Auburn names Pearl men's hoops coach

Auburn, AL ( - Auburn has named Bruce Pearl its new men's basketball coach.

Pearl had been out of coaching since leaving Tennessee amid NCAA violations in March 2011. He had most recently been a college basketball analyst for ESPN.

"I'm humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love," said Pearl in a statement Tuesday. "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."

Pearl spent six years at Tennessee and guided the Volunteers to the NCAA Tournament each season. He was 145-61 with the Vols and was a two-time SEC coach of the year.

However, Pearl was fired after the NCAA launched a probe into the Tennessee program, an investigation that centered around impermissible phone calls to potential recruits and impermissible contact from Pearl to prospective student-athletes.

Pearl misled investigators when asked about certain photos of him with recruit Aaron Craft, now playing at Ohio State. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Pearl had improperly hosted the prospect at his home in 2008.

After a 2010-11 season in which Pearl had his salary reduced and sat out the first eight games of the SEC schedule as a conference-imposed penalty, the Vols fired Pearl.

The NCAA, in August of 2011, imposed penalties against Tennessee and Pearl. The coach was issued a three-year show-cause penalty as part of the sanctions and won't be able to contact recruits with Auburn until August of this year.

Aside from the infractions, Pearl has found a good amount of success on the court.

Pearl won a Division II national championship at Southern Indiana during the 1994-95 season. He went 231-46 in nine seasons from 1992-2001, then spent the next four years at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he went 86-36 with two trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet 16 appearance.

Tennessee reached the Elite Eight for the first time in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and also earned the program's first-ever No. 1 ranking under Pearl.

"Coach Pearl is a proven winner who will bring energy and excitement to our program," said Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. "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 will replace Tony Barbee, who was fired last week after a 14-16 season.