June 20, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– There’s a Georgia license plate reading “DLABGT” that sits on the back window of Darryl LaBarrie’s rather sparsely decorated office.
It’s one of the few decorations in his current office set up, which includes primarily a couple of Buzz bobbleheads that his wife, Aisha, brought in.
The plate also serves as a reminder of days gone by, when LaBarrie would drive around Atlanta when he wasn’t driving the lane of Alexander Memorial Coliseum as a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.
“I had that up as a student-athlete,” recalled LaBarrie, who was a key player off the bench for the Jackets from 1999 through 2001 after transferring from Florida A&M, where he’d been on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference all-rookie team. “I haven’t had any personalized license plate since. I’ll probably put it back up. It’s another proud memory of being back at my alma mater and my home state.”
The Decatur native and former star at Tucker High School star — which he led to a state championship his senior year — would like to see Georgia Tech re-create the proud moments he remembers as a player under coaches Bobby Cremins and Paul Hewitt, especially 2001, when he was part of Hewitt’s team that returned to the NCAA Tournament after a four-year hiatus.
It’s why on May 4 he accepted a position as an assistant coach on new coach Josh Pastner’s staff.
LaBarrie, the first piece of the staff Pastner added, returned to Tech following a five-year stint at crosstown rival Georgia State. His main responsibility will be working with the back court, especially the point guards.
“My main focus will be the point guards,” said LaBarrie, who said he may also help defensively in establishing a match-up zone similar to GSU’s. “We’ve always had great point guards who have gone on to the pros. It’s time to get back to that.”
LaBarrie meant no disrespect toward Marcus Georges-Hunt, who ran the attack much of last season and who LaBarrie tried to recruit for Georgia State.
“He’s probably more of a two/three because he’s physical and he can make plays off the dribble, but I think his thing is slashing and driving,” he said. “He stepped up when the team needed him to. I think what they tried to do was put their five best players on the court. He was the person that was most equipped to handle the point guard position, and it probably helped him in some NBA scouts’ eyes.”
“We’ll have a good blend of youth and experience,” LaBarrie said. “They are very different kinds of players, and I’m looking forward to working with them. They’re all really good kids. They listen, they work hard and they retain information well.”
Better play at the point, which LaBarrie refers to as “the head of the snake,” ideally is crucial to that end. He expects a lot from them.
“We have high expectations as a staff, and we expect the best out of our players. We’re going to set a standard where everybody expects to win every single game,” he said. “We just need to bring a little bit more talent and a little bit more depth in to achieve that, but we’re excited about the opportunity. We’ve seen Georgia Tech make it to Final Fours under two different coaches so you know that it’s possible. It can get done and we’re going to get it done here.”
In addition to on-the-court instruction, LaBarrie is expected to play an important role in recruiting in the Atlanta area, his own backyard.
“I’ll help Coach Pastner understand the landscape of Atlanta recruiting-wise and making sure that we’re on the right type of kid that can excel and do well at Georgia Tech,” he said.
Pastner won’t be the only coach on the staff on the Jackets’ staff relying on LaBarrie.
“Obviously, leveraging his knowledge of both the institution and the city is important for me,” said fellow assistant Tavaras Hardy. “I want to spend as much time with him, watching him. I certainly want to leverage him and learn from him, see if I can help him out, be his sidekick.” LaBarrie hopes the third time in Atlanta with the Jackets is a charm. He’s certainly more seasoned as a coach, as after his playing career ended, he stayed at Tech in general athletic administration then a graduate assistant. He left to serve as an assistant at Campbell, where he spent 2006-07, and as an assistant for two years at East Carolina, before returning to Tech, serving under Hewitt from 2009 through 2011, then spent five years at GSU.
He’s made an indelible impact along the way. While at ECU, the Pirates had their two best three-point shooting seasons in school history. At Georgia State, the Panthers went from a team that had 12 wins over the previous four seasons to putting up back-to-back 25-win seasons, reaching the NCAA Tournament round of 32 as a 14-seed, knocking off No. 3 Baylor. LaBarrie oversaw guard R.J. Hunter, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 2015. While at Tech under Hewitt, he was instrumental in the improvement of Iman Shumpert, a 2011 first-rounder who completed his fifth NBA season by winning the NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While LaBarrie has proved he can thrive on the road as a highly respected recruiter, he is most proud of his work at home in Decatur, where he and Aisha are raising their three daughters, Sydney (10), Kai (8) and Diarra (5).
“They’re the love of my life, so I spend a lot of time with my family,” he said. “I’m big on enjoying my family. I think that little girls need a role model as far as a model of what they’re looking for in a man when they grow up and start having relationships and what a positive relationship looks like.
“I like to be around as much as possible,” he continued. “They play soccer, and I help coach their soccer teams. I’m just very family-oriented. I think that sometimes a lot of coaches get caught up in trying to win games and trying to get players. But what’s most important is that you pour the same amount of energy and love into your family as you do into your work.”
An exciting pet project for him is rediscovering his family’s roots.
“I’m the first generation that is actually born in the United States,” said LaBarrie, whose family has roots in Trinidad and Tobago. “They had a coup when I was eight years old, and my parents haven’t been back. Now that my daughters are getting older, I kind of want them to know their culture, what our family heritage is all about. I plan on taking them in the next year, two years, at most. We still have family there, some uncles and some cousins that still live in Trinidad. I definitely want to take my family there.”
That trip will ideally follow a Georgia Tech trip back to the NCAA Tournament and begin a re-establish the tradition of Tech hoops and Tech point guards.
The latter has already begun, starting in his office.
“I’m going to put up pictures of all Georgia Tech’s point guards because I want people to understand this is ‘Point Guard U,’” he said. “We’ve had seven or eight point guards who played in the NBA here, which is an unbelievable feat, and I don’t think many schools can say that. I think Arizona thinks it’s ‘Point Guard U’ but I would argue that Georgia Tech is the REAL ‘Point Guard U.’”