Central Michigan made it official and introduced Kentucky staffer Tony Barbee yesterday to the public as their 21st men’s head basketball coach.
The 49-year-old coach met with the media in Mount Pleasant, Mich., to talk about his new job and what the former UTEP and Auburn head coach will provide the Chippewa program.
“I’m extremely honored and humbled and proud to be the new men’s basketball coach here at Central Michigan University,” said Barbee. “My family and I cannot be more excited for this opportunity.”
The head coach takes over a program that went 7-16 last year with a 3-13 conference record. The Chippewas never made the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons under former Providence head coach Keno Davis. Only once in that run did the program finish in KenPom’s top-100 adjusted efficiency rankings, and that was when the Chips won the regular-season MAC title in 2015.
CMU has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003, and the school has only made four Big Dance appearances in program history. Barbee was able to get UTEP to the postseason three times culminating with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010. That is what the Chips are shooting for.
“My goals are simple: to win a Mid-American Conference championship and compete in the NCAA Tournament,” said Barbee.
After that successful run at UTEP, Barbee landed the head coaching job at Auburn and things did not go well. The Tigers were just 49-75 in his four years on the Plains with an ugly 18-50 SEC record and no winning seasons. The UMass alum came to Lexington to work for his former head coach and boss at both UMass and Memphis. Barbee went out of his way to thank John Calipari when at the podium after seven seasons at Kentucky.
“It goes without saying that I would not be here if it wasn’t for someone I consider my mentor, my friend, someone who will always be my coach, John Calipari,” Barbee told the media. “There hasn’t been a male figure in my life, outside of my dad, who’s had as much impact on me personally and professionally as Coach Calipari.”
Barbee becomes the second former Kentucky full-time assistant under Calipari to become a head coach. Orlando Antigua went just 23-55 at USF before being dismissed in the middle of his third season.