Tony Barbee, who received a standing ovation from a full house crowd on Tuesday night at the Auburn Tipoff Club's annual awards banquet at the AU Hotel and Conference Center, said he has "been surprised" at how well he has been received as he has been on the road recruiting basketball players, recruiting alumni and recruiting Tiger fans.
"Everywhere you go there is an Auburn alum, fan or somebody around that is excited about the transition," Barbee said. "It always feels good when there is a homecoming of sorts wherever you go."
Barbee said he wanted to keep the focus on Tuesday night on the 2009-2010 players who were being honored. In his speech to the tipoff club, he told the graduating seniors, "In all of your future endeavors, I want you to know that you will always be a part of the Auburn family and you have a home here. My office, the gym, everything will always be open to you guys."
Barbee, who came to Auburn from the University of Texas-El Paso, added, "To all of the returning players, get ready to have some fun. I like to have a lot of fun, but I want to make sure you understand having fun isn't easy. I look forward to coaching each and every one of you. I want you to get better every day so you can achieve all of your goals, all of your dreams."
Although they haven't been officially been announced as members of his coaching staff, Barbee introduced Randall Dickey, Tony Madlock, Milt Wagner and Mike Babul as his assistants. All four have made the move with him from UTEP.
Barbee and his staff have been busy evaluating the talent on hand and what they need to sign to improve a team that finished with a losing record, causing Jeff Lebo to be fired as a head coach.
Auburn signed six players in the early period, but at least two of those signees, junior college guard Anthony Salter and high school senior Jalen Steele, are not expected to join the program. That leaves the new staff room to add players in the spring signing period that starts on Wednesday and runs through May 19th.
"Everything right now is in the evaluation process, evaluating the current team, evaluating the signees and then evaluating potential prospects that could fit the Auburn family and my basketball program and how I do things," Barbee says. "We are in the process of doing that. We are in the middle of signing day coming up and we will see what happens."
Coaches are allowed to work with players during the offseason and Barbee and his staff have begun that process. "We have done a couple of workouts," he said, noting that NCAA rules only allow limited practices this time of year.
"We don't have much time to spend with the players, but we just wanted to give them as much of a feel for the system as we can in a two-hour window of how we are going to play offensively and defensively so they will have an idea of what they need to work on this summer," he says.
Barbee notes that he is excited about the new Auburn Arena that is scheduled to be completed this summer.
"Right now I am moving doors, I am moving walls, so there are some people who are not so quite happy with me now," the coach says. "I?have been through it (the new arena) several times with Randy (Byars) and his staff and it is a first class building and it shows what a commitment this university has made to men's basketball." Byars is Auburn's project director for the $85 million arena.
Tay Waller was named the 2009-2010 team's Most Valuable Player and the team's top offensive performer on Tuesday night. The senior guard averaged 15.3 points per game and was second in the SEC in three-point shooting with his 41.0 percent average.
Tay Waller is shown in action vs. Mississippi State.
Senior guard DeWayne Reed won the Playmaker Award. He finished his career with 210 assists, which tied him with Quantez Robertson for the most in Auburn history. He ranked 11th in points scored with 1,428 points after averaging 16.2 points and 4.3 assists as a senior.
Senior forward Lucas Hargrove won the Outstanding Rebounder Award with his average of 7.0 per game to go with 12.8 points per contest.
Sophomore guard Frankie Sullivan was named the outstanding defensive player as a sophomore and was honored with the Paul Lambert/Tommy Joe Eagles Memorial Leadership Trophy. Sullivan was second in the SEC in free throw shooting at 85.1 percent and second in steals with 1.9 per game.
Senior center Brendon Knox won the Sixth Man Award with his averages of 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Josh Wallace, a redshirt freshman point guard, won the Academic Achievement Award. Wallace is attending Auburn on an civil engineering scholarship.