Just when, exactly, did Tennessee become a potential landing spot for Barnes?
Barnes said during his introductory press conference Tuesday that he knew things were in motion toward him becoming a Vol when he told reporters in Austin last Sunday that he would coach again sooner than they thought. He flew to Knoxville with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart the same day. But Tennessee was on his brain even before Barnes and Hart first spoke by phone about the job last Saturday, the day after Hart fired former Vols coach Donnie Tyndall. Barnes told WVLT that his friend Dave Odom mentioned Tennessee as a possibility “weeks before” he was hired. Odom, a former college basketball coach, now works as a senior consultant for Collegiate Sports Associates, the search firm Tennessee used to hire Barnes.
“A friend of mine, Dave Odom, had been talking to me weeks before, just because he wanted to know how I was doing and this and that,” Barnes told WVLT. “He actually at one point in time said, hey, maybe if something else is out there, maybe you should think about it. But when it did develop, and he and I had talked, and once the situation was revolved at Texas, a couple hours later — probably really about four hours later — I had my first conversation with Dave Hart. It moved very quickly from there.”
Will Barnes recruit any of his former Texas commitments or signees?
Nope. Not according to Barnes’ interview with Sports Radio WNML. And he will honor the letters of signed by Tennessee’s two 2015 signees. The players already on the roster are already his, he said.
“They are my players,” Barnes told Sports Radio WNML. “Right now. They are my players. I am Tennessee. I’m the Tennessee basketball coach. Anyone that is in the Tennessee basketball program, whether we recruited them or not, they are our players. Andd I’m going to treat them the way I would expect my son to be treated if he was in this situation. They are my players. I’m going to make the right decisions and do everything I can. Whatever is going to happen over the next couple of weeks, I don’t know that. But I’m going to be upfront, honest and there is no hidden agenda here.”
If no one transfers and 2015 signees Admiral Schofield and Shembari Phillips stick with UT, Barnes will have two scholarships available. He said he will be “open to whatever we think is available and what we think can help us” when asked if he will target junior college prospects or graduate transfers to fill the holes. He added he won’t use scholarships just to use them.
What’s the secret to coaching basketball at a football school?
“Well, I also coached at Providence College, who didn’t have football,” Barnes said during his introductory press conference at Pratt Pavilion. “And I can promise you, you want football. There’s nothing like a weekend when you’re allowed to bring your fans and you see kids that are growing up with a tradition … There are somethings you can never ever fake. That’s loyalty. Fan support. And I do know this, there’s none better than the University of Tennessee. When you have a football game, forget before you even go into the stadium. Forget that. It’s everything around it. I’ve never understood where people talk about a football school because I’ve said to everyone, from the time I’ve had to deal with that question, that I don’t know any university in the country who has a bigger basketball arena than their football stadium. I don’t. I understand the importance of football. What we want to do, we want to build on that enthusiasm. I wast to build on what Butch is doing. With him last night, it was impressive. You could feel, again, how grateful he is that he’s here … Football is a major asset to helping us build the basketball program. It’s a major asset to every sport on this campus. I promise you. It’s a sport we all pull for. Its a sport that drives. It’s never ever bothered me. You’ve gotta have it.”
Why, at age 60, was he interested in jumping right back into another job?
“Well, one, I’m a young man,” Barnes said at the press conference. “This is an incredible opportunity. And I will say this. It had to be what it was. It had to be … I mean, I had friends say to me you might want to step back and not be so quick to decide. This was before anybody even knew what was going on. There was never hesitancy on my part once I had made contact and Tennessee, and we started talking. One, I love to coaching. I love working with young people. I’ve been so blessed with players. Players have taught me. I can go down the line to my very first team as a head coach at George Mason. The relationship you develop with those players, the wins and losses, yeah, they’re there, but they could fade away. Those relationships you develop never fade away. And not just with players, but the people you meet along the way. And that’s something I’m not ready to give up. I am driven. I have had one goal in my life and that would be a chance to play in a national championship. This is a university that provides you with everything you need to do that. And I realize how hard that is to do. But it’s something you have to, again, that’s the standard we set. When Dave and I got to talking, there was no doubt from my view that I wanted to be here.”
What did Barnes tell his new Tennessee players?
“We are all fortunate, blessed to have this opportunity,” Barnes said during his press conference. “Where they are sitting right now (the players were to his right) … There are thousands of young men that would like to have this opportunity. I would say the same thing for myself. There are thousands of other coaches that would like to be standing here. So, one thing we won’t do is ever, ever take for granted or have a sense of entitlement .. Believe me, we know the league we play in and we understand the climate of college basketball. Everybody wants it. We’ve been given this opportunity. Now, we have to make the most of it. What we have to do is hold each other accountable. We’ve got to coach each other. We want to have every component that goes into being a great team. And it starts with trust. It starts with loyalty. It starts with the fact we know that all we have to do is look around us every single day. There is greatness. There is greatness. There are examples everywhere. The standard has been set. That’s not a hard thing to figure out. The standard has been set, and it’s a standard we have to work and fight for every day to live up to.”