Listening to Tony Barbee following Auburn’s 31-point blowout to Florida Saturday, he sounded eerily familiar to another embattled Auburn coach.
“It is what it is. We’ve got to do our job of continuing to build, continuing to grow. I think we’ve got some really talented yet inexperienced guys in this program that we’ve got to get better. I’m really excited about the group we’ve got coming.
“So I think the future’s bright. You see us, where we’re starting and where the top of this league is, there’s a big gap, and we’re trying to close that gap.”
If you close your eyes you would swear the guy talking was wearing a white Under Armour pullover. The only question left for this Auburn basketball team is whether Barbee will follow Chizik out the door in March.
Watching the carnage left on the floor of Auburn Arena Saturday afternoon, it’s hard to believe that little more than a decade ago, Auburn competed and won SEC Championships.
Now, after losing nine of its last 10 games, Barbee is looking for excuses.
“It’s not like we’ve been blown out of those nine games,” Barbee said. “Obviously, it’s not horseshoes and hand grenades. We’re not here to get close. We’re here to win.
“But we’ve had our opportunities. Today we just ran into a buzzsaw.”
Since Cliff Ellis was run out of town in 2004, Auburn has consistently been among the worse in the SEC. For a school famous for its impatience with football coaches, the athletic department uncharacteristically looks the other way when it comes to men’s basketball.
For now, Auburn students still show up and more fans come to Auburn Arena than should considering the quality on the court. Under fire already for his handling of the football program, athletic director Jay Jacobs can ill afford fans defecting from Auburn Arena after the $92 million investment.
It’s hard to imagine Barbee getting a fourth season; then again Jacobs remaining on the job is even more unfathomable, and yet here he sits.
Barbee faces a must win situation on Wednesday, when Texas A&M comes to town. For Auburn, this is a winnable game. The Aggies are coming off a 63-56 loss to Vanderbilt and sit 5-7 in conference play.
With six games remaining, time is running out. When asked about his future on Saturday, Barbee refused to bite.
“That’s not for me to decide,” he said.
Here we go again.
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