AUBURN, Ala. — The last time Auburn basketball hosted Kentucky, former Tigers head coach and current Wildcats assistant Tony Barbee didn’t make the trip.
That won’t be the case this year when No. 10 Auburn hosts Kentucky on Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on ESPN2). According to SEC Country Kentucky reporter Joe Mussatto, Barbee is expected to be on the sidelines when the Tigers and the Wildcats play Wednesday.
Barbee’s successor, Bruce Pearl, had a message for Auburn fans ahead of the former coach’s expected return.
“I would think it would be only fitting and fitting with Auburn to be classy,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said Monday afternoon. “He was our basketball coach for four years. He moved his family here, he was a part of this family. And I would rather than have it be anything other than welcome him back to where his family spent for four years. It should be nothing else.”
Barbee compiled a 49-75 record during his four seasons at Auburn, which featured some of the worst stretches in the program’s modern history.
According to James Crepea of AL.com, Barbee didn’t travel to Auburn with the rest of Kentucky’s staff in 2016, when the Tigers upset the Wildcats. Kentucky coach John Calipari said Barbee was “recruiting” during that time.
Barbee remains an unpopular figure among the Auburn fan base. And while his departure was in much different fashion than Barbee, Pearl has experienced returning to former employer Tennessee during his tenure at Auburn.
“I know what it’s like… in coaching, for better or worse, you give your heart and soul,” Pearl said. “For better or worse, you give everything you have.”
Pearl said he would ask the leadership of The Jungle, Auburn’s student section, to not give Barbee a negative reception Wednesday night.
“I want great spirit, I want a great attitude,” Pearl said. “I want to get after Kentucky really, really hard. But that other stuff… I would be disappointed if we went there.”
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