Barnes Vols new head man
Rick Barnes remembers the trip across Interstate 40 in 1974, traveling to Knoxville from his home in Hickory, North Carolin to see, as he called it, "a co-ed I was really in love with" on Tennessee's campus. He remembers meeting Dave Hart in 1987 in Greenville, N.C., begging for college coaching job, on that Hart didn't give him.
He told a story of a call from Doug Dickey in 1989, while Barnes was at the Final Four in Seattle, where the former Tennessee athletic director wanted to talk to the young coach about a vacancy in the Vols' program, and later on spending time throughout his coaching career talking basketball with Pat Summitt.
It all came full circle over the last 48 hours.
"I'm honored to have a chance to stand here today as the 20th head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, because I realize and I know the many, many people that would like to be standing here today," Barnes said Tuesday during his introductory press conference at Pratt Pavilion.
"I will say this, I'm not sure all those coaches that have come before me, that they knew the University of Tennessee like I knew it before I ever really walked back onto this campus."
Barnes cited a Tennessee football game in 1974, a 17-10 win over Tulsa --- described as his first "big-time college football game" --- that he and that co-ed, now his wife Candy, attended. He talked about the deli he stopped at where he got "two roast beef and cheese sandwiches with lettuce" before he got back on the interstate to head back to Hickory.
Fourty-one years later, the Vols were waiting on Barnes. And so was Hart.
"We are very fortunate today to have hired an elite basketball coach," Hart said. "That's what Rick Barnes is. He is definitely an elite coach."
Barnes signed a memorandum on understanding with Tennessee Tuesday morning, agreeeing to a six-year paying $2.25 million annually. Barnes said, citing his track record with Hart, he didn't need to sign a contract to agree to take over the Vols' basketball program.
"To be honest with you, with we have to do what we have to do with signing contracts, but I would've dealt with Dave on a handshake," Barnes said. "I know what he wants.
" ... Dave Hart knows athletics. He's made some major impacts. One thing I know is his commitment here."
The hiring process was every bit as quick --- if not quicker --- than it appeared from the outside looking in.
Barnes left his exit press conference at Texas Sunday, reportedly leaving on mutual terms after a 17-year career with the Lognhorns, and stepped on a private jet with Hart headed for Knoxville.
Using Todd Taylor's College Sports Associates search firm, the Vols reached out to gauge Barnes' interest, letting him know that if the interest was there, "he'd become the target of our search," Hart said.
Hart personally reached out to Barnes for the first time Saturday afternoon and "enter into a conversation with him."
"We actually had a few conversations as the evening wore on," Hart continued. "Then on Sunday we flew to Austin to pick up Rick and Candy and bring them back to Knoxville at the conclusion of his press conference there.
"As Rick said, from that moment on we have literally been together around the clock."
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops texted Barnes Monday night to tell him he looked forward to seeing him in Knoxville, when Stoops' Sooners play the Vols Sept. 12 at Neyland Stadium. Former Texas football coach Mack Brown called, too.
Tom Izzo also texted Barnes Sunday, an hour and a half before Michigan State's Elite Eight game against Louisville.
"If it's true, you need to become a Vol," Hart said Tuesday, relaying to story to reporters.
Even Kentucky's John Calipari reached out to offer his insight.
"He began to get those kind of calls, saying 'Hey, is this true Rick?'" Hart said. "You could sense the amount of respect people have for him in basketball circles."
Stability was the buzzword throughout the four-day coaching search to replace Donnie Tyndall, who was fired early Friday morning amid an NCAA investigation at his former school, Southern Miss.
Now Barnes becomes the third Tennessee basketball coach in three seasons. But stability is the overriding theme on his resume.
Barnes took Texas to the NCAA tournament 16 times in his 17 seasons. He took Clemson to the NCAA tournament three times in four seasons at the school, from 1994-98. He went 402-180 in his 17 years at Texas, including two seasons (2005-06 and 2007-08) in which he won more than 30 games and had 15 seasons of 20 or more wins.
He took Texas to the Final Four in 2003, made three Elite Eight appearances with the Longhorns and went to the Sweet Sixteens five times. He won the Big 12 regular-season championship three times and was selected as Big 12 Coach of the Year four times, including as recently as 2014. He took Clemson to the Sweet Sixteen in the 1996-97 season.
"That was the one word (stability) that, when Dave and I started talking," Barnes said.
"I fully expect this to be my last job," he added later, saying he wanted to leave this job better than he found it. "For this University, I promise we're going to put together a staff and we're going to go at it as hard as we can go at it."