- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Did Tony Barbee overreact? Did Shaq Johnson -- one of the most talented and important pieces in Barbee's brutal rebuilding effort at Auburn, shortly entering its fourth year -- deserve to be kicked off the team for a minor misdemeanor marijuana possession charge? Or was it possible that Barbee, whose tenure has been pocked with player dismissals, transfers, and even a point-shaving scandal, was overreacting to a) prove a point, and b) improve some optics?
That might have been a fair question, but it does not appear to be the correct answer. Barbee discussed the decision in more detail with AL.com this week, and made clear that the marijuana arrest was hardly Johnson's first in the program:
"It wasn't a single incident," Barbee said. "It was kind of a pattern of behavior. Unfortunately, he continued to make the wrong decisions, and it was getting to a point where it was affecting the entire team, the entire program, so it was time to cut the cord."
"It's like I tell all my guys," Barbee said. "Life is about decision-making. If you continue to make the wrong decisions in this program, you're letting everybody know you can't be a part of it anymore.
Honestly, you kind of have to admire what Barbee has done at Auburn, in its own slightly weird way. No, he hasn't recruited very well, and yes, during his tenure he's had as many players leave the program (12) as the Tigers have SEC wins, and yes, that probably says something about the kind of guys he's trying to build his (arguably unbuildable) program around. But it's not like Barbee has been happy to trade scruples for wins. He's taken chances on guys, and they haven't panned out, and that process probably needs to change. But at least he's willing to cut the cord. Many coaches in his position -- facing a crucial fourth season with another almost entirely rebuilt roster -- wouldn't be quite so decisive.