Squad was first Division I NCAA Tourney team from UWM
UWM claims 20-win season
CBI matchup tips at 7 p.m. CDT
Winner faces host Crusaders Saturday
First round game tips at 7 p.m.
The magic of Bruce Pearl has continued in Milwaukee.
After carving out a remarkably successful career at the University of Southern Indiana, Pearl brought his winning ways to Milwaukee and has turned UWM into one of the top Mid-Major programs in the country.
Under Pearl's direction last season, the Panthers won the first Division I regular season league title in school history. UWM tied a school record by winning 13 league games for the second year in a row. UWM also claimed a first-ever NIT berth and beat Rice in an opening round game.
Pearl holds a 37-11 record in Horizon League games and has the best winning percentage in league play of any coach in Horizon League history. This past season, UWM bolted to a 10-0 start in league play, including an amazing road winning streak that included victories at UW-Green Bay, Cleveland State, Detroit and Wright State in a period of 11 days - winning every game by double digits.
Plus, Pearl helped senior Dylan Page win Horizon League Player of the Year honors and saw his recruiting pay off, as Ed McCants was named League Newcomer of the Year and joined Joah Tucker on the all-newcomer team.
Last year's success built on a growing tradition at UWM. Two years ago, the Panthers won 24 games, the most by a UWM squad since the 1988-89 season, equaling the all-time school record. He led UWM to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth after winning the Horizon League Tournament championship. Then, in the tournament, Pearl led the Panthers within a point of upsetting Notre Dame.
His work has been recognized by his peers and the media, as Pearl has claimed Horizon League Coach of the Year honors twice in his three years at UWM.
People in Milwaukee have taken notice, making Pearl one of the most recognizable sports figures in the city. Fans have flocked to the Klotsche Center and the U.S. Cellular Arena, with attendance rising in every year of Pearl's tenure. Pearl's outgoing nature has attracted the attention of citizens and media across the state and Pearl has become a regular on local talk shows, including filling in as a host on WTMJ, the city's top station.
The move downtown to the U.S. Cellular Arena by the Panthers has been successful in large part because of Pearl. UWM has drawn more than 10,000 fans to the Horizon League title game each of the last two seasons. Plus, in the first regular season downtown since the mid-1990's, Pearl's Panthers drew more than 8,700 fans for a contest with UW-Green Bay.
Pearl made his mark immediately on coming to UWM. He was named the 19th head coach of the 109-year-old program on April 11, 2001, replacing Bo Ryan, who left to be the head coach at Wisconsin. Pearl then proceeded to lead UWM to 16 wins that season, which at the time marked the most wins for the program since the 1992-93 season. But that only begins to detail the accomplishments in just one season. Under Pearl's direction, UWM won 11 games in the Horizon League in 2001-02, which, at the time, set a new school record for the most wins in a Division I league. UWM finished second in the league during the regular season - the best league finish in school history. Plus, UWM claimed its first-ever win at Butler, its first-ever win over a school from the Big East and its first-ever win over a ranked team.
On top of that, Pearl entered his name into the UWM record book in just his first season. His 16 wins equaled the most by a first-year coach in the program's 108-year history.
But, those that follow college basketball closely had little doubt Pearl would be successful at UWM. He had been the head coach at Southern Indiana for the previous nine seasons. During Pearl's tenure - along with finishing second in the nation in 1994 - USI won the national championship in 1995.
In his final season at the Evansville, Ind., school, USI finished 26-4 and won the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship. His team was also ranked number one in the country for the sixth time in seven seasons, and USI advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a ninth-straight time.
He is 271-67 in his 11 seasons as a head coach. He reached 250 wins in a Dec. 1 victory over Maine and Pearl also reached the 200-victory plateau at one school sooner than any basketball coach in history. He shattered the original NCAA record held by Everett Case of North Carolina State when it took him just 240 games to claim 200 wins.
In 1995, Pearl was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year. He was twice named Great Lakes Valley Conference Coach of the Year and also named the NABC Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year twice.
Pearl's coaching talents have been recognized nationally. In the May 1999 issue of Sport Magazine, Pearl was listed as one of the "Five Head Coaches on the Rise," placing him in a group with Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), and Buzz Peterson (Tennessee).
Pearl, who also served as Coordinator of Athletic Development at USI, annually raised over $500,000 for the university, and spurred unparalleled growth in the Varsity Club and other booster organizations. Pearl's marketing efforts and success on the basketball court also led to the sellout of every chairback seat for USI home games. Prior to moving to USI, Pearl was an assistant coach for Dr. Tom Davis at the University of Iowa. During Pearl's six-year stay at Iowa, the Hawkeyes received five NCAA Tournament berths, advancing to the Elite Eight (1987) and the Sweet 16 (1988). Pearl helped Dr. Davis compile a 129-63 record in those six seasons. In leaving Iowa, Pearl ended 14 years as an assistant to Davis. Prior to joining Davis at Iowa, Pearl was Davis' assistant coach at Stanford and Boston College, where he earned his undergraduate degree.
Pearl, a native of Boston, received his bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Boston College in 1982, graduating Cum Laude. Pearl and his wife, Kim, have two daughters, Jacqui (17) and Leah (9), and two sons, Steven (15) and Michael (7).