Sept. 28, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Charles Barkley was talking Auburn on Friday night.
"When I travel the country and the world, people scream 'War Eagle' at me. You can only explain the Auburn thing if you've been here. You can't explain it from the outside."
Barkley, a basketball personality who starred for Auburn in the early 1980s, was inside Auburn as a guest of basketball coach Tony Barbee's MADE Foundation golf tournament, an event that raises money for various charities, and also, on this night, for the family of Korvotney Barber, the former Auburn player who died in a drowning incident in July.
"We are family," Barkley said.
Auburn tipped off basketball practice Saturday, but not before the Friday event that reached back to the Tigers' past. Barbee invited former players to return. Many did, including Barkley.
"I am not here at Auburn to build a team, I'm here to build a program, and that starts with the former players," Barbee said. "They are as important to me as my current team. It's not just the retired numbers who are up in the arena. It's the walk-ons, the star players who don't have their numbers retired and anybody in between."
Barkley, certainly a star player who had his number retired, said he was happy to see the former players return.
"I want to thank all the old players – well, not 'old players'… Since I turned 50, I don't make fun of old people. Old people aren't as funny as they used to be," he joked.
But on a serious side, Barkley said returning, "means a great deal. I think it's just so cool for Tony to invite all of us back."
Before the Barbee golf tournaments? "We had not been invited back. I think this is a really nice thing."
Barkley said he likes the idea of Barbee embracing Auburn's past, like, he said, North Carolina does with his basketball buddies Michael Jordan and Kenny Smith.
"Those guys talk about how Dean Smith will have them back every summer to be around the young guys," Barkley said.
Barbee will be entering his fourth season at Auburn, and "I want to see him do well," Barkley said.
But this night was not just about playing. It was about his charities and the MADE Foundation, or Making a Difference Everywhere, and about the popular Barber, as Barbee told the Barber family.
"It's painful for all of us, but you'll always be part of the Auburn family, and so will Korvotney. You will always be welcomed back," Barbee said.
Barber's fiancée, Gatina Foy, and family members smiled.
"This means a lot to know Auburn still cares," Foy said. "It's such an emotional moment to know how much he meant to other people, and that his memory still lives on.
"They've been so supportive. It's been really emotional."
Charles Barkley, basketball supporter, in 2011 (Todd Van Emst photo)
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine