UTEP's Barbee to coach Auburn

Updated: March 25, 2010, 2:52 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

UTEP's Tony Barbee has accepted Auburn's head coaching job, the school confirmed on Wednesday.

Barbee, 38, will be formally introduced as Auburn's 20th head coach at 6 p.m. ET Thursday in the $92 million Auburn Arena, the first event held in the Tigers' new home.

"We are thrilled to welcome Tony Barbee into the Auburn Family," director of athletics Jay Jacobs said in a school statement. "Coach Barbee has a vision of competing for championships at Auburn, and the passion to get us there. He is a phenomenal coach, an outstanding recruiter and a fierce competitor."

Barbee will earn $1.5 million annually over the next six years, with a base salary of $225,000, according to a letter released Thursday by the school. The rest comes from endorsements and television, radio and Internet rights along with fundraising and personal appearances. He also received two dealer cars or car allowances equaling 5 percent of his base salary. He is also eligible for academic and performance bonuses, but those details were not released.

Auburn was paying Jeff Lebo $785,000 before his firing after six seasons.

Barbee was one of at least four candidates interviewed for the position in Atlanta in the last two days. Barbee will replace the fired Jeff Lebo, who was let go after six seasons after failing to reach the NCAA tournament.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to join the Auburn Family and proud to be the next head coach at Auburn," Barbee said in the statement. "We have challenges in front of us, but we also have great opportunities with everything Auburn has to offer -- a great university, outstanding community, tremendous fan support, and a terrific new arena and practice facility. The time is now to take Auburn basketball to new heights."

Barbee was set to interview with DePaul later this week.

Barbee coached the Miners to the Conference USA regular-season title with a record of 15-1 and was named the conference coach of the year in his fourth season. Barbee (82-52) improved the Miners from 14 to 19 to 23 to 26 wins. The Miners lost the C-USA championship game to Houston and then fell as a No. 12 seed to No. 5 Butler in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Barbee was an assistant for Kentucky coach John Calipari at Memphis from 2000-06 when the program averaged nearly 25 wins a season. He also played for Calipari at UMass on teams that reached the round of 16 in the 1992 NCAA tournament and the NIT Final Four the previous year.

Barbee gives Calipari a former assistant in the league. Fellow rival Billy Donovan at Florida has two former assistants as head coaches in the SEC in John Pelphrey (Arkansas) and Anthony Grant (Alabama).

Barbee replaces Lebo, who got the East Carolina job last week, at a time when Auburn is upgrading its program with a brand new facility. The Tigers haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2003.

Barbee is the school's first black head coach in men's or women's basketball. Auburn was criticized by some a year ago when the football program hired Gene Chizik -- a white coach who had a losing record at Iowa State -- instead of black candidate Turner Gill, now leading the Kansas program.

He played professionally in Spain and France after leaving UMass, where he had two stints as an assistant coach sandwiched around a season with Wyoming.

Barbee also had recruiting successes that included helping land six straight top-10 classes at Memphis, including a 2001 group that was rated No. 1 nationally.

Four of his former players are in the NBA: Rodney Carney (Philadelphia 76ers), Joey Dorsey (Sacramento Kings), Chris Douglas-Roberts (New Jersey Nets) and Marcus Camby (Portland Trail Blazers).

UTEP may look to former Miners assistant Tim Floyd, a former head coach at USC and a current New Orleans Hornets assistant, as well as former UTEP, Texas A&M and Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie and Sam Houston State's Bob Marlin. Arkansas assistant and former Arizona State head coach Rob Evans and Marquette assistant Tony Benford may also be in the mix.

The question for the Miners is will center Derrick Caracter return to the team or declare for the NBA draft. Caracter averaged 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds a game after transferring from Louisville. The Miners should return junior guard Randy Culpepper, the leading scorer at 17.9 points a game.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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