A former Barbee teammate speaks
In the interest of full disclosure: I was a enthusiastic Kentucky fan back in those days and spent many hours either booing or hexing UMass. So my conversation with Meyer was extra enjoyable because I booed him directly a time or two. This will not affect my ability to cover Barbee or anything because, as you know, my affinity for college athletics beyond the scope of this job has all but disappeared. Still, it's fun to talk about the old days.
OK. On to what Meyer had to say. He was a 7-foot-2 center. He now is a 7-foot-2 pastor in Wisconsin.
On Barbee the player: ``He was a very bright guy who paid a lot of attention to our strategy. He benefited from a scouting report than any player we had. It's not that he'd know the plan; he'd ask questions. He'd go to John Calpiari and ask why we were doing something."
On Barbee the person: ``The thing I really remember about him is that he was direct without being overbearing. He was the guy who would stand up in a meeting and speak his mind. If he thought you were loafing, he'd let you know and everyone else would know, too. Yet he didn't do that unless you deserved it. He was charismatic. He understood how to communicate with people, how to work with people."
On how the time at UMass affected Barbee as a coach: ``We were going through a rebuilding process at that time -- Tony was there before me and saw tougher times -- and I think that gives you great insight into how to build. Two guys from those teams have become Division I head coaches (Barbee and current UMass coach Derek Kellogg) and I'd say that's highly unusual. Going through that experience gives players great perspective."
On how Barbee handles himself relative to Calipari: ``I don't think you'll see the histrionics you see from John Calipari. Tony is ... how should I say this ... a little more smooth. He prefers to be level, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get his point across. He'll use any means necessary. I just don't see him as someone who screams at people very often."