What year is this? Where am I?
StateFans Nation alerted me today to a rumor that I had completely missed (haven’t been to any team message boards this week) – Rick Barnes will leave Texas at the end of the season and become Virginia’s next coach.
The rumor has some msm (mainstream media) support, as The Daily Progress’ Jerry Ratcliff (UVA’s main hometown columnist for a long time) wrote about it today.
Let me take you back a while to help you get a full understanding of just how odd this is.
In 1989, Terry Holland was the head coach at Virginia He was coming off the most successful decade in Virginia basketball history, but he was getting tired of the job and UVA fans were frankly getting a bit tired of him and his mediocre (they felt) coaching. Holland wanted his top assistant, Dave Odom, to be guaranteed the head coaching job if Holland stepped down. Virginia AD Jim Copeland refused.
That season, Wake Forest fired Bob Staack and hired Odom away from Virginia. Two years later, Holland stepped down, but obviously Odom was no longer available.
Virginia conducted a national search for the job, interviewing coaches such as Pete Gillen of Xavier, Mike Montgomery of Stanford and Rick Barnes of Providence. Copeland settled on Barnes, who accepted the offer. Barnes flew back to Providence to make his announcement, and something happened. Providence officials (and supposedly, Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt) met with Barnes and convinced him to change his mind.
Copeland was now stuck. He had already told Montgomery and Gillen that he had picked someone else. With this kind of job search, you can’t go back to guys once you’ve told them no – it’s just too sensitive, because they already have jobs and have usually returned home and said they were happy to be there. With no national choices left, Copeland went with young UVA assistant Jeff Jones, who had slid up to the #2 position when Odom left.
Five years later, Rick Barnes left Providence for Clemson (this time he really left). During his tenure at Clemson, Barnes quickly raised basketball interest, by winning games and challenging (nearly physically) conference giant Dean Smith. Barnes is by far the best coach Clemson ever had. Unfortunately for the Tiger faithful, Barnes grew weary of promoting basketball at a football school, and left for Texas (a very odd choice for a guy fleeing football).
When Jeff Jones’ bright light burned out and UVA went coach hunting again in 1998, they nabbed Providence coach Pete Gillen (who had left Xavier to replace Barnes at Providence).
As a side story here – when Gillen left Xavier to replace Barnes at Providence, Xavier replaced Gillen with his longtime assistant, Skip Prosser. Prosser, of course, went on to replace Dave Odom at Wake Forest. It’s like a bad soap opera with all the cross-connected relationships.
If Barnes does end up at Virginia next year (once again fleeing a football school), it will be yet another step in a very strange, interconnected coaching procession. Virginia fans never really forgave Barnes for leaving them in the lurch in 1989, but would quickly forget that if he brings his resume to Charlottesville fourteen years later.
If the rumor turns out not to be true and Barnes doesn’t end up in Charlottesville, look for them to hire his evil twin, Skippy.