Auburn’s most outspoken great was apparently impressed with Bryan Harsin before the new football coach even arrived on the Plains.
That’s because he knew the challenge Harsin was willingly charging into — and a competitor recognizes a competitor.
Charles Barkley said Wednesday that he’s a Harsin fan, but he pointed to something he liked about Harsin that doesn’t come up in the stat sheets or the win-loss records or anything the coach has accomplished in the past.
He said he liked how Harsin was willing to fly headlong into the storm and challenge Auburn’s rival Alabama.
“I’m a big Coach Harsin fan,” Barkley said at the Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament, via reporter Drew Carter of CBS 42 in Birmingham. “I think what he did takes tremendous courage, and I’m really, really excited.
“You know, to leave the confines of Boise, where you could probably win seven or eight games a year and live happily ever after — to come down to Alabama and take on King Kong, that takes tremendous courage and belief in yourself.”
King Kong, of course, is Nick Saban and the Alabama football program.
Harsin was in a prime position at his alma mater at Boise State, having won three conference championships in seven seasons with the Broncos, before taking the plunge to join the SEC when he was hired by Auburn last December.
Barkley teed off at the celebrity event Wednesday alongside fellow Auburn great Bo Jackson plus Harsin and Auburn athletics director Allen Greene.
Carter captured another video of Barkley’s much-improved golf swing — which has been in the public eye as the subject of Barkley’s self-deprecating jokes on Inside the NBA and on late-night talk shows. After his swing, Jackson comes up to him and points down the fairway in mocked amazement and jokingly gives Barkley and proud hug.
The tournament was also set to feature former Auburn football coach Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Saban, Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne plus Tide men’s basketball coach Nate Oats and former football player Greg McElroy.