Coach Rick Barnes was greeted by a standing ovation by media and faculty as he made his way into Pratt Pavilion Tuesday afternoon. It seems like the Tennessee men’s basketball program may be well on its way to the stability it has longed years for.
“I know what the University of Tennessee and their fan base is about. I’m fortunate to be here,” Barnes said. “We have to create stability. I know what Dave Hart wants.”
Texas announced Barnes’ departure just last Sunday, saying it was a mutual decision. Coach Barnes made 16 NCAA Tournament appearances in 17 years at Texas and went 420-180 overall. He recruited well and built an overall good program before the Longhorns became somewhat stagnant, their last Sweet 16 appearance coming seven years ago. Barnes,60, is 604-314 in 28 seasons overall, coaching at George Mason, Providence, Clemson and Texas.
Barnes has some familiarity with the area. He grew up 200 miles away from campus and also married a UT alum, whom he dated when she was attending school in Knoxville. “Coming here in 1974 put a spark in me that made me want to be part of something bigger, like the University of Tennessee,” said Barnes. “In some ways, it feels like I’m coming home.”
Barnes does have his work cut out for him in coming to Tennessee. The Vols lose all-SEC guard Josh Richardson, as he is a senior this year, and there are no proven guards or reliable post scorers on roster.
But he does seem ready to give all he has in rebuilding this program. “I can promise you that everyday I’m going to protect the integrity of this University,” said Barnes. “Walking on campus got me energized. You can feel the ‘One Tennessee.'”
This move may have been exactly what Barnes and the Vols needed. He has a very impressive track record and will maybe have more of a chance in improving the Vols than a coach from the mid-major ranks, where Tennessee has selected the last four of their hires.
Edited by Maggie Jones