Tony Barbee, Kentucky assistant, former Auburn head coach, to be CMU's next men's hoops coach

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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Central Michigan men's basketball has found its next head coach.

Tony Barbee, assistant coach at Kentucky and formerly head coach at Auburn and UTEP, has reached a deal to take over the program, according to a source with direct knowledge of the agreement but who isn't authorized to speak publicly.

The agreement was reached Thursday. The school has scheduled a virtual press conference for Friday afternoon, with Central Michigan to make the hiring official Friday morning.

Tony Barbee will be the next head men's basketball coach at Central Michigan.

The hiring was first reported by Stadium's Jeff Goodman and CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein.

Barbee, 49, an Indianapolis native, takes over for Keno Davis, who was fired this month after nine seasons on the job, with no NCAA Tournament appearances. The Barbee hire is the first major personnel move by new athletic director Amy Folan. Contract terms weren't immediately clear Thursday.

Central Michigan paid Davis more than $400,000 a year, and gave him a $400,000 buyout, funded mostly, if not entirely, by donors.

Barbee landed his first head-coaching job at UTEP, and spent four seasons there, making the NCAA Tournament in 2010. That led to the Auburn job. He spent four years there, with no winning seasons.

He was 82-52 at UTEP, but 49-75 at Auburn, a tenure that saw drastic roster turnover all four years.

Since 2014, he has been on John Calipari's staff at Kentucky.

At Central Michigan, Barbee takes over a program that was 7-16 this past season, a year decimated at the end by injuries and COVID-19 contact-tracing issues. The Chippewas were 14-18 the year before. They haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2003, the second-longest Division I drought in the state behind Eastern Michigan (1998), which this month named Stan Heath head coach to replace Rob Murphy.

Since Davis' firing April 5, key players including guards Meikkel Murray (15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Caleb Huffman (13.3 points) and forward Ralph Bissainthe (7.7 points, five rebounds) have entered the transfer portal. Only Murray remains there, with Huffman and Bissainthe withdrawing their names.

Barbee played collegiately at UMass under Calipari, and earned a bachelor's in sports management. After a professional career in Spain and France, he began his coaching career as a grad assistant at UMass in 1995. He's also been an assistant coach at Wyoming and Memphis.

All three state Mid-American Conference schools now have new coaches, with Western Michigan replacing Steve Hawkins with Clayton Bates last offseason.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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