Rick Barnes referred to himself as a young man at his introductory press conference Tuesday. After watching the spry 61-year-old methodically discuss the path that eventually led him to Tennessee, it’s hard to disagree with him.
Barnes’ long tenure at Texas ended abruptly last week, when he was fired after 17 seasons for not sacrificing his assistant coaches to keep his job. Now the former Longhorn head coach is tasked with retooling a Tennessee team that has experienced less consistency than Barnes’ press conference microphone.
With college basketball’s national signing day just 13 days away, the young Barnes will have some old tricks up his sleeve, starting with the extensive resume he’ll be able to toss out to potential recruits.
“I think the first thing is experience. He knows how you have to recruit to win at the highest level,” Scout basketball recruiting analyst Brian Snow said. “Did he struggle at times down the stretch at Texas? Yes he did. He missed out on some high quality kids, but he still knows what it takes.”
Barnes’ peaked in 2006 with Scout’s No. 3 overall ranked recruiting class, but also landed Top 10 classes in 2009 and 2011. His classes have since slowly tapered off, but Barnes can still say he was able to lure superstars like Kevin Durant and Lamarcus Aldridge to Austin while constantly pumping players into the NBA in his 17 seasons at the helm in Texas.
“He’s proven, and hopefully this will re-energize Rick on the recruiting trail and he’ll be able to get some of that mojo back that he had at Texas,” Snow said.
“For a while he was absolutely killing it on the recruiting trail, and he still has brought in some very good classes, but it did drop off a little bit. Maybe a little change of scenery, along with his experience, can lead to some high quality recruiting classes for the Volunteers.”
Texas currently boasts one of the top backcourt tandems in the 2015 class, with No. 26 ranked shooting guard Kerwin Roach and No. 47 ranked shooting guard Eric Davis committed to the Longhorns. Both players are expected to stay at Texas, but they are tangible proof Barnes is still able to snag high-quality talent even during what most Texas fans considered an underachieving season.
"Rick's made 16 of 17 tournaments," Scout national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said. "Clearly he has a lot of experience in this game and is a terrific coach. I'm sure he's in the process of building a staff that can recruit well in Tennessee."
At the end of the day, both agree Barnes' pedigree and resume will attract talented recruits from across the country.
“Recruiting’s recruiting. I think sometimes a little too much can be made about guys in an area,” Snow said. “If people like and trust you, it really doesn’t matter, and Rick Barnes has been making a lot of money doing this a long time to get people to like and trust him.”
Insider Report: Barnes' presser
Click the InsideTennessee logo below to view a photo gallery of Barnes' formal announcement at Pratt Pavilion: