*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant for the University Archives and Special Collections.
Basketball is Indiana’s favorite past-time. It doesn’t matter if it is high school, collegiate, or professional basketball, Hoosiers love the sport. At the University of Southern Indiana, basketball is one of the top sports on campus. Even on the west side of Evansville, a prominent drive is named after the USI basketball coaching legend, Bruce Pearl.
Until the arrival of Bruce Pearl, the USI men’s basketball team had six head coaches over a twenty-one-year span. Pearl was among eighty applicants for the head coach position in April 1992. Before coming to USI, he served as the assistant coach for the Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball from 1986 to 1992 and at Stanford University from 1982 to 1986. By May 1992, USI announced Pearl would become the seventh coach in USI men’s basketball history
Pearl went to work, and the men’s basketball shined throughout the season under his leadership. The results were evident as the team posted their best season in school history at that point. The 1992-1993 team went 22-7, after going 10-18 the previous season. The team entered the 1993 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball tournament but did not make it out of their region. By the next two seasons, no one realize how much the USI men’s basketball team was going to become a powerhouse.
The 1993-1994 season outshined their previous season by improving their record to 28-4 and winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) championship and made it to the NCAA Division II championship; however, USI fell to the California State University, Bakersfield Roadrunners, 92-86. As a consolation, Stan Gouard, won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, despite losing. The 1994-1995 season proved to be redeeming as the Screamin’ Eagles dominated and returned to the NCAA Division II championship, facing UC Riverside. Unlike the previous year, the team defeated UC Riverside, 71-63, winning USI’s first ever collegiate championship. Following their win, the Indiana General Assembly honored and recognized the team. After their championship win in 1995, the men’s basketball team continued to be a force to be reckoned; however, the team did not return to the championship round until 2004, where they lost to Kennesaw State.
Pearl would stay at the helm of USI’s men’s basketball team until 2001, when he left for the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as their head coach. Rick Herdes, an assistant coach for Pearl, later became the next coach for the team. During Pearl’s tenure at USI, he garnered a 231-46 record, a school record, and 146-28 record in the GLVC. He also won the GLVC Coach of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Pearl also became the fastest coach in NCAA history to win 200 games by doing so in 240 games. He was inducted in the GLVC Hall of Fame in 2008 and continues to coach men’s basketball. Pearl has worked for the University of Tennessee and Auburn University, reaching the Final Four in 2019, the first time in school history.
At the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library hosts an online digital gallery containing over 6,800 materials pertaining to USI history. The materials cover a wide array of topics and departments, including USI Athletics. The materials are free and available at http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/.
Borgus, H. (1995, April 24). General Assembly recognizes basketball team’s achievement. The Shield, page 8. Retrieved from http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/6062/rec/4
Great Lakes Valley Conference. (n.d.). Bruce Pearl. http://www.glvcsports.com/mobile/hof.aspx?hof=31
Smith, N. (2001, April 12). Coach Pearl on his way out. The Shield, page 1. Retrieved from http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/7454/rec/1.
University Notes. (1992, May 27). Retrieved from http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll3/id/7779/rec/1.
USI Athletics. (2020). University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball all-time records. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.usi.edu/sports/mbasket/mbasketrecords.asp#All-Time%20Coaching%20Records
USI Athletics. (2020). Year by year results for USI men’s basketball. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.usi.edu/sports/mbasket/mbasketyears.asp
Wendt, B. (1992, April 22). Big 10 assistant basketball coach interviews at USI. The Shield, page 12. Retrieved from http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/3438/rec/2