Report: Tony Barbee, Joel Justus Leaving Kentucky for Central Michigan, ASU Jobs

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2021

Auburn head coach Tony Barbee watches play against South Carolina during the first half in a first round Southeastern Conference tournament game, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

Two of the top men's basketball assistants at the University of Kentucky reportedly are leaving for new positions. 

According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, Tony Barbee is set to depart Kentucky in order to become the new head coach at Central Michigan.

ESPN's Jonathan Givony reported that Joel Justus is also ending his tenure with the Wildcats to become the top assistant under Bobby Hurley at Arizona State.

Barbee has been an assistant under John Calipari at Kentucky since 2014 after stints as a head coach at both UTEP and Auburn.

The former UMass player went 82-52 in four seasons at UTEP, taking the Miners to the NCAA tournament in 2010. He followed that up with a disappointing 49-75 mark in four seasons at Auburn.

During his time at Kentucky with Calipari, Barbee made it to the Final Four once and won three SEC regular-season and four SEC tournament titles.

Barbee is set to take the reins of a Chippewas program that went 7-16 last season. Central Michigan won 20 or more games in three of five seasons from 2014-15 through 2018-19, but it has not reached the NCAA tournament since 2003.

Justus has been part of Kentucky's staff since 2014 as well, initially serving as director of analytics before becoming the special assistant to Calipari.

Like Barbee, Justus was present for a Final Four appearance, three SEC regular-season championships and four conference tournament titles.

Per Givony, Justus was the lead recruiter for many of the top players to commit to Kentucky in recent years, including Bam Adebayo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson.

Justus could be a major asset to Hurley at Arizona State, as the Sun Devils look to bounce back from an 11-14 record last season and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2019.

Givony also reported that Kentucky's coaching staff under Calipari is expected to undergo further changes this offseason. Illinois assistant Orlando Antigua could be returning to the staff after previously being at Kentucky from 2009-14.

The changes follow one of the most disappointing seasons in the history of Kentucky basketball, as the Wildcats went 9-16 last season and missed the NCAA tournament.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.