Auburn fires Tony Barbee
Published on Thursday, 3/13/14, at 1:15 a.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
Less than two hours after its season ended in a 74-56 loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament, Auburn fired Tony Barbee after a disastrous four-year tenure.
The school released a statement just a few minutes before 11:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday night: “After careful evaluation of the last four years, I feel this is best for the program,” Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said. ”I believe we should compete for championships in men’s basketball. It’s time for somebody else to have a turn. We need to find somebody to come in here and take what we have here now and put some more in and compete for SEC titles.”
Auburn went 48-75 under Barbee, including an 18-50 record in SEC play. He was informed of the decision at the team’s Atlanta hotel so that he could address his players before they embarked on spring break.
The Tigers never made the postseason on his watch. Barbee should’ve been fired after last year, but the school didn’t want to eat the rest of his contract at that time. AU will pay him the remaining $2.4 million of his contract in monthly installments through 2017.
The Auburn job has never been an easy one, but the new arena and its close proximity to the fertile recruiting grounds of Atlanta (2.5-hour drive) make it somewhat attractive. Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis had plenty of success at the school.
Auburn can’t really go after big names, although I felt at this time last year it might have a shot at Tubby Smith. The type of coach it can get is a veteran one that isn’t likely to land anther high-profile job, or a hot young assistant looking for his first head-coaching gig.
One name that comes to mind is Colorado St. coach Larry Eustachy, who spent nearly a decade at Southern Miss and took the Rams to the NCAA Tournament last season. Another is Florida assistant John Pelphrey, who has been in the league as a player, assistant and head coach for more than three decades. Pelphrey was a star player at Kentucky, a long-time assistant at UF under Billy Donovan and has head-coaching experience at South Alabama and Arkansas.
I have no doubt that Auburn will make a strong run at Bruce Pearl, but I’m of the opinion that Pearl will have better options available in the coming weeks. Ben Howland is another big name out there, but I don’t see that happening, either.
Michael White at La. Tech is an up-and-coming coach that the school would have a realistic chance at getting. If Jacobs gets denied by his top 3-4 choices, potential fall-back options who have had success in the SEC include Rick Stansbury, formerly of Mississippi St., and John Brady, who is now at Arkansas St. and took LSU to the Final Four in 2006.
Brady was with AU head football coach Gus Malzahn for one year in Jonesboro. Stansbury has the ninth most wins in SEC history.