Ten years removed from his last gig as an assistant coach, Tony Barbee has returned to that role at the University of Kentucky.
If everything goes to plan, he won't have the job long.
"I see myself as a head coach and want to get back in that role," Barbee said Thursday. "But now that I'm an assistant coach, I'm gonna do that to the best of my ability and help Coach in any role he needs me to fill."
UK Coach John Calipari and Barbee go way back. Barbee was a freshman on Calipari's first Massachusetts team in 1989, started his own coaching career as a graduate assistant under Calipari in 1995, and later returned to the bench with his former coach at Memphis, where he was an assistant for six seasons.
During that stint, Barbee earned a reputation as one of the top young coaches in the country. He was also a celebrated recruiter, helping Calipari turn the Memphis program into a perennial national contender.
That success led to Barbee's first head coaching job — at UTEP in 2006 — and four seasons of continued improvement there landed him the top job at Auburn.
That rebuilding effort didn't go so well, and four losing seasons later, Barbee was looking for a job.
He once again joined Calipari, this time as a "special assistant to the head coach," but that role limited what he could do as far as actual coaching. After one year of that, Barbee has been promoted to assistant and he's looking forward to a more hands-on approach.
"It's exciting for me to be back in the mix, working with the guys," he said. "It's why we do what we do, obviously, to help the kids grow — off the floor as well, but basketball's the passion.
"To be able to get back on the floor and work with the guys individually and help the team in that way is exciting for me after a year off."
Barbee met with reporters Thursday for the first time since his promotion. Among the highlights:
■ On how much Calipari has changed in the 25-plus years that Barbee has known him: "He really hasn't. He's as intense today as he was when I played for him when he was 30 years old. So I'm probably dating him. But no, the intensity's still there, the passion's still there, the love and the competitive spirit for winning; the passion he has for teaching and helping these young men grow on and off the floor; the love that he has for them. I haven't seen any change. Just a couple more gray hairs."
■ On the Final Four loss to Wisconsin: "I doubt he'll ever get over it. I don't know if any of us will. It was such a special, historic season, and that one loss doesn't change that. But when you have your eyes on that one prize, and you come up that short and it's that close, it hurts. But I'm sure, for him, it hurts more that he wasn't able to help those young men achieve it."
■ On recruiting for UK: "Kentucky is the ultimate. So, obviously, when you have the UK on your chest, it's an advantage. We'll do everything to continue the recruiting success that Coach Cal has had here."
■ On how Alex Poy thress is doing with his recovery from knee surgery: "He looked good. He was walking good. The gait looked good. So I know he's still in the middle of his rehab, and the best thing about it is he's got time and he's doing his due diligence as he works through the rehab to get back healthy."
■ On the possibility of adding another player — five-star combo guard Jamal Murray, perhaps? — to next season's roster: "We're very comfortable with the team that we have returning and the newcomers coming in. And obviously if there's an ability to add a piece or two out there that we think can help us, we'll do that. But with what we have now, we're excited going forward."