So Who Did You Think Tony Barbee Was, Anyway? Don Haskins?

 

Haskins settled in El Paso because he liked it. Barbee never showed that kind of attachment to our city, nor its people. He seldom mingled with the fans, was cool to having press conferences with the media and did little to promote the school. To him, it was all about winning.

So this past week he cashed in on his success of leading UTEP into the NCAA playoffs and accepted the head basketball coaching post at Auburn.

Well, good … luck to him. There won’t be any tears shed over his parting here. Not unless he takes some of his players with him. He wouldn’t do that, would he? Or would he?

 

IN FACT, his leaving might turn out not to be such a bad thing.

After winning the NCAA championship in 1966, Haskins went to University of Detroit to look into an offer the school had made. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like the surroundings, the questions from the media, the school officials. He asked for his old job back at UTEP.

Other coaches that have left UTEP haven’t been that smart. Yeah, Billy Gillespie had a stint with Texas A&M and Kentucky. Doc Sadler went to Nebraska. But I bet they wish they were back here.

 

AND MAYBE one of them will. Gillispie was more than just a successful coach. He was genial, likeable and fun to be around. Okay, so he’s had a bit of a drinking problem. But he was happy here, and boy, so were we. He’s been in rehab and now he’s looking for a job.

Perhaps an even better fit would be Tim Floyd. Talk about being a good coach and fitting in here. He was so young, so full of energy and such a great recruiter that he must be given a good chunk of the credit for the Miners’ amazing run in the 1980s in which they won five straight Western Athletic Conference championships.

 

BY THE WAY, it was funny the way Tim came to UTEP as assistant coach. Haskins wrote in his biography that he almost didn’t hire him.

“He has the worst handwriting in the world,” Haskins said. “He was attending Louisiana Tech and wrote me a letter asking for a job as a graduate assistant. I read the first paragraph and the writing was so awful I was about to throw it in the waste paper basket. But the name ‘Lee Floyd’ caught my eye…

“Well, I did remember his dad. Lee Floyd had been a great athlete and coached at Mississippi Southern for years. He got arthritis real bad and retired in El Paso. He would come to our practices often.”

Because of Lee, Haskins decided to take a chance and hired Tim.

 

NOW, WOULDN’T it be ironic if Tim winds up as head coach at the place where he started his career?

Floyd would be my personal favorite. Everybody in El Paso liked him when he was here, he’s very personable and he’d be a good bet to stay put, maybe even retire here.

He, like Gillispie, has had his problems. He is such a fierce recruiter his methods have been questioned. He’s been a head coach at several places, most notably the Chicago Bulls and Southern Cal.

But hey, if we can forgive football coach Mike Price his indiscretions we can surely forgive Gillispie and/or Floyd theirs.

Maybe, in the situation that UTEP finds itself (as that of nothing but a stepping stone for young coaches) older coaches like Price, Gillispie and Floyd are the best we can hope for in respect to stability.

 

Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at rayf358@yahoo.comor online at www.raysanchezbooks.com