Norman — New Oklahoma assistant coach Rod Barnes will help bring head coaching experience to first-year head coach Jeff Capel's staff. Barnes, who compiled a 141-109 record in eight seasons at Mississippi and was named the Naismith Coach of the Year in 2001 after leading the school to its first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, talked to OUInsider.com recently about new position as an assistant under Capel.
On how he became an assistant at Oklahoma
Barnes: It started a few years ago. Jeff was the head coach at VCU, and I followed his career because I've been a big Coach K (Duke head cach Mike Kryzewski) fan so I knew him from afar.
But over the last couple of years I had an opportunity to coach against him. We played a couple of home-and-home games against those guys. Obviously, Jeff has been one of the young coaches that people have been talking about for the last couple of years. We've developed a great relationship.
What happened was after I got a chance to be away a couple of weeks after being at Ole Miss, I talked to Coach K just trying to get some advice on whether I should go back in as a head coach or take an assistant coaching position.
And while we were talking he brought up this situation, and I told him it would be something I would be very interested in. I had some conversations with Jeff, and after visiting with him I thought it would be a great situation for my career and my family.
On Coach K helping get him connected to Capel
Barnes: I got first my coaching job and 32 and Coach K and Tubby Smith are two guys that I really lean heavy on, just calling them and asking them how to develop a great program, to recruiting, to hiring coaches. Those were the two guys I called when I was a looking for a job.
When I talked to Coach Smith at Kentucky, it was kinda the same thing. After I talked to Coach K, I called Coach Capel. So, it was not one of those things that just kinda happened. I was interested in the position, and after talking to those two guys they thought it would be a great thing. And after visiting with Jeff, I just knew it was the right situation for me.
On leaving Ole Miss for Oklahoma and the Big 12
Barnes: Obviously, being in the SEC is very competitive. I was always in the notion of trying to build a great program, not just having a winning season or have a winning team.
A lot of times when you build programs, it just takes a little longer, especially when you try to build them the right way. That's one thing that I've been a strong believer in.
As I tell people, if you're building a program you've got to look over the long haul. We had a great run at Mississippi. One of the big things when you look back at the history of the school, only one time before had they been to the NCAA Tournament. And to be a part of such success over the last 10 years was just awesome. But sometimes it's just best to move on and find new things.
One of the things I wanted to do was find a place that not only I could feel comfortable with, but also my family. I think I've got the right place here.
On Jeff Capel and the staff he's assembled
Barnes: In the conversations we've had leading up to my hiring here, he's wise beyond his years. Jeff understands about a program. I think coming out of a great program there at Duke, he studied not only as a player but also as a coach.
I really like this staff. I think it's really strong. We've got some guys on this staff that are hungry. Also, I think we've got great talent and we're going to be able to complement each other.
Right now we're just trying to really find the strength and weaknesses of the staff and make sure we're in the right place. I think Coach Capel has done a great job of assigning responsibilities at this particular point, and I think each guy will take what they're here for and just really do it.
You talk about Ben Betts, who has been a head coach, and when you've been on that side it's a little bit different. Not only do you gain experience as a head coach, but you know what you want as an assistant. And that's the same with me.
And then you have coach Cline, who is a guy that's been in this business for 19 years.
On how the staff will be able to recruit the Big 12 region despite the fact that each of them is from different areas of the country
Barnes: In recruiting, it's about building relationships but also maintaining relationships. That's how you're going to be successful, and I think that comes through work.
Since I've been here, we've been in the office early in the morning and late at night trying to build some more relationships in this area. Obviously, when you talk about Texas, Kansas and Arkansas, we bring a lot of relationships but also we've got to build new relationships.
I think because we've been in it so long, we realize that we're trying to get to every high school coach and every student-athlete that has the talent and the right kind of character we want in this program, and we're going to work at it.
Obviously, it's going to take some time. But immediately, we've got to build on some of the relationships we've had in the past. I think over the next couple of years people will see that this staff will be outgoing. We'll be a staff that people will feel very comfortable with, very approachable.
We'll do everything that we can do to try and establish those relationships as soon as possible.
On the great coaches in the Big 12 like Bob Knight, Bill Self, Rick Barnes and Bob Huggins
Barnes: That's one of the things that attracted me. First of all, Jeff, then the University of Oklahoma. No question. It's a place that I think we can recruit to throughout this nation, and it's a university and program that's recognized all across this country.
I've coached against some great coaches — Billy Donovan, Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith — guys like that. But now I get an opportunity to go into a different league. I think this staff is excited about the opportunity, but it brings new challenges that we're looking forward to.
This is a great league. There's no question about that. We're going to have to do a great job, but we're looking forward to it.
Krzyzewski helped Capel land assistant
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