D-Day is coming for Jay Jacobs. The Auburn athletics director is a week away from having to make the kind of decision about his basketball coach that he's made in the last two years about his football, baseball, softball and women's basketball coaches.
A year ago, Jacobs laid down a simple goal for Tony Barbee for this season.
Jacobs put no numbers on it, using instead the "we'll know it when we see it" approach.
With one game left in the regular season and a date already secured in the SEC Tournament's First Four next week in Atlanta, there's only one conclusion to draw: This may be improvement compared to last year's debacle, the way a rainstorm is preferable to a hailstorm, but there's nothing significant about it.
Look at it this way.
Barbee has been the head basketball coach at Auburn for four seasons. He hasn't had one year better than Jeff Lebo's last year, the year that got Lebo fired and opened the door for Barbee to be hired.
Lebo was dismissed after going 15-17 overall and 6-10 in the SEC, a year removed from making a run at the NCAA Tournament and winning a couple of games in the NIT. Compare that to Barbee's record.
2010-11: 11-20 overall; 4-12 SEC.
2011-12: 15-16 overall; 5-11 SEC.
2012-13: 9-23 overall; 3-15 SEC.
2013-14: 13-15 overall; 5-12 SEC.
Forget significant. That's not improvement of any kind, measured by the bottom line, over Lebo's last stand.
At some point, after a new coach wrestles with improvements behind the scenes and struggles with issues beyond his control, the scoreboard has to change for the better.
It appeared a few weeks ago the arrow was turning in the right direction for Barbee and the Tigers. They'd won four out of six and went to the final minute in Gainesville with a better chance to beat No. 1 Florida than anyone else in the SEC had earned all season.
When that last minute went terribly wrong and that terrific opportunity for a signature win melted away, the air started to leave the balloon.
Auburn has dropped four out of five, the last two to Alabama and Tennessee in a non-competitive way, and that continues another negative trend under Barbee. His teams simply haven't closed out seasons with any degree of positive momentum.
But Jacobs knows all that. He knows significant improvement when he sees it. This isn't it.