UTEP has improved steadily in three seasons under coach Tony Barbee. The Miners posted 14 wins during the 2006-07 season, 19 in 2007-08 and 23 in 2008-09. UTEP's Conference USA mark has also risen dramatically from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6.
The 2008-09 Miners advanced to the championship series of the College Basketball Invitational led by senior guard Stefon Jackson, who ended his prolific career as both UTEP and Conference USA's all-time leading scorer. Jackson led the nation in free throws made (312) and attempted (374) as a senior, and averaged 24.5 points per game to rank fifth nationally. He was one of only two players in the country to score 900 points in 2008-09, joining Davidson standout Stephen Curry. Jackson is UTEP's all-time leader with sixty-eight 20-point games, and ranks second with fifteen 30-point outings.
A first team All-Conference USA selection for the second year in a row, Jackson was one of three UTEP players to be honored by the league last season. Sophomore guard Randy Culpepper was appointed third team All-League, and Arnett Moultrie was tabbed to the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
Culpepper became the first Miner to reach 1,000 points as a sophomore. He also set school records for three-pointers made in a season (89) and a career (170). Moultrie was the first UTEP player since the 1960's to collect 300 rebounds in a season. He was also the first freshman to lead the team in rebounding since 1978. Moultrie tied the UTEP freshman record by pulling down 18 rebounds in a victory at Houston.
The Miners' 2008-09 campaign got off to a great start at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif. UTEP knocked off eventual 28-game winner Saint Mary's, 75-62, on the first day of the tournament before dropping a narrow 82-79 decision to Wake Forest, which went on to finish 24-7.
Other highlights from the non-conference schedule included a 96-78 rout of Texas Tech at the Don Haskins Center -- the Miners' first victory over the Red Raiders since 2000 -- and a 73-60 triumph at New Mexico, UTEP's first double-figure win at The Pit since 1985. It was only New Mexico's second loss in its last 40 non-conference home games.
UTEP won eight of its last 11 Conference USA games to nab the fourth seed and a first round bye in the league tournament. The Miners finished 5-3 in league road games and notched eight road wins overall, their top seasonal total since 1986-87.
When Barbee was named UTEP's 17th head coach on Aug. 14, 2006, he vowed to win in March. His plan has reached fruition over the last two years, as the Miners have racked up nine wins in the month during that span -- including a school-record six in 2009. The six wins were the most for UTEP in March since the record-setting 1966 national championship season.
Miner fans embraced the team's run to the CBI Finals, as UTEP sold out both home games against Oregon State. It marked the first time that UTEP played before a packed house in the Don Haskins Center in three years.
Other highlights from the 2008-09 season included the Miners setting school records for points scored, free throws made and free throws attempted. Sophomore guard Julyan Stone also shattered the school standard by dishing out 236 assists.
During the 2007-08 season, the Miners advanced to the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament and participated in the inaugural CBI. Seeded sixth in the event, the Miners knocked off 11th seeded SMU and third seed Houston before coming up short against seventh seed Tulsa in overtime.
UTEP regained its home dominance in 2007-08, posting a 13-3 mark in the friendly confines of the Don Haskins Center, including 7-1 in C-USA action. The Miners won the State Farm Sun Bowl Invitational for the 27th time in the 47-year history of the event led by Jackson, the tournament MVP.
The Miners were more than competitive on the road, losing a couple of nailbiters to eventual NCAA Tournament participants Texas A&M (81-76) and Memphis (70-64). In fact, UTEP lost six away games by eight points or less. The Miners had a 10-point lead in the second half at Texas A&M and led top-ranked Memphis with under four minutes remaining at the FedExForum.
UTEP was third in C-USA in scoring offense (76.6 ppg), steals (7.7 spg) and turnover margin (+4.06). UTEP forced a school-record 573 turnovers after forcing 572 in Barbee's first year at the helm of the team.
Jackson had one of the top individual seasons in school history, leading C-USA and rating seventh nationally in scoring (23.6 ppg). He eclipsed Dwyane Wade's C-USA junior scoring record with 778 points.
Barbee's first freshman class made quite the impact, with Culpepper nailing 81 three pointers -- the second-best total in school annals -- en route to being tabbed the C-USA Sixth Man of the Year. Stone made 25 starts and led all freshmen nationally with a 2.28 assist/turnover ratio -- a figure which rated 30th in the NCAA. Claude Britten, Gabriel McCulley and Wayne Portalatin were all key reserves as rookies.
Despite being hired just two months prior to the start of practice and inheriting a roster with only three returning letterwinners, Barbee orchestrated a 14-win season in 2006-07. The Miners opened the season with a bang, knocking off defending Ivy League champion Penn 69-66 in the BCA Invitational in Syracuse, N.Y. Other highlights from the non-conference portion of the schedule included an 87-63 rout of long-time rival New Mexico at the Don Haskins Center. UTEP also blasted Mid-American Conference Western Division champion Toledo 92-71 in the State Farm Sun Bowl Tournament in El Paso.
The Miners started 4-1 in Conference USA play before their lack of size, strength and experience took its toll down the stretch. Still, UTEP posted some quality victories in league action, including home triumphs over eventual 20-game winner Southern Miss and Houston, which advanced to the title game of the C-USA Tournament.
Barbee's up-tempo style of play produced 75.6 points per game, putting the Miners second in C-USA in scoring offense. UTEP led the league in assists (15.3 avg.). The Miners forced 572 turnovers, an average of 18.5 per contest to pace C-USA.
In his first season at UTEP, Barbee oversaw Jackson's development into a second team All-Conference USA player. He more than doubled his scoring average from 8.0 ppg to 18.6 ppg, and set school sophomore records for points (578) and 20-point games (16).
As expected, Barbee and his staff put together a blockbuster recruiting class in their first season in the Sun City. The Miners signed six high school phenoms, including two players (Culpepper and McCulley) from the Memphis area. UTEP landed five players 6-6 or taller, including some much-needed inside help in 6-11 Britten and 6-10 Portalatin.
Barbee brought an amazing track record of success to the Sun City. He went to 15 consecutive postseason tournaments as a player and coach from 1992-06.
He joined the Miner program following a highly successful six-year run (2000-06) as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis. During that span the Tigers won 148 games, an average of nearly 25 victories per season. Memphis also made six consecutive postseason tournament appearances (2003, 2004 and 2006 NCAA; 2001, 2002 and 2005 NIT) and enjoyed six straight 20-win seasons. During the six-year span, the Tigers earned final Associated Press top-25 rankings on three occasions -- 19th in 2003, 24th in 2004 and fourth in 2006.
The Tigers had a banner 2005-06 campaign, posting a 33-4 record and reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Memphis captured Conference USA regular season and tournament crowns, and had two players chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft - Rodney Carney (Philadelphia 76ers via the Chicago Bulls) and Shawne Williams (Indiana Pacers). The Tigers closed out the year rated second nationally in won-lost percentage (.892) and field goal percentage defense (.380), fifth in scoring margin (+14.6 ppg), eighth in blocked shots per game (6.4) and ninth in rebound margin (+6.7 rpg).
Other highlights from Barbee's tenure at Memphis included the Tigers winning the 2002 postseason NIT, and racking up 69 victories in Conference USA play. Memphis claimed a share of the 2004 Conference USA regular season crown, and finished first in the league's National Division in 2002 and 2003.
A native of Indianapolis, Ind., Barbee has had a long-standing relationship with Memphis head coach John Calipari. He played for "Coach Cal" at Massachusetts, before reuniting with him as an assistant coach at Memphis. Not only is Barbee recognized as an up-and-coming young coach, but he is regarded as one of the nation's premier recruiters as well. He was named the top assistant in Conference USA in Street & Smith's 2005-06 preseason college basketball yearbook. He was also honored by Rivals.com as the no. 3 recruiter in the country while at Memphis. HoopScoop magazine tabbed him as one of the nation's top assistant coaches in 2004.
Memphis produced top-10 recruiting classes in each of Barbee's last six years on staff, including a 2001 group that was rated number one in the country. The 2002 class also would have been top-ranked had it not lost a player to the NBA.
Five players coached by Barbee are currently in the NBA -- Carney, Joey Dorsey (Houston Rockets), Chris Douglas-Roberts (New Jersey Nets), Williams and Marcus Camby (L.A. Clippers).
Besides his on-the-floor duties and coordinating all recruiting activities at Memphis, Barbee supervised all academic activities for the men's basketball program.
Barbee began his coaching career as an assistant at UMass (1996-98), where he was involved with two NCAA Tournament teams. He joined the Wyoming coaching staff for the 1998-99 season -- a position that allowed him to recruit off campus for the first time. The Cowboys logged an 18-10 mark that year, advancing to the second round of the postseason NIT.
Barbee returned to his alma mater as an assistant for the 1999-00 campaign. UMass reached the postseason NIT that year. Working with the team's post players, Barbee mentored one of the Atlantic 10 Conference's best big men in Kitwana Rhymer.
Barbee worked as a graduate assistant at UMass during the 1995-96 season. The Minutemen fashioned a 35-2 mark, advancing to the NCAA Tournament Final Four under Calipari. Barbee's duties that year included serving as the team's radio color analyst.
As a player at Massachusetts, Barbee was instrumental in the Minutemen posting a 91-39 record and earning four straight postseason tournament bids. UMass won back-to-back Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament trophies in 1992 and 1993. Barbee still rates among the school's all-time leaders in numerous statistical categories, including scoring (1,643 points). His collegiate honors included second team All-Atlantic 10 in 1991 and 1993, and All-Atlantic 10 Freshman Team in 1990.
He helped UMass reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 1992, and the Final Four of the NIT in 1991. His last-second three-pointer against Siena extended the Minutemen's season, sending the NIT quarterfinal game into overtime.
Following his days at UMass, Barbee enjoyed a professional playing career in Spain and France.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Management from UMass in 1993, with a minor in African American studies.
Barbee and his wife, Holly, have a daughter, Hayden Alexandra (9) and a son, Andrew Marsh (5).