auburn Arena for the 2013-14 season. "My wife and I are getting tickets for the first time since Wesley (Person) was here," he said of Chuck's younger brother, who was also an Auburn star and NBA player.

"We're very excited about it," Henderson said. "We're excited about Coach Pearl and Chuck being able to coach under him and to learn from him."

Henderson said that he told Pearl it would be wise to hire Person. "He is getting a great competitor. The greater person he played against, the greater he played. The greater the opponent, the greater he played and he's going to be the same way as a coach. And you're getting somebody who wants to please. He always wanted to please me. He wanted to please Coach Smith. He is going to want to please Coach Pearl. What Auburn is getting is somebody that loves Auburn. He said, ‘Coach, this is home.' That's what he told me the other day."

Chuck Person earned the nickname "The Rifleman" for his long-range shooting accuracy at Auburn.

Playing for the Tigers from 1982-86, Person led the Tigers to Auburn's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearances in 1984, 1985 and 1986. The 1986 team made Auburn's deepest run in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion Louisville. In 1985 he was the SEC Tournament MVP as the Tigers won the championship.

"I am very excited about Chuck's return to Auburn," Athletic Director Jacobs said. "He was a big part of our program's past success and it is exciting to have him as an integral part of its bright future. Coach Pearl is putting together a phenomenal staff and Chuck is a great addition who will help turn our program around."

Person said that he plans to finish his Auburn degree now that he is back on campus.

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