NASHVILLE, Tenn. - I'm not sure what all he wants to say, how much, or even if he ultimately will say anything. But it sounds like he wants to.
Each time in the last two press conferences - on Monday at Tad Smith and today at Gaylord Arena - Rod Barnes refrained from commenting on his feelings concerning his situation and how he feels at this time about it.
He was asked today if he was at peace with the situation. It was the second of a two-part question.
"I'd like to decline the part about being at peace."
It was the same type response I got from asking him Monday about Ole Miss and his feelings after a 22-year association with the school as a player, student, alum, assistant coach, and head coach. He wanted to wait until the final horn sounded on the season before he sounded off on anything.
I don't know what he wants to say. Maybe he doesn't actually want to say anything and is just putting us off with the response.
So if he does have something else to say at the end, will that be in the postgame press conference here if the Rebels lose in this tournament, which is highly likely? Or will it come at a press conference back home at some point after it's all over? And with the search for a new head coach either well along or even over by then, will anybody really be listening?
I'm just not sure. So we wait.
In the meantime, there is a game Thursday at approximately 2:15 p.m. between Ole Miss and Kentucky. Give Rod credit. He hasn't let anyone forget that. He continues to remind everyone that asks about much else that it is still all about the players and the game at hand.
And he does so with confidence, although some of it appears tongue in cheek.
"We're going to play in the NCAA Tournament," Rod said, smiling, maybe not totally believing it but saying it anyway, as he jumped in to answer a question for Dwayne Curtis and Todd Abernethy at today's press conference when they were asked how they felt about this being their last time to play for Barnes.
"So this is not their last go-round," Rod said.
But that's what a coach is supposed to say when asked in front of his players and the national/regional media a question like that, even if it was intended for a player.
He doesn't want it to end. Neither do his players. But tomorrow will likely end it, and then I guess we'll see what he has to say. Or will we?
Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith didn't hesitate to talk about Barnes. He stuck his head into the Rebel locker room to get his son Brian to come out in the hall for a brief visit after the Rebels practiced and before the Wildcats worked out.
At UK's press session, he said this about Rod: "Well, your heart goes out for him. My heart does, especially for him or any coach, but especially because we have been good friends for a long time. I thought he did a great job there. Obviously this year they haven't lived up to what their expectations are, just like us.
"It's tough to play against family and sons and good friends anytime you go out to compete. I know the Ole Miss players care about Coach Barnes and want to play well. They have always played hard. They have played a lot of close games this year. They are coming off a very excellent effort against LSU. I know we had better be ready to play or we're going to have a lot of real problems."
But most feel Kentucky, at 19-11 overall and 9-7 in the conference, is already in the NCAA Tournament field. The only way they might have "a lot of real problems" getting in is if they lose to Ole Miss Thursday, a team that's 14-15 and 4-12 and has an 80-40 loss to the Wildcats on its resume'.
Todd and Dwayne said they are both hopeful that having the big man in this game will help the Rebels this time around. DC was out during the Rebels' 40-point loss in Lexington to attend his brother's funeral.
Question from a writer for Todd: "Todd, you talk about some differences you think there could be that you all can make up a 40-point deficit from the last time you played Kentucky. Are there other reasons besides Dwayne playing that you feel can help your team compete in the game?"
"Well obviously not having Dwayne with us at the time hurt us a lot," Abernethy said. "We didn't establish any post presence. I think it will be a big difference with Dwayne playing."
Curtis is eager to play this time around and hopes to make an impact.
"I hope my presence inside makes a difference, especially rebounding and on defense. I am hopeful I can make a difference for our team."
Forty points difference (a question I asked him back in Oxford on Monday)?
"I think so. I hope so," he said, smiling.
Both Abernethy and Curtis, the two players who joined Barnes in the press conference Wednesday, said, when asked, that they are indeed playing this tournament, at least in part, for their head coach.
"It's been a great expereince having him as a coach," Curtis said. "He's like a father to me. I just love playing under Coach Barnes."
"Tomorrow and the rest of the season, however many games we have left, we just need to go out there and give it our all," Abernethy said. "Coach has fought for us. He's fought for me for three years and the least we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can. So I think tomorrow we're going to be loose and free as we have nothing to lose. So we're going out there, have fun and play hard."
Kentucky is playing on the first day of the tournament for the first time since 1979 when they also played Ole Miss. Tough facts here: Ole Miss is 0-12 against the Wildcats in this tournament. The Rebels have lost to UK only six times less than the Cats have lost total games ever in this event. Kentucky is an amazing 107-18 alltime in the SEC tourney.
Know what that means? Means Kentucky has won this event a bunch of times - 25 to be exact.
The Rebels have one SEC tourney title in men's hoops - 1981. They have made the finals two other times - 1990 and 2001.
Rod Barnes won't be the head coach at Ole Miss next season. Tracy Dildy wants to be.
The second-year UM assistant coach said he had taken care of that before he left Oxford.
"I've applied," said Dildy, brought in two years ago to help the Rebels recruit better. "People know I've paid my dues. If they compare resumes', the only difference is that I have not yet had the chance to be a head coach. Actually if you check, I was the acting head coach a few games at DePaul when I was there with Coach (Pat) Kennedy.
"I'm ready and I'm confident, and if I get the opportunity, I believe I will do a great job," Dildy continued. "I'm always pulling for assistants to get a chance. I hope to get that chance."
Disclaimer: This is not the word from anybody connected with Ole Miss in any way. It is strictly from those media I hear when talking to them here at the Gaylord Center.
Most of the media I have either talked to or heard while I was listening in on their conversations is that the Ole Miss job will either go to John Pelphrey or Andy Kennedy. Again, this is not Ole Miss talking. This is the regional and even in some cases national media.
Do they know for sure? Of course not. No decision has been made. Heck it's all in the early stages still. They're just listening too and trying to piece it all together like we all are.
By Sunday or even Friday they may have all changed their minds and say it's Elston Turner's or Stan Jones' or Matt Doherty's or Dildy's or whomever's to lose. You know how the media can be.
Remember, no Ole Miss officials are saying any of the above. Just others here. And I'm just listening.
Last couple of notes. Junior guard Clarence Sanders is not with the team. It appears if Sanders is to return to play for the Rebels in the future, it will be up to him and the next head coach to work it out.
The Rebels didn't stop their preparations with their hour on the Gaylord Arena court. They left and headed over to Vanderbilt to practice, not in the 14,000-seat Memorial Gymnasium but in the attached practice facility Vandy has now. You know, a practice facility which Ole Miss does not have but needs.
All for now.
SEC Men's Basketball Tournament Notes
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