Kentucky had a spot to fill on its coaching staff with the departure of Barry “Slice” Rohrssen to St. John’s and promoted special assistant Tony Barbee to be an assistant coach late this week.
Barbee, a former head coach at UTEP and Auburn, served as head coach John Calipari’s special assistant last season and will now have a hand in recruiting and other elements as a full assistant on the Wildcat staff.
Coming from the Calipari coaching tree, this is a natural hire for Kentucky, since Barbee played for Calipari at UMass and has also been either a graduate assistant or assistant coach for Calipari for nine years.
As a head coach, Barbee owns a 131-127 career record in his two stops. He will get a chance to recruit at a high level and be apart of one of America’s best programs. Barbee has spent time as an assistant coach at UMass, Wyoming and Memphis before his head-coaching jobs.
Auburn might have set a record for the number of special guests that they had at their Midnight Madness celebration on Friday night.
Charles Barkley showed up to take part in the festivities while Ludacris performed and comedian Mike Epps acted as the emcee.
“Getting Mike Epps and Ludacris was big just to bring the energy to the building, and they definitely did that,” Barbee said. “Mike was funny and obviously Luda is a great performer. On top of it the fans got a chance to get an early glimpse of the team. It was a celebration of The Jungle too. Our student section has been the best since I have been here. This was an opportunity for me to give back to them because I know they are fans of both Mike and Ludacris. All combined I think it was a win for everby body. I think it was a great night.”
“I loved it. It was a celebration of Auburn basketball.”
Those last five words are the key. When was the last time anyone celebrated anything about Auburn basketball? The most relevant the Tigers have been during Barbee’s tenure was when a home loss to Ole Miss resulted in this jersey-popping GIF of Marshall Henderson.
But today, you’ll see these videos up on the college hoops blogs all the big networks. You’ll see people talking about the Tigers. You’ll see Auburn getting some positive preseason publicity.
And that, in the end, is why Barbee made sure to bring those three big names in.
After all, Barbee’s job may be on the line this season.
Auburn head coach Tony Barbee has Hall of Famer Charles Barkley in his corner. The former SEC Player of the Year was on hand for Auburn’s Jungle Jam on Friday night, and told the more than 7,300 in attendance that he had faith in Barbee leading the Tigers.
“Coach Barbee is going to turn this program around,” Barkley told fans on Friday night, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com
“It’s huge because, again, I’m a big fan — obviously we’re friends — but he’s behind me all the way and that’s a good feeling,” Barbee added. “I know all the former players are. I know these students are. I know our fans are. I think this is a team that’s going to make everybody proud.”
Through three seasons at Auburn, Barbee is 35-59 (12-38 SEC). This past season was his worst, with only nine wins — down six from the previous season — and finishing last in the conference. The Tigers ended their season dropping 11 straight. In mid-March, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs issued a statement of support. Barkley is behind him now, but Barbee will need to strides this season, relying on returners Chris Denson, Allen Payne and Virginia transfer K.T. Harrell in an improved SEC.