POSTED: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - 5:06pm
UPDATED: Thursday, March 11, 2010 - 8:02pm
UTEP’s Tony Barbee was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year, and junior guard Randy Culpepper was honored as the league’s Player of the Year on Wednesday.
Barbee joins the legendary Don Haskins and Billy Gillispie as the only conference coach of the year winners in school history. Haskins was recognized as the WAC Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1987, and Gillispie won WAC Coach of the Year in 2004.
“I’m very happy to accept this award on behalf of our team,” Barbee said. “Any time you win an award like this, it’s a reflection of how you’ve played. This team has been like a family, like one. We’ve endured some ups and downs but we’ve been fairly consistent all year long.
“I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a coach at some point,” Barbee said. “But you don’t get into coaching for the awards. You get into it because of the passion you have for the game of basketball and for watching young men grow and become men.”
Culpepper is the second Miner to achieve conference player of the year distinction, along with Tim Hardaway, who was appointed the WAC Player of the Year in 1989.
“I know this is an individual award, but honestly, if it was up to me, I would make this a team award,” Culpepper said. “It would be the UTEP Miners Team of the Year Award.”
UTEP had never swept the conference coach and player of the year awards in the same season prior to this year.
Barbee has directed UTEP to a 24-5 overall mark and 15-1 conference slate in his fourth season at the helm of the program. The Miners are ranked in both national top-25 polls (no. 21 by USA Today/ESPN and no. 25 by the Associated Press) for the first time in 18 years. UTEP has set a school record for consecutive conference wins (14) this season while tying the school standard for consecutive road wins (seven).
Culpepper is averaging 18.1 points per game in 2009-10 and has the top two scoring games in C-USA this season, pinning 45 points on East Carolina and 39 on UCF. He has scored 20 points or more in eight games this season with three 30-point performances. A three-time C-USA Player of the Week this year, he ranks fourth on UTEP’s all-time scoring list with 1,597 points and needs 27 to tie Louisville’s Marques Maybin for 15th place on the C-USA career chart.
The top-seeded Miners will face either eighth seed SMU or ninth seed UCF in the C-USA Tournament Quarterfinals on Thursday at 8 p.m. MT. The game will be nationally televised on CBS College Sports and will also be available in El Paso on Time Warner Cable MetroSports Southwest Channel 24.