Opinion: Rick Barnes a slam dunk for Tennessee

Rick Barnes is already the most proven coach in the history of Tennessee men’s basketball.

Photo by Cody McClure

There has been a lot said about the hiring of Rick Barnes by Tennessee. From ESPN personalities to former Tennessee players, and even Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, nearly everyone in the basketball world has weighed in. Durant played one year for Barnes at Texas and later went on to be the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

By now, pretty much everyone has heard the stats on Barnes. He is the all-time winningest coach in Texas history and advanced to the NCAA Tournament 16 of 17 years at Texas. Barnes’ teams won the Big XII conference championships three times in 1999, 2006 and 2008. As well as appearing in five Sweet Sixteens and three Elite Eights, his teams also made the Final Four in 2003. Barnes is seventh in the country amongst active head coaches in wins.

Barnes is quite accomplished in the tournament, but there is even more. His teams have spent 180 weeks in the AP Top 25, including 84 weeks in the AP Top 10 – not to mention beating 96 AP Top 25 teams in that span. Barnes had two National Player of the Year winners, three National Freshman of the Year winners and 16 NBA picks. Ten of which were first round selections. To top that off, Barnes has also recruited five top 10 recruiting classes and had the highest rated class in the Big XII for 2015 before being fired by Texas.

Barnes addresses the media in Knoxville for the first time- Taken by Jordan Dajani
Barnes addresses the media in Knoxville for the first time- Taken by Jordan Dajani

 

Some people might get caught up in the fact he was fired by Texas, but that is something Vol fans should overlook. It’s not like he failed at Texas. The Longhorns made the NCAA Tournament this year. However, it was a bit of a down year and some viewed it as a lackluster season. Barnes was given the choice to fire his staff and stay or not to fire them and be fired himself.

Now that’s a tight spot to be in. One thing that can be said for sure is that Tennessee got a proven coach and a proven winner in Barnes.

Barnes recruited some big names besides Durant in his time at Texas. In 2003, T.J. Ford went in the draft at No. 8. LaMarcus Aldridge was drafted No. 2 overall in 2006, while P.J. Tucker was picked in the second round at 35th overall. Daniel Gibson was picked 42nd overall in 2006. In 2008, D.J. Augustin was picked No. 9 overall. That’s only a few players and look at where they were drafted.

So, it is pretty obvious the man could recruit at Texas, but can he do it at Tennessee? Most people out there think the answer is yes. Tennessee has all of the facilities needed for Barnes to recruit like he has done in the past. Tennessee may not be the biggest name out there, but it is a recognizable name. Speaking of names, Barnes’ name is one of the most recognized amongst active coaches.

For that reason, many people out there are thinking “Wow! What a steal” or “What a great hire for the Vols.” But let’s be real here. There are a few downsides and no one is perfect. One downside is that Barnes is 61 years old, so how much longer will he want to coach? That’s a question that only Barnes can answer, but he did seem passionate about being at Tennessee and said he felt energized walking around campus and the facilities.

The other thing going against Barnes is just trying to make the NCAA Tournament in year one. Let’s face it. Tennessee still won’t have the best roster in the SEC, but could be poised to make a run if they can find someone to step up and fill Josh Richardson’s shoes. With two scholarships left to fill prior to Tariq Owens asking for his release, it will be tough to get three big time players at this point in the year. Barnes may have to take the rout Donnie Tyndall had to take by going out and finding some JUCO players.

The biggest thing Tennessee needed was stability. Barnes brings that to Tennessee with countless success. His system will be one that Tennessee fans will want to watch. Barnes’ teams play an up-tempo style on both offense and defense. For once, hiring a coach is a good thing for the Vols. Overall, Tennessee struck gold when they got Rick Barnes and everything that had to happen did happen. Now it is time to sit back and watch what Barnes can do.

Edited by Cody McClure