Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama

March 13, 2010 2:54 PM

UTEP's Barbee should be Auburn's No. 1 choice

Tony Barbee photo2.jpgNow that Auburn has shown Jeff Lebo the door what kind of basketball coach will the Tigers hire?

According to Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs, the Tigers are looking for the right fit.

The "right fit" should be an up-and-coming African-American. That's what rival Alabama did when it hired Anthony Grant away from VCU last year and after one season it's apparent the Crimson Tide is close to becoming a contender in the Southeastern Conference.

At the top of Auburn's list should be UTEP's Tony Barbee (pictured right) and right behind him North Texas' Johnny Jones.

Both are proven winners. In four seasons at UTEP, Barbee's win total has gone up each year from 14 to 19 to 23 and to 24 this season when the Miners won the Conference USA regular season title with a 15-1 record in league play. Although UTEP was upset by Houston 81-73 in the C-USA Tournament championship game on Saturday, the Miners will be in the NCAA Tournament and could surprise with a run to the Sweet 16, enhancing Barbee's resume.

Barbee also is a solid recruiter, having established himself not only at UTEP, but as an assistant under John Calipari at Memphis. He might be able to convince the six players Lebo signed last November to still come to Auburn.

Jones has led North Texas to 20 or more wins in each of the last four seasons, including a record 24 this season while guiding the Mean Green to their second consecutive Sun Belt Conference title. He has ties to the Southeastern Conference as a player and assistant coach at LSU. He also is known as a good recruiter.

Of course, if Auburn can't lure either one of them to the Plains, then Jacobs might consider UAB's Mike Davis. After all a few years ago, before Lebo was hired, Auburn went after then-UAB coach Mike Anderson. For some reason, they couldn't work out a deal and Anderson remained at UAB, but eventually left for Missouri.

Whoever lands the Auburn job, when have the luxury of playing in a new $90 million arena, but at the same time they will be coming to the worst basketball town in the SEC.

Just something for the next Auburn coach to consider.

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