Some of the suggestions of Chuck Person's potential role on Bruce Pearl's first Auburn basketball staff were as insulting as they were wrong.
As much as he loves his old school, as much as he burns to make Auburn basketball matter again, Person is too proud a man and too keen a basketball mind to consider any of those positions.
He didn't leave the South Korean professional team he was coaching during the playoffs to be a graduate assistant. He didn't turn his career path down a different road from professional basketball to the college game to be a volunteer assistant.
From the moment he was spotted on the Auburn campus the day Pearl was introduced, it was clear to anyone who knows Person that he was there for one reason. To join the staff as a full-time, on-court assistant.
. Of all the positive things Pearl has done for the program since taking over and taking the campus by storm, this was his best move yet.
He did more than bring the best player in Auburn history back into the fold. He added one of the best available basketball minds to his inner circle. That's a powerful combination.
How well-respected is Person? When Phil Jackson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he added Person to his staff. That was just one of Person's NBA stops, but it speaks volumes about the respect he earned in that league.
Four years ago, when Auburn was looking for a head coach to replace Jeff Lebo, Person was interested and interviewed. I spoke to some NBA coaches and executives who'd worked with Person, and.
Donnie Walsh, former Indiana Pacers president who's now a consultant with the team, told me he'd recommended Person for head coaching jobs in the NBA.
Mitch Kupchak, the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, captured Person's essence when I asked about his ability to recruit as a college coach, something he's never done.
"He's not a PR guy," Kupchak said. "It's not smoke and mirrors with him. He's got substance. I can envision him in front of a family (on a recruiting visit) being very sincere and honest."
Who's better-qualified to sit in a recruit's living room and explain the possibilities of Auburn basketball? Person and Charles Barkley led Auburn to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1984. After Barkley left for the NBA, Person pushed the Tigers to the Sweet 16 in 1985 and the Elite Eight in 1986.
Despite finishing his career the year before college basketball adopted the 3-point shot, Person remains Auburn's all-time leading scorer, and he's still No. 4 on the SEC's all-time scoring list.
More importantly for his new role at Auburn, he's rare among former stars in that he can teach the game as well as he played it. How good a teacher is he? No less a perfectionist than Kobe Bryant is just one of the pros who's valued his advice.
Four years ago, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Person "would be great at cultivating young men out of high school and turning them into terrific people and terrific players."
Carlisle meant as a college head coach, but Auburn mistakenly chose Tony Barbee instead. This time around, Pearl was smart not to let Person get away from Auburn again.