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Auburn’s Bruce Pearl ‘loud and proud’ about his faith

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Teams like Duke and Kentucky get a lot of hype by signing the nation’s top recruits, but there’s a reason one-and-done’s often don’t win championships.
USA TODAY

MINNEAPOLIS — Bruce Pearl, Auburn’s head basketball coach, has no plans to hide that he’s only the third Jewish head basketball coach to reach the Final Four.

“I’m kind of loud and I’m kind of proud,’’ Pearl said Friday. 

Pearl was the first president of the Jewish Coaches Association and in 2009, he coached the U.S. men’s team at Maccabiah Games, an Olympic-style international event held every four years in Israel. Pearl’s team won the title.

On Saturday, Pearl’s fifth-seeded Auburn Tigers will face top-seeded Virginia for a shot to play in the championship game Monday night. 

Nat Holman and Larry Brown, the previous Jewish head coaches to reach the Final Four, also won national titles.

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Holman did it with City College of New York in 1950 and Brown did it with Kansas in 1988.

Pearl, 59, made it clear that being in position to become the third Jewish head coach to win a title carries significance.

“It tells you what a great country we live in,’’ he said. “I’m grateful for the religious freedom I have to be a practicing Jew in the Christian community (in Auburn, Ala.). I can tell you down South it is so comfortable there because we share the same God. And my Christian brothers embrace that. It’s a wonderful thing. 

“That doesn’t exist everywhere. So I’m just grateful. But I’m also mindful that it hasn’t always been that way. It’s not that way everywhere. And we need to make sure that we do the best job we can as a Jewish man to represent and break down stereotypes while we maintain our identity.’’

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