It may be a little early to talk about the Auburn basketball team’s first full season with Coach Bruce Pearl in charge because the Tigers have still got at least a couple of games to play with their Senior Day coming up on Saturday followed by the SEC Tournament. However, as a coach I can say for sure that despite the team’s shortcomings I like what I have seen.
I think there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Auburn’s basketball future. It is very obvious that the Tigers are undermanned as far as having a complete roster with their starting players as well as players who can come off the bench and perform without having a big dropoff in production. In a transition season that happens sometimes, and as a coach you have to do the best with the players on hand.
A key for making that happen is to have good leaders on the team and my take is that there are some of those players on the roster, particularly a guy like K.T. Harrell, one of the seniors who will be honored on Saturday. I sure don’t know everything there is to know about basketball, but I do know that K.T. plays the game hard with a lot of heart.
I also know that there is major wear and tear on a team during a long season when it is trying to compete against opponents who are bigger, stronger, deeper and more talented, something that Coach Pearl’s team has been facing this year. It can take a toll both physically and mentally, especially preparing a team week after week that knows it is going to have to play close to its potential to have a chance to win.
I like that Coach Pearl hasn’t thrown any players under the bus and he hasn’t made excuses even though his team, which was short-handed to begin the season, has had to deal with injuries to key players and the unfortunate circumstance with Antoine Mason missing practice and games due to his father’s illness and death.
From watching the games I think that some of Auburn’s biggest mistakes have come from trying too hard at times to make plays and perhaps taking too many chances.
In Auburn’s situation some coaches might try to slow the tempo of games in hopes of keeping them closer, but for the most part the Tigers are trying to play with an up-tempo, entertaining style that players and fans enjoy watching, which is the way Coach Pearl wants his teams to perform. I think that will pay dividends in the long run.
I can see why his guys enjoy playing for Coach Pearl, even during a difficult season. From what I have seen as soon as Auburn’s coach boosts the talent level in the starting lineup, and improves the depth, his teams will compete with anybody in the SEC. I think a lot of Auburn folks feel that way, too. I just haven’t seen any negative fallout anywhere out there about this team even though this season is not going to end with a winning record.
As long as they keep trying hard I will use an old Auburn expression and say don’t worry about them, just love them and they will be a good team one day. I know it is tough on him now, but Coach Pearl will be able to look back and appreciate the effort he has been getting from his players.
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