news conference has been scheduled for 4 p.m. today at the Durham Athletic Center to announce that Tony Barbee, a 35-year-old assistant coach at Memphis, has been named UTEP's head basketball coach, school officials said.
Barbee was unavailable for comment Sunday, but one source close to the search said, "It's a done deal, 100 percent. Tony Barbee is the new coach and he will fly into El Paso on Monday morning with his wife and two children and there will probably be a press conference Monday afternoon."
Barbee will become the University of Texas at El Paso's first black head coach.
UTEP athletic director Bob Stull interviewed Barbee on Saturday morning in Dallas. Stull interviewed Texas A&M assistant Alvin Brooks, LSU assistant Butch Pierre, Kansas assistant Tim Jankovich, Texas assistant Rodney Terry and Sam Houston State head coach Bob Marlin on Friday in Dallas. Stull interviewed UTEP assistants Randall Dickey and Tony Benford on Thursday in El Paso and talked with former Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson on Sunday morning in El Paso.
Barbee has been an assistant coach under John Calipari at Memphis for the past five years. During that span, the Tigers have five consecutive 20-win seasons and have been ranked in the nation's top 25 in each of the past three years. Memphis was ranked as high as No. 3 last season. Barbee has been named one of the nation's top assistants by HoopScoop magazine, one of the top 25 recruiters in the nation by Rivals.com and the top assistant coach in Conference USA by Street & Smith magazine.
Barbee is originally from Indianapolis and played for Calipari at the University of Massachusetts. Barbee has been an assistant at his alma mater and at Wyoming. As a player, he finished his career fourth on the all-time UMass scoring list with 1,643 points. He played two seasons professionally -- one for Cornella in Barcelona, Spain, in 1993-94 and one for LaRochelle in France in 1994-95.
TEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull named Tony Barbee as the school's 17th men's basketball head coach on Monday. Barbee succeeds Doc Sadler, who recently accepted the head coaching position at the University of Nebraska.
"It has been a fast and furious process," Stull said. "I'm happy for Doc Sadler. I think it's a great move for him and his family, but it certainly put a lot of pressure on us to make some quick decisions with school starting next week. Fortunately we had an outstanding group of candidates, all of whom we feel would have been successful here. However, we believe Tony is the right choice to lead the program at this time.
"Tony has been extremely successful as a player and coach, going to 15 consecutive postseason tournaments," Stull said. "He is recognized as a tremendous recruiter. We have enjoyed a strong run with 72 wins in three years, and three straight postseason tournaments. We feel Tony can carry on the tradition of excellence established by coach Don Haskins and maintained over the years."
"I'd like to thank [UTEP President] Dr. Diana Natalicio and Bob Stull for giving me the opportunity to lead the basketball program at such a prestigious university," Barbee said. "I look forward to getting to know Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins. He has set the bar really high for this program with everything he accomplished, including winning the national title in 1966.
Barbee and Calipari (left) during a Memphis Tigers game.
Courtesy: UTEP Athletics
Barbee, 35, joins the Miner program following a highly successful six-year run (2000-06) as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis. During that span the Tigers won 148 games, an average of nearly 25 victories per season. Memphis has also made six consecutive postseason tournament appearances (2003, 2004 and 2006 NCAA; 2001, 2002 and 2005 NIT) and enjoyed six straight 20-win seasons. During the six-year span, the Tigers have earned final Associated Press top-25 rankings on three occasions – 19th in 2003, 24th in 2004 and fourth in 2006.
The Tigers are coming off a banner 2005-06 campaign, posting a 33-4 record and reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Memphis captured Conference USA regular season and tournament crowns, and had two players chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft – Rodney Carney (Philadelphia 76ers via the Chicago Bulls) and Shawne Williams (Indiana Pacers). The Tigers closed out the year rated second nationally in won-lost percentage (.892) and field goal percentage defense (.380), fifth in scoring margin (+14.6 ppg), eighth in blocked shots per game (6.4) and ninth in rebound margin (+6.7 rpg).
Other highlights from Barbee’s tenure at Memphis have included the Tigers winning the 2002 postseason NIT, and racking up 69 victories in Conference USA play. Memphis claimed a share of the 2004 Conference USA regular season crown, and finished first in the league's National Division in 2002 and 2003.
Not only is Barbee recognized as an up-and-coming young coach, but he is regarded as one of the nation's premier recruiters as well. He was named the top assistant in Conference USA in Street & Smith's 2005-06 preseason college basketball yearbook. He was recently honored by Rivals.com as the no. 3 recruiter in the country. HoopScoop magazine tabbed him as one of the nation's top assistant coaches in 2004.
Memphis has produced top-10 recruiting classes in each of the last six years, including a 2001 group that was rated number one in the country. The 2002 class also would have been top-ranked had it not lost a player to the NBA.
Four players coached by Barbee are currently in the NBA – Carney, Williams, Antonio Burks (Memphis Grizzlies) and Marcus Camby (Denver Nuggets).
Besides his on-the-floor duties and coordinating all recruiting activities at Memphis, Barbee supervised all academic activities for the men's basketball program.
Barbee began his coaching career as an assistant at UMass (1996-98), where he was involved with two NCAA Tournament teams. He joined the Wyoming coaching staff for the 1998-99 season -- a position that allowed him to recruit off campus for the first time. The Cowboys logged an 18-10 mark that year, advancing to the second round of the postseason NIT.
Barbee returned to his alma mater as an assistant for the 1999-00 campaign. UMass reached the postseason NIT that year. Working with the team's post players, Barbee mentored one of the Atlantic 10 Conference's best big men in Kitwana Rhymer.
Barbee worked as a graduate assistant at UMass during the 1995-96 season. The Minutemen fashioned a 35-2 mark, advancing to the NCAA Tournament Final Four under the direction of John Calipari. Barbee duties that year included serving as the team's radio color analyst.
As a player at Massachusetts, Barbee was instrumental in the Minutemen posting a 91-39 record and earning four straight postseason tournament bids. UMass won back-to-back Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament trophies in 1992 and 1993. Barbee still rates among the school's all-time leaders in numerous statistical categories, including scoring (1,643 points). His collegiate honors included second team All-Atlantic 10 in 1991 and 1993, and All-Atlantic 10 Freshman Team in 1990.
He helped UMass reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 1992, and the Final Four of the NIT in 1991. His last-second three-pointer against Siena extended the Minutemen's season, sending the NIT quarterfinal game into overtime.
Following his days at UMass, Barbee enjoyed a professional playing career in Spain and France.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Management from UMass in 1994, with a minor in African American studies.
Barbee and his wife, Holly, have a daughter, Hayden Alexandra (7) and a son, Andrew Marsh (2).
ven UTEP athletic director Bob Stull figured Tony Barbee was a long shot in the race to fill the school's head basketball post. But, after one conversation with the young Memphis assistant coach, Stull knew he had his guy.
UTEP AD Bob Stull introduces Tony Barbee as the Miners' next head coach.
Stull said the 35-year-old native of Indianapolis met all of the qualifications he was looking for. As a result, Barbee got the job and was introduced as the University of Texas at El Paso's 17th men's head basketball coach -- and the program's first black head coach -- Monday at the Larry K. Durham Sports Center.
Barbee succeeds Doc Sadler, who took the head coaching post at Nebraska last week.
"I'd like to thank (UTEP president) Dr. Diana Natalicio and Bob Stull for giving me the opportunity to lead the basketball program at such a prestigious university," Barbee said. "I look forward to getting to know Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins. He has set the bar really high for this program with everything he accomplished, including winning the national title in 1966."
Barbee joins the Miner program following a six-year career as assistant for the Tigers. During that span, Memphis won 148 games, an average of nearly 25 victories per season. The program also made six consecutive postseason tournament appearances and enjoyed six seasons with 20 or more wins.
Last year, Memphis was 33-4, reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
Barbee has never had a losing season as either a player or a coach. Massachusetts was 91-39 with four postseason bids in Barbee's playing career, and, as a coach, he is regarded as one of the nation's premier recruiters.
He was named the top assistant in Conference USA by Street & Smith.
"He's someone I've known since I was 15," Barbee said. "He's a guy who is very dear to me. He was my coach, and he will always be. He was my mentor, and now he'll be a fellow competitor. Most importantly, I call him my friend. When I accepted the job, I talked to (him), and I said, 'Coach, I got the job.' He said he was jumping around screaming like a fool at the airport. He said people were looking at him like he was crazy. But he didn't care. I told him, 'Coach, I appreciate that. I love you and I appreciate the opportunity you gave me and my family.'"
Barbee also thanked his parents.
"They are two individuals who instilled in me the work ethic, drive and character to be here, and to lead this program the way I've led my life," he said. "The work ethic my father had as an auto worker for 40 years before recently retiring. To see him day-to-day, going to work, to provide for his family. And my mother, who was in the health-care industry for 30 years, and is still working. To see their sacrifices. That's a key word for me. The sacrifices they made to get me to this point. The sacrifices I'm going to ask of my staff and my players that will benefit this entire program and the entire UTEP community."
Barbee said he talked with Haskins on Monday: "He's a special person, and I'm relishing the opportunity to spend time with him."
The new Miner coach had not addressed the team as of Monday's news conference.
"The players currently in place here are the most important priority for me. I have to make sure that they are confident in me, in my ability to lead them," he said. "And I am confident I will be able to do that and show them the vision, the passion and the philosophy I have will benefit them greatly.
"We will continue the winning tradition. And when I say winning, it's not just winning on the court. It's winning in the classroom, the community, and the game of life. And those guys will understand that they're here for more than just basketball."
Barbee said his style will look something like Memphis' style the past six years: High-pace, high energy.
"Last year we were top five in the country in both offense and defense, and that's what we'll try to establish here."
Finally, he said he likes the talent that is already on board.
"When you have a senior point guard returning in Kevin Henderson, a tough, hard-nosed kid, I'm going to expect a lot in the leadership department," he said. "He's going to help me lead this program. That's what you expect from a senior. Also, when you return two sophomores in Stefon Jackson and Maurice Thomas, two multi-skilled, multi-dimensional guys who are very talented players, that's a strong foundation."
he conversation originated from nothing specific. We were just two guys sitting in a gym in Las Vegas last month, watching AAU basketball, watching our cell phones, watching the clock to see how many more minutes -- measured by dunks and layups -- it would be until another long day was complete.
We talked recruiting.
We talked restaurants.
Then we talked about the future, and that's when Tony Barbee asked a question.
"What else do I have to do?" said the former Memphis assistant. "When am I going to get my shot?"
The answer: Sooner than he thought.
Tony Barbee is Texas-El Paso's new coach. That's relevant news for multiple reasons. I'll number them, one, two, three and four.
1. Bound by no color: Barbee becomes the first black basketball coach in UTEP history, something noteworthy considering this is the first school -- under the name Texas Western in 1966 -- to win a national title with five black starters. Maybe they'll make another movie (Glory Road II?) someday. Who would play Barbee? If he can act at all, it has to be poker pro Phil Ivey.
2. No thanks, Nolan: By settling on Barbee, UTEP, wisely, did not fall into the trap of hiring alum Nolan Richardson. Sure, it would've grabbed bigger headlines, but it would've also reeked of desperation, and UTEP isn't desperate. This is the second-best basketball school in Conference USA. What it needs is a stabilizer, someone who can continue what Billy Gillispie and Doc Sadler co-created. What it doesn't need is an aging legend with a pattern of kooky behavior (Seriously, how do you ask to be bought out of your contract, then sue Arkansas after it buys you out?).
3. Teacher vs. Student: John Calipari spent the past year explaining how he needs one C-USA program to rise to Memphis' level and be the Temple to his UMass. With a few good recruiting classes, Barbee could produce that at UTEP. And considering he played for and was mentored by Calipari, it's doubtful Barbee will ever threaten to kill him at a postgame press conference, a la John Chaney. The importance of that can't be overstated.
4. Patience is a virtue: Barbee's hiring shows patience pays off, and that the greatest opportunities can come at the strangest times. If there's a lesson of the day, that is it.
As recently as three weeks ago in Las Vegas, Barbee was a 35-year-old assistant at Memphis certain he'd one day be a 36-year-old assistant at Memphis, too. College coaches, after all, are typically fired and hired in March or April. If you don't land a new gig by then, you're probably stuck in your old gig. So when Barbee was passed over for the Murray State job after interviewing at the Final Four, he figured he had missed out again, just like the year before when UMass chose Travis Ford over one of its own.
Meanwhile those questions lingered in Barbee's head, and though he was happy with his role at Memphis, he was still anxious for something bigger. As is the case with any job, six years ago being Calipari's lead assistant was the best thing ever. But after Barbee had earned the reputation as one of the top recruiters in the nation, signed a McDonald's All-American (Darius Washington), found a hidden gem who ultimately developed into first-round NBA Draft pick (Rodney Carney) and been part of a staff that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, he couldn't help but wonder aloud:
What else do I have to do?
Then Nebraska basketball coach Barry Collier left to become athletic director at Butler two weeks ago and started the chain reaction. Needing a replacement, the Huskers plucked Sadler from UTEP, which left athletic director Bob Stull searching for his third coach in four years. Just like that, Barbee's name was being tossed around, and only 24 hours after interviewing in Dallas, he received a call Sunday afternoon, one that led to that second question finally being answered from a voice in a West Texas town.
When am I going to get my shot?
Sooner than he thought.
ony Barbee Monday afternoon thanked John Calipari publicly for everything the former University of Massachusetts coach meant to his career.
By Monday evening Barbee was likely plotting how to beat him. In the press conference introducing Barbee as the head coach at the University of Texas at El Paso, he talked about bringing the Miners to the top of Conference USA.
To get there he'll have to unseat Calipari and the Memphis Tigers.
When the teams meet during conference play, Barbee and Calipari will be on opposite sides for the first time in their careers. As a player, Barbee played a key role in Calipari's early success at UMass. For the last six seasons, Barbee was Calipari's top assistant and annually helped the Tigers land some of the nation's best high school players.
Daily Hampshire Gazette / Associated Press
Calipari said he wasn't looking forward to squaring off against Barbee. He usually avoids coaching against people with whom he's close.
'This is the first assistant coach that I've had that I'll have to play and it's only because it's in the league,' Calipari said Monday night. 'As far as family and friends, if you play in the NCAA Tournament, that's fine. But short of that, why? There's enough people I want to beat up on the basketball court that I don't need to be playing former players or family or friends.'
Calipari said a lot of his own success couldn't have happened without Barbee.
'I've known him since he was 15. As a player, he helped us turn around Massachusetts. He helped me turn Memphis back around,' said Calipari, who took the Tigers to the Elite Eight in 2006. 'He's like a son. He's responsible for a lot of the success I've had because he's been with me for so long.'
Barbee isn't being asked to turn UTEP around in West Texas. The Miners have been good. They won 72 games in the last three seasons and advanced to the postseason (NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2005; NIT in 2006) in each of those years. But he has a tough task to keep UTEP at that level next season.
The Miners lost three starters and eight players overall. He'll have to mold a roster that includes six new junior college transfers and two freshman.
At the press conference announcing Barbee's arrival, UTEP athletic director Bob Stull said he is confident in his ability to continue the Miners' success.
'Tony has been extremely successful as a player and coach, going to 15 consecutive postseason tournaments,' said Stull, who coached football at UMass in 1984 and 1985. 'He is recognized as a tremendous recruiter. We have enjoyed a strong run with 72 wins in three years, and three straight postseason tournaments. We feel Tony can carry on the tradition of excellence established by coach Don Haskins and maintained over the years.'
Haskins is the gold standard in West Texas. The Hall of Famer is most famous for leading UTEP, then Texas Western, to the 1966 national championship - the first team starting five black players to win a title.
That season was the subject of the movie 'Glory Road.' Haskins, who retired in 1999, is still a prominent figure in El Paso.
'I look forward to getting to know Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins,' Barbee said at his press conference. 'He has set the bar really high for this program with everything he accomplished, including winning the national title in 1966.'
Barbee is the first African-American head coach at UTEP.
In March 2005, Barbee interviewed for the UMass head coaching vacancy that eventually was filled by Travis Ford.
Calipari said he thought UTEP might be a better fit for Barbee.
'It's the best job he had an opportunity for. That's a great job with a great history. They've won national titles and been to Final Fours,' Calipari said. 'The UMass job, we all wanted that for him. UMass is a terrific situation, but at the end of the day, it's hard to go home. I told him that at the time. I think this is going to play out great for him.'
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.