Don’t play with fire, Tony Barbee, and not expect to get burned. Especially when that fire involves Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who never has been shy about sharing his feelings or opinions when asked a tough question.
On Sunday evening, Auburn suffered an embarrassing 84-53 loss to Clemson in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. During which, former Tigers coach Tony Barbee seemed to take some pleasure in the demise of his former squad with the usage of a laughing emoji in a tweet sent in the midst of Auburn’s loss.
On Tuesday morning, FOX Sports Radio host Clay Travis had the opportunity to ask Pearl about his thoughts on Barbee’s actions. The response was better than anything an emoji could convey.
“I’m smiling and laughing, too,” Pearl told Travis. “We just won the SEC and made the NCAA Tourney. LMAO.”
Get ’em, Coach!
Barbee, an assistant coach on John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky, never sniffed either of those accomplishments during his time on the Plains. Barbee went 49-75 as Auburn’s coach from 2010-14, including an 18-50 record in SEC play. He never produced a winning overall record at Auburn, and his best effort in conference play was a 10th-place finish with a 5-11 record in 2011-12.
As of Tuesday morning, Barbee’s tweet from Sunday still was on his Twitter page.
Pearl, who was hired to clean up Barbee’s mess, just led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. But the success hasn’t come without controversy.
Now that the Tigers have bowed out of the tournament in the Round of 32 and Pearl has had his opportunity to fire back at Barbee, it’s likely time for the Tigers administration to assess the viability of Pearl as the team’s coach after NCAA and FBI investigation concerns encompassed his program earlier in the season.
“I’m Auburn’s basketball coach,” Pearl told SEC Country’s Justin Ferguson on Sunday. “I’m blessed and happy to be Auburn’s basketball coach. I want to stay at Auburn. And I’ve got to say, all season long, I feel very good about the position we’re in, the process we’ve gone through, and my anticipation is that I’ll be Auburn’s basketball coach.”
SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum seemed less than sure about buying into that when asked about Pearl’s future on Monday.
“I’m not buying any stock in Bruce Pearl’s future,” Finebaum told WJOX-FM on Monday morning. “I just don’t know where it goes from here. Because I don’t know. I don’t know what the school is thinking; I don’t know what the new athletic director is thinking.
“I will say as you win and as you advance in the NCAA Tournament, sometimes administrators have been known to look past whatever issues are out there, but after losing by 18 to Alabama in the SEC Tournament and that horror show [Sunday] night in San Diego, I don’t think that’s going to be a factor here. I think Bruce Pearl will be judged by the merits of what he did or didn’t do.
“Having said that, and I don’t want to rain on Auburn’s parade because it was the best Auburn season in a million years, but I don’t remember when I’ve seen a more embarrassing NCAA performance than the one we saw [Sunday] night.”
No matter where the discussion about Auburn basketball goes next, we have to score the Barbee-Pearl exchange a clear win for Pearl with his comments on Tuesday morning.