The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 11, 2013

Barbee still optimistic about foundation at Auburn

— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Frankie Sullivan will leave Auburn having endured one of the worst stretches in program history but said he still believes that coach Tony Barbee can turn the Tigers' fortunes around.

The senior guard did offer a caveat on Monday.

"Most definitely he can do it," Sullivan said. "It's just coming together. People have to buy in to what he's trying to preach. He's a guy, he's an emotional coach, and everybody knows that. I think once he gets the players in this year to come back in the summer and work hard like they did last summer, it's going to progress. You've just got to be able to deal with his style of play and his coaching. I think he's going to most definitely turn it around."

The Tigers (9-22, 3-15 Southeastern Conference) head into Wednesday night's opening round SEC tournament matchup with Texas A&M having lost 15 of 16 games, the worst stretch in 67 years, and nine straight.

It's been the lowest point of Barbee's three-year tenure, which has been marred by player defections, two 20-loss seasons and now a last-place league finish.

Even though Barbee, Sullivan and Chris Denson express optimism that Auburn can make some kind of SEC tournament run, there haven't been many signs on the court of that potential.

Auburn fell to the last-place finish with an overtime road loss to 13th-place finisher Mississippi State to close the regular season.

The Tigers have had a mix of blowout losses and single-digit defeats — sometimes to the same team — during this stretch.

It has left Barbee with a 35-58 record and 12 SEC wins in 50 tries nearing the end of his third season. He said athletic director Jay Jacobs hasn't discussed the state of the program and just asked him about the Texas A&M game in their latest conversation.

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