Archived Story

Auburn legend returns to the Plains

Published 3:17pm Wednesday, April 9, 2014

By Andy Graham

After nearly two weeks of speculation, Bruce Pearl made it official Monday afternoon that Auburn legend Chuck Person will indeed be joining his staff as one of three full on-court assistants.
Long-time Pearl assistant Tony Jones was named as a member of Pearl’s new staff in his initial press conference, and the final position is still to be determined.
Person interviewed for the head coaching position at Auburn back in 2010 but was passed over in favor of Tony Barbee.
That didn’t exactly work out too well for the Tigers.
Person was again interviewed this go around, but obviously Jay Jacobs went in a different direction.
Rumors began to swirl about Person returning to his alma mater as an assistant almost immediately, due mainly to his unmistakable presence at Pearl’s introduction.
Initially, I was a little reticent in throwing my support behind Person joining the Auburn staff.
Have you ever heard of a coach getting a job and then hiring the guy he beat out for it? I can’t say I ever remember that happening, and it’s obviously because there could be some chemistry issues.
I certainly didn’t want Pearl to be forced to hire an Auburn man, or anyone else for that matter.
Auburn basketball is a difficult enough job on its own without adding any self-imposed hurdles like discontinuity in the coaching staff.
Don’t get me wrong.  I love Person, and I think he’ll be great for Auburn. I just wasn’t sure if he would be the right fit.
As it turns out, my fears have been put to rest. Pearl took his time and was very deliberate in the interview process.  He and Person talked in-depth about philosophy, coaching and apparently life in general.
I’ve also had a chance to listen to the passion in Person’s voice when talking about Auburn. It’s abundantly clear he has a deep desire to see the Tigers succeed.
It’s also clear he desperately wants to be a part of that success in whatever capacity that might be.
Person, also known as “the Rifleman” (because he was named after the iconic actor and because he was known as a prolific shooter), played at Auburn from 1982-1986.
He is the all-time leading scorer in Tigers history with 2,311 points.  That mark is still good for fourth all time in the SEC. Person is undoubtedly on the Mount Rushmore of Auburn basketball (if there is such a thing) along with Charles Barkley.
The other two faces could probably be debated for years, but these two built what little tradition the Tigers actually have.
Person led Auburn to its only Elite Eight appearance in 1986. The Tigers would lose to eventual national champion Louisville.
Person was taken fourth overall by the Indiana Pacers in the NBA draft and played 14 seasons of professional basketball with five different teams. He scored 13,858 points in his career and had 4,763 rebounds.
Person has served as an NBA assistant coach with the Cavaliers, Pacers, Kings and Lakers. He won a NBA title with the  Lakers in 2010.
Now, this Auburn legend has come home to try and save the day in true Lucas McCain fashion (that’s Chuck Connors character in the Rifleman, for you young whippersnappers).
Graham is a sports columnist for The Outlook.