OFFICIAL: CMU Announces Barbee as New Men’s Basketball Head Coach

Tony Barbee is the new head men’s basketball coach at Central Michigan University, Zyzelewski Family Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Amy Folan announced today.

CMU Athletics is hosting a Welcome to Campus event with Coach Barbee on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Fans can watch live on CSN Digital.

Barbee, the 21st head coach in program history, comes to CMU from Kentucky where he has spent the last seven seasons as a member of John Calipari’s staff. Barbee’s career includes head coaching experience at both Auburn and UTEP; at UTEP, he was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year after leading the Miners to a conference regular-season title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010.

“Coach Barbee met all the criteria we had to find the right individual to re-energize our men’s basketball program and get us back to competing for championships,” Folan said. “He is a proven championship-caliber head coach, an elite recruiter who is well-versed in the national landscape and has a strong background in providing a great student-athlete experience on and off the court. I think the responsibility that coach John Calipari gave Tony to help run the Kentucky program speaks volumes.”

During his time at Kentucky, Barbee served in three roles: associate to the head coach (2020-21), assistant coach (2015-20) and special assistant to the head coach (2014-15). He helped Kentucky win four Southeastern Conference regular-season championships and four SEC Tournament titles, and the Wildcats made five NCAA Tournament appearances including a Final Four berth in 2015.

Barbee also helped the Wildcats secure a top-three nationally ranked recruiting class every season he was with the program, including the nation’s top class in 2016, 2017 and 2020. He coached 13 NBA Draft selections at Kentucky, including 10 first-round picks and eight players taken in the lottery.

“During the interview process, Coach Barbee demonstrated his commitment to CMU student-athletes being students first — that competing and winning is important, but that we must also maintain an emphasis on academic success. He shares our goal of seeing student-athletes with a championship ring on one hand and a diploma in the other,” CMU President Robert Davies said. “We are excited to welcome Coach Barbee, his wife Holly and their children, Hayden Alexandra and Andrew Marsh, into the CMU Chippewa community.”

Barbee’s four-year tenure as the head coach at UTEP saw the Miners increase their win total each season and average 20.5 victories per year. In 2009-10, UTEP finished 26-7, including 15-1 in C-USA play, winning their first regular-season league title in six years and earning an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m humbled and excited to be the next head coach at Central Michigan University,” Barbee said. “It’s been a dream of mine to be in the first chair leading another basketball program, and I’m grateful to President Davies and Athletics Director Amy Folan for their belief in me and my vision.

“The identity of our program will be built on sacrifice, accountability, respect, communication, winning and a family environment. I can’t wait to engage with both the current student-athletes and the former CMU Chippewas, get entrenched in the Mount Pleasant community and ‘Fire Up’ our great student section.”

Barbee played for Calipari from 1989-93 at Massachusetts, where he was part of teams that won back-to-back Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament championships in 1992 and 1993. The Minutemen earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament both years and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1992. Barbee earned All-Atlantic 10 second team honors in 1991 and 1993 and was an all-conference freshman team selection in 1990. UMass went 91-39 during his time with the program.

Barbee also had coaching stints at Massachusetts, Wyoming and Memphis before becoming a head coach. He began as a graduate assistant at UMass (1995-98) before landing his first assistant job at Wyoming in 1998-99. He returned to UMass for one year and then went to Memphis, where he coached from 2001-06.

During Barbee’s six seasons in Memphis, the Tigers won 148 games, two C-USA titles and made three trips to the NCAA Tournament including an Elite Eight appearance in 2006. Memphis boasted six consecutive top-10 nationally ranked recruiting classes; the 2001 class was ranked No. 1 in the country.

The Indianapolis native earned a bachelor of arts with a major in sports management and a minor in African-American studies from UMass in 1993. He played professionally in Spain and France before turning to coaching.

“We are going to build a championship-level program and play an exciting style that will be fun for the fans and the players,” Barbee said. “We will put together a tireless staff whose focus will be to help the players reach their goals and dreams and win championships along the way. Fire Up Chips!”

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