The former Charlotte assistant is but a four-hour drive from his old office on the 49ers’ campus and enters Knoxville as a relatively unknown face in a region he knows very well. Oliver, who is the lone new assistant coach joining Barnes holdovers Lanier and Ogden on his new staff, is quite familiar with this region of the country. He’s also well acquainted with the coaches he’s joining at Tennessee, making his presence a smooth transition for everyone involved.
“It really hasn’t had the feel of being around new guys because I’ve known these guys outside of working with them for a while,” Oliver said. “I used to fly down to Austin and spend a week with Rob and hang out in the office with these guys and talk basketball and learn hoops. So now to have a chance to work with them, it’s been a pretty easy transition.”
Oliver dipped his hand in a little bit of everything at Charlotte, from recruiting to player development to game day preparation. And while Barnes has yet to delegate practice duties to his assistant coaches, the first-year Tennessee assistant knows his role will encompass a wide scope.
“We meet every day as a staff, the three assistants, and talk about ideas and things to bring to the table,” he said. “Right now, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s kind of a skeleton to what our season will look like. We’re talking about recruiting right now for July, our current team.”
There remains one scholarship still available on the Vols’ roster for the 2015 season and Barnes and his staff hope to fill it before the signing period ends May 18. Oliver is starting to learn what type of recruit his new boss wants to bring to Knoxville, and it’s no surprise to those who know Barnes what Oliver says his new head coach desires in a prospect.
“In my short time here, I think what I’ve learned is certainly (Barnes) wants good people. He wants good students so guys are not having to beg guys to go to class every day,” Oliver said.
“He wants kids who love the game, kids who are going to be in the gym in the morning before class and, after class, they’re back in the gym. Guys with upside, because every player’s got some kind of upside in him.
The current search for one more player in the 2015 class hasn’t deterred him from thinking about the future, either. Already Oliver is planning to get out and travel the country to scout prospects this summer during an evaluation period he calls paramount to the success of the program.
“It’s huge. It’s huge to make your decisions,” Barnes said about summer recruiting. “A guy you might be on the fence with and say I think he has a chance, in July you better know if he’s good enough or not because you don’t have a large window to keep waiting on him. I think it’s huge.”
Barnes prides himself on finding those diamonds in the rough who are malleable and determined enough to become great basketball players through plenty of coaching and on-court work. That’s another aspect of Barnes' recruiting process Oliver has learned in his short time with the program.
“Coach has had great success with some no-name guys at Texas, guys that came in that weren’t ranked in the Top 200 in the country and became NBA players and had great careers,” Oliver said. “I really worked with coach Lanier and coach Ogden trying to gauge the best prospect, the best type of kid, for coach Barnes.”
That shouldn’t be too hard for the newest addition in Knoxville, as he’ll be working for someone he believes evokes the hardest work out of those who follow his lead.
“The thing that makes coach Barnes special, in my opinion, is he is able to max people out,” Oliver said. “His assistant coaches, they max out. He’s going to max some people out in terms of making you develop to your fullest and work as hard as you can work.”
Oliver spoke about Barnes' sense of humor, the difficulty of finding a true point guard, recruiting the Atlanta area and more in the InsideTennessee video below:
Oliver with Knoxville media, Part I