It must follow him wherever he goes. The "it" is success, and success has become synonymous with Tony Barbee, who is in his sixth season on John Calipari's staff at Memphis. Barbee came to Memphis after stints at both Wyoming (1998-99) and his alma mater, Massachusetts (1996-98, 1999-2000).
In Barbee's five seasons in Memphis, he has helped lead the Tigers to five-straight 20-win seasons and five-consecutive postseason berths (2003, 2004 NCAA; 2001, 2002, 2005 NIT). Prior to this recent success, the last time Memphis had five-straight 20-win seasons was the late 1980s, and the last time the Tigers made five-consecutive postseasons was from 1989-93.
Since 2000-01, Memphis has also won the 2002 National Invitation Tournament championship, claimed a share of the 2004 Conference USA regular season crown and took home the 2002 and 2003 C-USA National Division titles. The Tigers have posted 115 overall victories and 56 C-USA wins the last five seasons. The five years prior to this recent run of success, the Tigers had 83 total wins and 46 C-USA victories.
The Tigers also have finished two seasons ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll - No. 19 in 2003 and No. 24 in 2004. The last time Memphis was ranked in the final polls in consecutive years was the 1984-85 and 1985-86 campaigns.
The Memphis basketball fortunes have changed for the better the last five years, and much of that has to do with the coaching staff's commitment to recruiting - an area in which Barbee excels.
In addition to his on-court responsibilities, Barbee has become one of the nation's top recruiters. In its 2005-06 preview issue, Street& Smith's named Barbee the top assistant in Conference USA. He also received recognition is 2004, as he was named among Rivals.com's top 25 recruiters in the nation. HoopScoop magazine listed him as one of the nation's top assistant coaches in 2004.
The recognition Barbee has received is most deserving. Since arriving in Memphis, Calipari and his staff have raked in recruiting classes that have been ranked in the top 10 every year. The Tigers' 2001 recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the nation, while the other three groups were rated in the top 10, including the No. 3 classes in 2004 and 2005. Memphis was destined for another No. 1 class in 2002 before its top signee opted for the NBA, but the class still wound up in the top 10.
After beginning his coaching career as the third assistant at UMass from 1996-98, Barbee joined the Wyoming coaching staff for the 1998-99 season in a position that allowed him to recruit off campus. In his only year with the Cowboys, Barbee assisted in guiding Wyoming to an 18-10 mark and an NIT appearance, advancing to the postseason's second round.
Barbee returned to his alma mater for the 1999-2000 campaign and continued to develop his reputation as an outstanding recruiter. During his second stint at UMass, Barbee worked with the Minutemen's post players, including Kitwana Rhymer, who ranked among the Atlantic 10 Conference's top 10 in both rebounding and blocked shots. The Minutemen posted a 17-16 record that season, advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals and the NIT first round.
Barbee began his coaching career after spending one season as the analyst for the UMass basketball radio network.
The Indianapolis, Ind., native's success at the collegiate level started during his playing days at UMass, where he was integral piece in the Minutemen's climb to national prominence. Barbee, who still ranks among the program's top scorers with 1,643 career points, played on Minutemen squads that posted a 91-39 record, earned four-straight postseason bids and won back-to-back Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament titles in 1992 and 1993.
The 1991-92 team advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, while the 1990-91 squad made it all the way to the NIT final four, thanks in part to Barbee's heroics. It was his last-second three-pointer against Siena that sent the Minutemen's NIT quarterfinal game into overtime, where UMass eventually won a trip to Madison Square Garden and the tournament semifinals.
A two-time All-Atlantic 10 second team pick in 1991 and 1993, Barbee was named to the league's All-Freshman Team following the 1989-90 campaign. He still ranks in the top 10 on several Minutemen career lists.
After his career at UMass, Barbee played two professional seasons in Spain and France.
Barbee, 35, and his wife, Holly, have a daughter, Hayden Alexandra (6), and a son, Andrew Marsh (1).