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Auburn hires Person as assistant coach

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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Former Auburn All-American and NBA player Chuck Person is returning to the school as an assistant coach.

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New coach Bruce Pearl announced the hiring Monday of the Tigers' leading career scorer.

''This is a pretty special day for Auburn basketball and the Auburn family,'' Pearl said. ''I'm honored to have a person of Chuck's caliber join me in this challenge to coach this team. As he said, he's coming home.

''He's got experience beyond his years. He's got a resume that would support him being a head coach at the highest level in this game.''

The 6-foot-8 Person was a two-time All-America from 1983-86, finishing with a school-record 2,311 points. Nicknamed the Rifleman, he led Auburn to the Elite Eight in the 1986 NCAA tournament and spent 14 years in the NBA after getting drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the fourth overall pick.

Person, 49, was an assistant coach with five NBA teams from 2000-13 and had been coaching in South Korea.

''This is the only school that I would have taken a job at,'' Person said. ''My heart and my path took me to the NBA.

''This is the only school that I would come back to, to be a coach, whether it's a head coach or an assistant coach. This is my life. This is where I want to be. I'm home. Short of catastrophe, nothing can take me away from being here at this school.''

He interviewed for Auburn's head coaching job in 2010, when Tony Barbee was hired.

Person hasn't graduated but said he has worked out a plan with Auburn's academic staff and will finish his degree ''very quickly.'' He said the lack of a degree came up in his previous interview with Auburn.

''It's very important that I get a degree and I'm going to get a degree,'' Person said.

He was flanked by his coach at Auburn, Sonny Smith, and Earl Henderson from alma mater Brantley High School.

''The fact that Chuck is from Alabama, in high school as well as college was significant to me,'' Pearl said. ''You've got to make a statement with who you hire, the way you're going to go to work and the fact that fact that he played high school basketball in the state of Alabama, stayed home, got to the NBA, and has been such a great role model.

''I don't know that I could have made a stronger statement.''

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