Barnes eager for chance to provide stability to Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Rick Barnes believes he can provide stability for a Tennessee program that has undergone plenty of recent coaching turnover.
His track record also suggests he can produce immediate results.
Just two days after being fired at Texas, where he had reached the NCAA Tournament in 16 of his 17 seasons, Barnes was hired last week to take over Tennessee's program. Since his arrival, he has tried assembling a staff while also getting to know players dealing with their second consecutive offseason coaching change.
''Certainly we've been sensitive to that, the fact (there have) been three different coaches,'' Barnes said. ''You address it, and the bottom line is it is what it is, but this is what we have now. Let's learn from what we've gone through, and let's move forward and let's be thankful for what we have here. Let's be excited that we've got a chance to do something.
''Let's not sit around and moan and groan.''
Barnes replaces Donnie Tyndall, who was fired after only one season while the NCAA investigates his two-year tenure at Southern Mississippi. Barnes, who has had a career record of 604-314, will be Tennessee's fourth coach in six seasons.
Although he will be 61 when he makes his Tennessee debut, Barnes insists he's no short-term solution. When he's asked about his age, Barnes points to this year's Final Four, where three of the four coaches were in their 60s. The championship game pitted 68-year-old Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and 67-year-old Bo Ryan of Wisconsin.
''The day that I don't look forward to going to the gym and getting up excited about my job, that's when you know it's time,'' Barnes said. ''But I've never felt that. I think age is just a number. I love what I do.''
Barnes' career shows that he doesn't need much time to start winning. He got to the NCAA Tournament in his debut seasons at Providence and Texas. Barnes reached the NIT his first year at Clemson before getting the Tigers an NCAA bid the following season. He won 20 games his lone season at George Mason.
Now he inherits a Tennessee program that must replace all-Southeastern Conference guard Josh Richardson from a squad that went 16-16 this season. Barnes remains confident he can produce solid results right away.
''I don't think you can ever stand in front of a team and tell a group of guys this is a rebuilding year,'' Barnes said. ''I think kids are perceptive enough to know if you believe in them.''
It's been a busy week for Barnes.
Tennessee announced Tuesday the hirings of associate head coach Rob Lanier and assistants Chris Ogden and Desmond Oliver. Lanier and Ogden were part of Barnes' staff at Texas. Oliver spent the last five seasons as an assistant at Charlotte. Riley Davis, a special assistant-video coordinator at Texas this season, also is expected to join the staff in some capacity.
Barnes has spoken to each of his players, and only freshman forward Tariq Owens has indicated thus far that he plans to transfer.
Barnes has made the NCAA Tournament 19 of the past 20 seasons, a stretch that started with his last three years at Clemson and continued during his 17-year tenure at Texas.
Tennessee has made just one NCAA appearance in the four seasons since the exit of Bruce Pearl, who got to the tournament each of his six seasons at Tennessee before getting fired in 2011 amid an NCAA investigation.
''Every great school has its ups and downs - every one of them,'' Barnes said. ''But there's nothing more exciting than to be a part of a school that's had great tradition and you feel the energy moving forward. That's what I felt (last week) when I really came on campus. ... I felt it through (athletic director) Dave (Hart). He had me energized.''