SAN ANTONIO — If Jim Harbaugh needs a hug, Charles Barkley is more than happy to oblige.
“I like Jim,” the NBA icon and Turner Sports analyst said Friday at the 2018 Final Four during a media scrum promoting the NCAA men’s college basketball semifinals, which air Saturday on TBS. “I like Jim a lot, actually.
“I’d like to see him win more. Because I hate seeing people take shots at him. But he brings some of that on himself.”
Michigan is coming off its worst season in Harbaugh’s three seasons as football coach, having finished 8-5 last fall and ending the season on a three-game losing streak.
And the knives have come out since late November — especially among national pundits, talk-show hosts and SEC fans.
“I like him as a person and I like him as a coach,” Barkley, an Auburn alum and an avowed college football junkie, said of Harbaugh, with whom he’s crossed paths a few times in their respective careers.
“But you know, the guys were ready for him, boy. I mean, I’m watching because I’m a big college football fan and I see the guys are really starting to take shots at him.
“And that’s unfortunate, because he’s been great for college football. He’s been great for college football.”
Harbaugh sports a 28-11 record in three years at Michigan, 18-8 in Big Ten play. But the Wolverines are 1-5 in their last six meetings against Ohio State and Michigan State and 1-2 under Harbaugh in bowl games.
And fans south of the Mason-Dixon line have taken particular delight in his stumbles after Harbaugh held spring practices in Florida and set up satellite camps deep in the heart of SEC country.
“I love that, man,” Barkley said of Michigan, which will hold its annual spring game on April 14. “I love that. And he goes out — listen, man, first of all, college football, to me, is one of the coolest things ever. You know I love Auburn. [I] know Alabama is king right now — we beat them, don’t forget that.
“But I love college football, and I think Jim has done a great job. But clearly you can see the tide turning now that people are coming at him. And that’s just the way it is, though, man. You don’t take it personally.
“When he took that Michigan job, there was a buzz. And he does stuff all the time that creates people talking about [the Wolverines] … you’ve got to give him credit for that.
“He just hasn’t been able to find a quarterback.”
Preach, Sir Charles. Preach.