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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Q&A with basketball coach Tony Barbee

I did Q&A with new men's basketball coach Tony Barbee in today's newspaper. You can read the shorter version by clicking here.

But if you're looking for a longer version of the interview, you've come to the right place. I had to whittle down the interview to fit in the newspaper. But here on the Internet there are no such restrictions. So here's the full Barbee interview:

(How long until you move to the new arena?)
"I don't know. They tell you something different each day. When we got here it was five weeks. Yesterday they told me end of May, middle of June. So when it happens it happens."
(What has the first month and a half on the job been like?)
"Long days. (Laughs) It's been good. It's been fun. It's been hectic. It's been crazy. It's been a whirlwind. It's been all those type of things. But I think we've been very productive in laying the foundation of where I'm trying to take this program to. And that's one that's trying to connect with a lot of different sectors. The alumni, the students, the campus, the community, and so all the different types of things we've been trying to do from the speaking to the recruiting to the just going out and having lunch on campus with the students, all that has played a part in just trying to reconnect this men's basketball program with the Auburn family. Because there's a passion there for this program that is just waiting to be stoked. And that's my job to recreate that love affair with this program and with this Auburn family."
(Is this any different from when you took the UTEP job?)
"It's a lot different. Just because the sheer magnitude of the job is kind of ratcheted up another level from what it was at UTEP. One, the timing was different. I got the job at UTEP a week before school started, so there was no get-to-know-each-other period at all, which isn't a typical timeline. Normally a job opens in March. There's a change and then you've got the summer to navigate through some things. At UTEP I didn't have that luxury. It was one week before school started, they had lost nine seniors that had graduated from the year before, and nine newcomers, and they were all leaving. None of them were going to show up. So I had a week to make sure I had a team to fill. So it was a little bit different that way. It's been a little bit of a normal timeline. But there's no question that opportunity at UTEP prepared me for this moment that I'm in now."
(How does bringing your entire assistant staff with you from UTEP help?)
"It's made it easier. I guess I'm still looking for that easy part of the job. But it's made it easier just because there's a continuity that this staff hast hat I think is very, very important in terms of trying to establish the program. And having had this entire staff together for the last four years at UTEP I think contributed to the success we had and hopefully I think the same things will happen here because of the comfort level that we all have. We all know what to expect. I know what I can expect from these guys and vice versa."
(Recruiting has been at the top of your agenda since being hired. What has the reception been like?)
"It's been good. There's a history, a tradition to this program that speaks for itself. Is it extensive? No. But there's been periods of success that people are looking for again. So when you go out and represent Auburn, people are excited, from principals, to high school coaches, to players that we've spoken with, that we've contacted, all those things, people are excited that there's a change. In college athletics, recruiting is the most important. The other things you have to do is just part of it. The speaking engagements, all the functions you have to attend, all those things are a necessarily so-called evils, but recruiting is the most important thing we do. Because that's why we're here for the players. And there's no question the better players you have, the better coach you'll be. It's a pretty simply formula. And like I've been saying: we're going to be recruiting the best players, No. 1 in the state of Alabama, then next throughout the Southeast, and I think because of the ties that I have and my staff has both nationally and internationally, we're going to recruit all over the world."
(How has recruiting changed the last 10-15 years?)
"Ten, 15 years ago, it was very regional, recruiting was. And then there was a select few schools that could recruit on a national scale, that could go attract kids from anywhere. But that's all changed. Everybody recruits nationally. Everybody. From the highest of high majors to the lowest of low majors, everybody recruits nationally because kids have been exposed to so many different things at an earlier age because of the summer basketball circuit, where these kids by the time they're fifth, sixth grade, a kid from Ohio is playing in a tournament in New York, Atlanta, California, Florida and everywhere in between. So it's not like a kid has grown up in his area like it used to be. That's all he saw, that's all he knew, that's where he wanted to be. Now they're exposed to so many different things at an earlier age that it seems like nobody wants to stay at home anymore. So that's going to be my challenge is to make sure the kids in Alabama understand that all their goals and dreams can be met here at Auburn. And that the things they're looking for at a university, in a community, in a basketball program are here for them at Auburn. And if you can get everything you're looking for at home, I think it's a very simple philosophy: you never leave. If there's something missing in your equation, you might have to look somewhere else. So my job is to show the kids in Alabama that they've got an option here to reach all their goals and dreams."
(How did you get that knack for recruiting?)
"In this business the two hardest things are scheduling and recruiting. The two hardest things. And if you enjoy them, you're going to be good at them. People don't usually enjoy things that are difficult. They like to gravitate toward the easy things. I enjoy recruiting. One, because I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy connecting with people I don't know. I think relationships and family are what I'm about. I like a big, extended family. And the same thing in scheduling. But if you enjoy those two things, you're going to be good at them. If you don't enjoy them you're not going to be in this business very long, because they're very, very hard. But I enjoy both of them, so I think the fact that I'm a people person makes it a little bit easier to connect with people, and then when people feel a connection to you, they want to help you."
(What's so hard about scheduling?)
"I don't think people understand how difficult it's become to get into the NCAA tournament. There was, and again you talk about 10 years ago, before the reliance on numbers, the RPI, the computer systems, and all those things, it was a 20-win plateau that if you got to 10 years ago, you're in the NCAA tournament. That's no longer the case. It's really a science of understanding RPI, strength of schedules and all those things , there's a formula to it, and if you don't understand it, you can schedule yourself out of the NCAA tournament or a job. So you've got to understand the ins and outs of scheduling, and it's hard. But you've got to understand it."
(What's your plan for next season's schedule?)
  • "I think you've got to have a balance. I think because this team is still going to be so young, the majority of the team is going to be freshmen and sophomores, there's a lot of ways with a young team that you can build confidence: through what we do in the weight room, through what we do on the court in practice, but also how we schedule. And you can over-schedule and kind of destroy a young team's confidence, so I think there's a balance we're going to have to have with this team where as we're still learning each other, they're still trying to learn me, what I'm about, my system, and I'm still trying to learn them because I only got to spend a handful of times on the court with them, I'm going to have to schedule to build the confidence of this young team. And so doing that, there's going to have to be a balance between games that can strengthen a resume and games where you can build some confidence."
(What's your interaction been like with the team so far)
"The one thing, there's a trust factor that has to be earned, but it has to earned both ways. They're trying to earn my trust; I'm trying to earn their trust. And it makes that easier at creating relationships when you can interact with them on the floor. You can see the things that you're trying to do as a coach is do two things: help them get better individually and help the team win. Well, when you don't have the opportunity -- we're in finals right now, so we can't be with them on the court -- it kind of halts that process. And now people will be leaving for two or three weeks until they come back for summer school, so it's kind of halted that process. But I think this short window of time, these six weeks that we've had with them, myself and my staff, I think we've done a good job of bridging those relationships where guys might not have been so sure whether they want to stay or leave, which is always natural. But I think as the team has been around us, myself and my staff, they've got a sense of what we're about, even though it hasn't been full time because of the limited amount of contact we've had with them."
(Have you watched any Auburn film from last year?)
(Do you plan to?)
(Why's that?)
"What happened last year doesn't matter to me. I don't know why I would need to. I've got a sense for what these guys can do in our workouts individually. Other than Frankie (Sullivan), Josh (Wallace), Ty (Armstrong) a little bit, none of the other guys got a whole lot of extended minutes. We're losing 75 percent of our scoring and rebounding. So I don't think there's a lot on tape that I could learn from, from what I get on the court with these guys this spring."
(With the new arena and the current level of excitement surrounding the program, how much patience do you expect?)
"You know what, I don't expect any, because that is the nature of our society. The reality of it is there has to be a level of patience and there has to be a level of perspective to where we are right now. And I know there is a lot of excitement with me coming in, with some of the recruits we've gotten, but in today's society everybody wants instant success. It doesn't happen that way. There's a process you've got to go through. Especially with a younger team with guys that really haven't achieved a level of success and don't know how hard it is to get there, and then once you get there how hard it is to maintain, so that is a process. When I talk about building a program, when you do that with younger guys, when you do that with sophomores and freshmen, as you grow there are going to be growing pains. And that's what we're experiencing here. Now, nobody's expectations are going to be higher than mine for this program. That's just how I think. Every time I look at the schedule I think we're going to win every game from start to finish. But there's got to be a patience and a perspective of where we're starting. This isn't a team that I'm taking over that won 30 games last year and is returning everybody. That's not the case. We're losing 75 percent of our scoring and rebounding, so that being said, there are a lot of unknowns. A lot of unknowns. But we're going to get there. You just can't put a timeline on when we're going to get there."
(Do you expect a different level of scrutiny in the SEC vs. the Conference USA?)
"I hate to say it this way, but I really don't care. (Laughs) I couldn't care less what people say or think. It's how I am. There is a path, a blueprint to how this is supposed to be done, I believe. I will follow that. And everybody is an armchair quarterback. I understand that. But it doesn't mean I have to listen to it. So what we've always done with this staff is done a good job of staying in a bubble in terms of what we're trying to get done here and not letting anything affect that process."
(You seem to enjoy public speaking)
"I think it goes back to I really don't care what people think. I guess that's America's biggest fear, the No. 1 fear of people is public speaking. But if you're confident about what you're talking about, you've already shaped, formed your own opinions -- it doesn't mean they can't evolve -- and then you really don't care about what people think about what you say and how you say it, then I guess it becomes easy. If you do care about what everybody seems to think about what you're saying, then you can get nervous. I never have been. So I just get up there and say what I feel, I speak from the heart, I'm a guy that's honest to a fault. It might rub people the wrong way sometimes, but I'd rather be a guy who shoots people straight than just tell them what they want to hear."
(Were you like that before you met John Calipari?)
"Having known him since I was 14 years old, and outside of my dad there hasn't been a male figure in my life that's had as much influence as him. Playing for the guy for four years, working with him for seven, it's hard for my philosophy in this business not to have been shaped by him or influence by him. And it's how he's always been. And obviously it rubs people the wrong way sometimes. But if you're confident in what you're doing and you're honest with people and you tell them what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear, it's the easiest way to go about it. And that's what I've learned. And a lot of that I've learned from, one, my dad, but two, coach Cal."
(You fancy yourself a basketball historian. Who else has influenced your outlook on basketball?)
"When you grow up in Indiana, if you know anything about Indiana basketball, until the Colts came in and had success under Peyton Manning, that's all there was. You grew up in Indiana, you get a bottle of milk and a basketball in your crib. So that's where my passion for the game was stoked early on. It goes back to my dad having played with Oscar Robertson in high school at Crispus Attacks in Indiana. So knowing the history of the Oscars and the Larry Birds and those type of guys who have come through the state of Indiana, the legendary high school tournament and high school gyms that were 11,000 sold out on just a Wednesday night game, there's a passion there for the game. So to me, that's where my interest and my passion were stoked early on, just growing up in Indiana. Because basketball is part of your life, whether you like it or not. So from a high school coach, Steve Kaufman, to some of my AAU coaches to the five-star camp with Howard Garfinkel, which was really the only national camp at that time, when I was coming through high school. It's hard to imagine now these kids going to Nike camps and Adidas camps and all that and having to play outside in 100 degree weather on tennis courts. I mean, it was the who's who of Grant Hill, Shawn Kemp, Billy Owens, Alonzo Mourning, so it was just all these guys at these 5-star camps outside. Nowadays, the kids? You can't get them to play outdoors at all. If it's not air-conditioned or hard wood, kids don't like to play anymore. But it's kind of my badge, how I was raised. It was inevitable, I guess."
(Do they force you to watch "Hoosiers" in Indiana?)
"(Laughs) No, you don't get forced to watch 'Hoosiers' growing up in Indiana. I mean, it's part of who you are. And I got to play in Hinkle Fieldhouse in high school because that's where our sectional was. So we played there all four years of my high school, we always played a regular season game there. My dad had played there in the state tournament with Oscar. So it's just part of the allure of Indiana basketball."


ATCVX said...

Great interview, Andy. CTB sounds like he'd be a fun guy to interview. I'm eager to see what he can do with the basketball program and hopefully drum up some interest in the program it's been a long time since there's been a whole lot to get excited about. Keep up the good work.

on a side not, how about that baseball game yesterday?? I bet they were going nuts when we had that 9 run inning.

ExKnightMike said...

Quoting Coach Barbee in the interview: "everybody is an armchair quarterback. I understand that. But it doesn't mean I have to listen to it."

I'm liking this man more and more!

Anonymous said...

Coach barbee is a prick and a traitor. He will struggle to take Auburn to the sinning tradition they want. He was better off staying with UTEP who has 4 returning starters back. What an idiot. We will see you at the unemployment lines barbee. Best wishes and stay away from the KKK out there