Trailing late, Tiger Iker Iturbe hammered UNC's Jerry Stackhouse with 3:10 remaining, and North Carolina head coach Dean Smith responded with some a barrage of comments in Iturbe's direction.
Barnes called a timeout and went off, yelling at Smith, and the confrontation ended with Barnes and Smith face-to-face, nose-to-nose, having to be separated by officials.
The heated exchange was watched by millions on ESPN and local TV stations for days, and from that point on, not only did Clemson's faithful love Barnes, but "ABC" fans across the league looked at Barnes in awe... he wasn't intimidated by Smith's reputation or Carolina's success.
The incident cost Barnes $2,500, but that was pennies given the message it sent to the players in his program and the Tiger fanbase.
He had seven years head coaching experience under his belt before that first season at Clemson, with six coming at Providence in the mighty Big East. Hard fouls and rough play is a common theme in that league, and Barnes carried the identity with him to Clemson after helping build the Friars program.
He led Providence to three NCAA appearances in six years at the school, and he won the Big East Tournament title in 1994.
However, at the time, he was hoping to move back closer to his roots, and Barnes left Providence for Clemson following the 1993-1994 season.
Barnes and his wife, Candy, are from North Carolina, and going to Clemson enabled the both of them to be closer to their families. Also, Barnes believed he could build up the Tiger program, and he certainly did that.
The highmark of his tenure came in 1996-1997, when he led the Tigeres to a No. 2 ranking and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Barnes left Clemson with the school's best all-time winning percentage (.607) and top winning percentage in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Clemson had three straight NCAA appearances under Barnes, the first time in school history the feat had been accomplished, and he posted a 74-48 record, including 13 wins against AP Top 25 teams.
His success at Clemson made him a hot commodity, and Texas came calling in 1998. The Longhorns were looking to replace Tom Penders, who had been successful early in his tenure, winning three SWC Titles in the program's last five years in the conference, but struggled the first two seasons in the Big 12. The Longhorns finished 14-17 in 1998, and Penders resigned after a scandal involving the improper release of a player's grades, which violated NCAA rules.
Barnes worked his magic from the start. Playing with just seven scholarship players for the majority of the season, the Longhorns began the year just 3-8. However, Texas won an amazing 16 of their final 21 games, posting a 13–3 record in conference play and winning the school's first regular season Big 12 Conference championship by a two-game margin.
Barnes and Texas was a perfect match. A relentless recruiter, the Longhorns owns the state and gives Barnes a wealth of talent to pluck from. He built his program on homegrown talent but also landed elite national standouts, and the resources provided by the university makes his job one of the best in the country.
He has spent 13 seasons at the school, and his accomplishments are impressive. Three Big 12 Titles. 13 straight NCAA appearances. Five Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights, and a Final Four appearance in 2003, which was the program's first since 1947. The school's first-ever No. 1 ranking (2010).
Under Barnes the Longhorns have ended the season ranked in the top 10 nationally five times and in the top 20 another six times... nationally ranked 11 of 13 seasons.
Texas is a national power, one of the country's elite programs. Sure, they have the resources and the in-state talent to be successful, but Barnes has taken the Longhorns to another level.
What Makes Him A Viable Candidate?
Barnes would likely consider the NC State opening for a variety of reasons.
Obviously, his ties to the state would be a plus for NC State. Born and raised in Hickory, North carolina, Barnes grew up in ACC country and was reportedly a fan of the Wolfpack.
After graduating from Hickory High in 1973, Barnes remained there and attended college at Lenoir-Rhyne, playing his college basketball games in the same gym in which he played his high school ball.
He still has a lot of family in the state, and at 56 it could be appealing to finish out his coaching career in front of family and friends.
Also, Barnes has reached a stage in his coaching career at Texas where it could be time for a change. The Longhorns haven't advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in three years, and he hasn't won a conference title in three seasons.
With a roster that had five seniors and two underclassmen (Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson) who could enter the NBA Draft, the makeup of his team will be drastically different this fall. Maybe for him the time to move on is now.
From NC State's point of view, Barnes certainly has a lot of positives.
"Wherever they go, they just win," is what Debbie Yow said she's looking for in her next coach. Rick Barnes certainly has done that. He's an elite recruiter, program builder, and has won at every stop on his resume, all major pluses.
Barnes reportedly received the first phone call from Todd Turner when the Wolfpack hired Herb Sendek in 1996. He seriously considered the job before earning a raise from Texas in 2006. Could he turn NC State down a third time if the Wolfpack elected to pursue him in 2011?
What Makes Him A Long Shot?
His current job certainly does. Texas has as many resources as any program in the country, and any dollar figure that NC State offers Rick Barnes could easily be matched by the Longhorns.
Barnes still hasn't reached the pinnacle, a national championship, and maybe he believes Texas gives him the best chance at accomplishing that goal. He has landed blue-chippers such as T.J. Ford and LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin, and Tristan Thompson while at Texas, and talent definitely wins a lot of games.
Also, it's not a given that NC State chooses to pursue Barnes. His price tag will be hefty, and Yow could be looking for a younger coach with a high ceiling. She stated in her recent press conference that ideally she would like to land a coach that could lead the Wolfpack for 10-15 years... at 56 maybe Rick Barnes isn't interested in coaching that much longer.
Basically, Rick Barnes has a great job right now. He is in a great situation and seems comfortable and happy. It is a longshot that he would leave to take over a rebuilding project in Raleigh.
Pack Pride's Take
NC State has basically wanted Rick Barnes as its head coach for the past 15 years, and have yet to be able to get the job done.
If he is ever going to lead the Wolfpack program, the time would be now. He reportedly has no buyout and is making two million dollars, a number NC State could exceed if reports are true that they are willing to pay top-dollar for a head coach.
His situation at Texas isn't the same as it was in 2006 when the Longhorns were coming off a conference title and an Elite Eight appearance. At that time Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds gave Barnes a $500,000 pay raise to end any rumors of him leaving. Would he do the same now?
Barnes considered the job back then... why wouldn't he now?