LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Tony Barbee probably has a pretty good gauge on whether or not John Calipari has mellowed or changed much over the years as a basketball coach.Barbee, recently hired as an assistant coach at UK after a year as a special assistant to Calipari, has known the soon-to-be hall of fame coach since his teenage years.Barbee played for Cal at UMass and coached with him at Memphis and he hasn't really seen much of anything change.
“He really hasn't,” said Barbee. He's as intense today as he was when I played for him when he was 30 years old. The intensity is still there with the love and competitive spirit for winning. The passion he has for teaching and growing on and off the floor and the love that he has for them, I haven't seen any change.”
After being let go as head coach at Auburn after the 2013-2014 season, Barbee didn't hesitate to reunite with his mentor.
“Because of my relationship with Cal and the impact that he's had on my life, not just as a coach but personally as well. I've known him since I was 15 years old and that's been well documented. There were some TV opportunities that I had out there, but I wanted to stay connected to the game in a coaching role. Even though the coaching role wasn't available when Coach Cal asked me to come and help him in the special assistant role, I didn't hesitate because of the relationship, how strong it is and how far back it goes.”
It will be a very different Kentucky team this coming season. But that doesn't mean a change in expectations.
“We're excited,” said the Indianapolis native. I know I'm excited about it, I know Coach is excited about it. When you look at the returners and what they bring to the table, get Alex (Poythress) back healthy. I think the leadership that Tyler can provide coming back in that point guard role, you look at what Marcus Lee brings to the table, and obviously Derrick (Willis) and Dominique (Hawkins), them now having the experience to step in whatever role Coach sees for them. And I think we're all excited about the newcomers as well. So we're excited about the team we've got coming back.”