Tony Barbee speaks
He isn't coy when it comes to answering difficult questions. He comes correct. I respect that about him. I didn't lob him many softballs today and Barbee answered the tough stuff.
For blog purposes, though, I have to hold back. I have a few summer stories planned and I'd hate to transmit all my goodies here. If I did that, you'd have little interest in the summer stories because it's would be old, tired information!
With that in mind, here are a few snippets:
- You seem at ease getting out in the community and getting to know people. When did that develop?
I've always been that way -- outgoing, easy to connect with. My philosophy with how this works has been shaped by Coach (Calipari). Watching him do it when I was a player at UMass when he had to build a consensus of people. It wasn't ready-made. Same thing at Memphis. They had success there, but it had fallen away. He had to bring people in. That's just as important as recruiting players and winning games. You can't do that from behind a desk.
- Auburn isn't exactly well known as a basketball school right now. Has it been a tough sell on the recruiting trail?
Auburn should be a place that should recruit itself. That's what sold me. When I looked at leaving a top-20 team like UTEP, a place I had great affection for, it was hard. When I looked at everything Auburn stood for … from the city to the education and now the new arena … and you've got a top-50 player in NBA history that's part of the program's tradition in Charles Barkley. There's so many things that say: This place should be able to sell itself.
When you're a basketball coach, recruiting is about selling. What do you have to offer? A lot of coaches get into negative recruiting what other people don't have to offer. I don't think you have to do that. What we have to sell stands up against any program in the country. It's all about confidence. I tell them: ``We're going to get it done; it would be easier with you." That's the approach we've taken.
We're starting with the state of Alabama. That's our priority. Too many players from this state have gone to schools outside this state. If you can give kids an option at home where they can reach all their goals and their dreams -- then they'll never go anywhere else. If something is missing on that list, maybe they would look somewhere else. I'm going to make that place here. I'll make it so they can stay home and get everything they want and need.
- What do you tell these recruits, guys like Josh Langford and Luke Cothron, when you don't have recent tradition? Everyone has good academics. How do you convince them in lieu of NCAA Tournament berths?
I'm looking for trailblazers. I want guys who want to step outside their comfort level and blaze their own trail. I want them to help us turn this around -- and it will turn quickly -- and have people wonder how we did it so fast. Look at the cornerstone. Look at Josh and Luke and the other guys we signed this year. They're the ones who changed it and they're the ones people here will remember forever. That was my vision with these first signees. We're going to get it turned, but I've got to have guys who don't want to walk in their someone else's path. I want guys who blaze their own path.
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
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