Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is earning respect by knocking off blue-blood after blue-blood. After hanging on by a thread over No. 12 seed New Mexico State, the Tigers notched a pair of double-digit victories over Kansas and North Carolina. One more over Kentucky Sunday and Pearl will have Auburn in its first-ever Final Four.
This is a hell of a turnaround since 2011, when he was fired 3 days after a 30-point loss to Michigan for various NCAA violations. Among them, he lied about the illegal off-campus recruiting of eventual Ohio State guard Aaron Craft. These activities led to a 3-year absence from coaching before Auburn hired him in 2014.
Where did Pearl, a coach with a 561-216 overall record, come from? What’s his background? Let’s take a look.
Bruce Pearl Ethnicity, Religion & Background
Pearl was born in Boston in 1960 to his father Bernie and his mother Barbara. He attended Sharon High School, a suburban high school 30 minutes south of downtown Boston. He is also a 1982 graduate of Boston College, where he served as the manager of the men’s basketball team.
He confirmed his Jewish heritage in an interview with the War Eagle Leader in 2015. He was asked by John Carvalho about a tweet where he commented on the political tension between Israel and Iran.
TWER: So this is the exception that proves the rule. It takes something like this to overcome your caution, especially to a large audience.
Pearl: You definitely pick your spots. For me, as an American Jew, this particular issue really speaks to me. I’m particularly concerned about anti-Semitism around the world. It’s growing very fast. I just want us to be able to get along and respect each other and love each other and tolerate each other’s differences. And that’s been my life’s work.
According to Ancestry.com, the last name Pearl is an Americanized version of the Jewish surname Perel.
English: metonymic occupational name for a trader in pearls, which in the Middle Ages were fashionable among the rich for the ornamentation of clothes, from Middle English, Old French perle (Late Latin perla). Americanized form of Jewish Perel.
His parents are still a very active presence in the 59-year old’s career. They still attend games, though sometimes they are too tense for them to handle.
“My mom and dad are both in their 80s. They can’t even watch the games,” Pearl said on Auburn’s radio network after a 77-72 victory over Missouri in Jan. 2017. “They go in the other room. They go through these different rituals. It’s not fair. I’m putting my fans and my family and my friends into cardiac situations.”
Pearl comes from a prestigious history of Jewish basketball coaches. Probably the most successful was Hall of Fame Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who won 9 NBA championships. A more recent example is former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who coached LeBron James to an NBA Finals loss in 2015.
Pearl has seen successful stints at Southern Illinois, Milwaukee, Tennessee and now Auburn. He can reach his first Final Four with a win over John Calipari and the Wildcats.