With the way his team has been playing as of late, Bruce Pearl has reason to be excited. But the Auburn basketball coach got a little too excited on Saturday and ended up hitting one of his own players in the face.
It was an accident, of course, but that doesn’t make the victim, Jared Harper, feel any better.
Harper was approaching the scorer’s table to check in when Pearl delivered a right hand across the face.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 28, 2018
Fortunately the punch was more of a forearm to the face and it appeared to just graze Harper. Judging from his reaction, he didn’t appear to have suffered any ill effects from the incident.
Nearly as funny as the punch itself was the reaction, or lack thereof, of everyone sitting on press row. They must have really been into the game as only one person appeared to notice a coach nearly punching out his player.
As expected, the punch launched thousands of jokes over social media.
Bruce Pearl has a major impact on his players, especially their faces
— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) January 28, 2018
Lost in the hoopla of a coach clocking his own player in the face is that Auburn easily disposed of LSU 95-70. The 25-point margin marked Auburn’s largest SEC victory this decade.
Harper scored 11 points and led the team with eight assists. He was one of five Auburn players in double figures as the Tigers remained undefeated at home.
Pearl has done an amazing job at Auburn especially considering his status just before the season began.
Auburn was one of the schools implicated in the men’s basketball corruption scandal in September. Former Auburn player and then-assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested on six felony counts and later indicted by a federal grand jury. Person was initially suspended by Auburn and later fired after the indictment.
Additionally, Auburn players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were held out of games indefinitely due to eligibility concerns raised by the FBI investigation. Both players were among Auburn’s top four scorers last season, but neither has appeared in a single game this season.
Even Pearl was caught up in the investigation, and in early November it was reported that he was refusing to cooperate with Auburn’s internal investigation of the program. University officials notified him that he was at risk at being fired for his refusal to cooperate, but by mid-November he told CBS Sports that he was cooperating with the investigation.
More than two months later, Pearl appears to be in great standing with the university thanks to his team’s 19-2 record. At No. 19, Auburn is the highest ranked team in the SEC and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi pegs them as a No. 4 seed in his latest Bracketology projections.
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