NEW YORK — When men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl woke up in his home near Auburn University’s campus on the morning of Oct. 7, he spent 10 minutes praying, as he does every day. It was a normal day — until he checked his phone for messages and news, and learned that Hamas, a terrorist organization, had invaded Israel in a brutal attack and killed an estimated 1,200 people.
Pearl, who is Jewish, has deep ties to Israel, and he and his team had visited the country in the summer of 2022. Over the following days, Pearl learned about the horrible atrocities that had been committed — beheadings, murders, rapes, abductions and other heinous war crimes.
Beginning at 7:39 that morning, Pearl, who now has nearly 134,000 followers on X, tweeted or retweeted 16 times that day about the atrocities of the war, the evils of Hamas and its sponsor Iran, and the failures of the Biden Administration in protecting Israel, combined with praise for the former Trump Administration.
He was horrified but not altogether surprised by the attack. After all, Pearl, 63, had been fearing — and warning against — such an assault for years on social media and in personal conversations.
The attacks were “unprecedented,” he told NJ Advance Media on Friday night at Barclays Center after Auburn won the Legends Classic over St. Bonaventure. “Terrorists, cowards, targeting women and children and the atrocities that they did.”
He added: “If you’ve been following me on Twitter over the years, I’ve been calling out Iran for who they say they are and what they say they’re going to sponsor.”
Many coaches at any level — pro, college, amateur — are hesitant to reveal their views on sensitive subjects for fear of backlash, recruiting losses and, potentially, getting fired, and the Hamas-Israel war has become the most controversial issue of the day. Pearl, however, has no fear of being outspoken.
“Yeah, that’s a sensitive topic, but give him credit, he has a passion and he believes in what he says,” said Mark Schmidt, the St. Bonaventure men’s coach and a longtime friend of Pearl’s who grew up near him in Massachusetts.
“He’s a national name,” said UC Santa Barbara coach Joe Pasternack, who, like Pearl, is a member of the Jewish Coaches Association. “I think it’s amazing what he’s doing. I love it.”
Learning early about anti-Semitism
Pearl grew up in a Reform Jewish household in Boston with working-class parents. His dad was in sales, his mom was a secretary. He spoke Yiddish with his grandparents. As a young boy, he experienced anti-Semitism first hand.
“I grew up in Boston seeing real racism in great, wonderful ethnic neighborhoods and I saw a real anti-Semitism,” he said. “When you grow up being told that you murdered Christ, and you murdered Jesus, you murdered all my Christian friends’ God, it’s hard to deal with that when you’re a kid, and try to wrap your arms around that. And so obviously, it gave me that…
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