AUBURN, Ala. – Stan Gouard recites the win-loss record for the three seasons he played for Bruce Pearl at Southern Indiana like it’s his social security number.
“82-12,” says Gouard, who starred for USI from 1993-96, early in Pearl’s nine-year tenure in Evansville. “Numbers don’t lie.”
In Pearl’s third season, 1994-95, Southern Indiana won the D-II national championship.
“People ask me who was the best player I’ve ever coached,” Pearl said. “I say it was Stan Gouard. He was the two-time Division II national player of the year.”
After playing professionally overseas, Gouard followed Pearl into coaching.
“He’s the reason why I’m coaching,” Gouard said. “I just wanted to be like him. There was something special about the way he talked to us, the way he treated us. To this day, I still respect the heck out of him and look up to him as a guy I aspire to be.”
After 12 seasons as the head coach at Indianapolis, Gouard returned to his alma mater in 2020.
“Without Coach Pearl and my family, I wouldn’t be sitting in chair right now because of the impact he had on my life,” he said.
Gouard brings his team to the Plains Friday when Auburn hosts Southern Indiana in an exhibition at 7 p.m. CT, a reunion for Pearl and several of his USI players and supporters.
“No matter what I do in life, I will always be a Screaming Eagle,” said Pearl, who turned down an opportunity to coach in Ohio Valley Conference after his fourth year at USI, Goard’s senior season in 1996.
“Twice the money, Division I,” recalled Pearl, who decided to stay at Southern Indiana when the faculty athletics representative at the OVC school asked him to share what he would tell his USI players when saying goodbye.
“I couldn’t answer her question because I couldn’t leave Southern Indiana,” he said.
Pearl would stay five more seasons at USI before coaching four years at Milwaukee and six at Tennessee before reviving and transforming Auburn’s program.
“I got a chance to watch it grow from a small school in southern Indiana to becoming a real big school and something the entire state of Indiana can be extremely proud of,” said Pearl, who will be coaching against Southern Indiana for the second time at Auburn and the fourth time in his career.
“Stan Gouard is one of the best young coaches in all of college basketball,” Pearl said. “Southern Indiana is fortunate to have him and they know it.”
More than a quarter-century after cutting down the nets, Pearl still casts a long shadow at Southern Indiana.
“My teammates from that era, we would run through a brick wall for him back then and would probably still do it to this day,” Gouard said. “That’s how much he meant to us and how much he impacted our lives.
“If I can ever get to a place while I’m here where I can walk down the street or walk on this campus and not here Coach Pearl’s name, I’m doing good things because his legacy here will never be forgotten. I’m chasing his greatness every single day.”