Bevy of familiar college coaches calling new places home
Rick Barnes is still wearing orange these days, but the color of his wardrobe is just about the only thing that didn't change for the longtime Texas coach this season.
The new coach of Tennessee traded the Big 12 for the football-happy Southeastern Conference, Sixth Street in Austin for Market Square in Knoxville. After years of mounting pressure at Texas, the 60-year-old Barnes is getting a fresh start at a school starved for success.
He's not the only familiar face in a new place.
Shaka Smart replaced Barnes at Texas after an ultra-successful run at VCU. Ben Howland is back on the sidelines, this time at Mississippi State. And Steve Prohm spent a decade at Murray State as an assistant and then head coach before bolting to Iowa State, where he takes control of a talent-rich roster following the departure of Fred Hoiberg to the NBA.
Here's a closer look at coaches sporting different colors – ahem, logos? – this season.
More than 600 wins, 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament in 17 years, and a Final Four berth in 2003 weren't enough for Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, who fired Barnes after the Longhorns were eliminated by Butler in another disappointing exit last season.
It barely took a heartbeat for Tennessee to come swooping in.
The Vols, who fired Donnie Tyndall after one season because of unethical conduct when he was at Southern Miss, has become a March mainstay despite seemingly constant turmoil. Bruce Pearl left a sour taste over his off-the-court issues, while Cuonzo Martin seemed to have the program humming before suddenly bolting for California a couple years ago.
No wonder Tennessee wanted the stability Barnes could bring to the program.
''The fact is, I don't feel any different now than I felt the last 10 or 12 years as a head coach,'' he said. ''I know it's our first game coming up here (Friday night against UNC-Asheville), and I don't take any of them for granted. We still have a lot of teaching and work to do.''
If nothing else, Barnes left plenty of talent at Texas, where Smart plans to use the size and speed of his returning players to unleash a new form of his ''havoc style.''
Smart won at least 26 games each of his first six seasons at VCU, making him the hottest name among mid-major coaches. But instead of matching up against Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure, like he did in the Atlantic 10, he'll now have to tussle with Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma.
''Your biggest challenge in your first year is always implementing your philosophy, your way of doing things,'' Smart said. ''So the biggest challenge is getting on the same page, players, coaches, everyone that's part of our program, and us being connected around one goal.''
If what Barnes accomplished at Texas was impressive, what Howland did at UCLA – three consecutive trips to the Final Four – should have made him the next Wizard of Westwood. But after a decline into mediocrity coupled with off-the-court issues led to his 2013 ouster.
He spent a couple years as a television analyst before surfacing at Mississippi State, which went 37-60 over three seasons under Ricky Ray, including a 15-44 mark in the SEC.
Howland also has led Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh to the NCAA Tournament.
''Ever since he's gotten here, I have liked everything about him. He's been doing all of the right things,'' senior guard Craig Sword said. ''He has everybody in the right positions. He has been doing a great job since he got here.''
Of all the familiar faces in new places, Prohm may have the best opportunity to succeed right away. That's because Hoiberg left a talented, veteran bunch at Iowa State, led by preseason All-American Georges Niang and potential NBA draft picks Jameel McKay and Monte Morris.
Prohm knows what it's like to take over a team with high expectations, too. He replaced Billy Kennedy at Murray State and went 31-2 in his first season in charge. And while he failed to get the Racers back to the NCAA Tournament, he did win 29 games last season.
''Obviously we've got a lot of expectations, but that's a good thing. That's a credit to what they've done over the last several years,'' Prohm said. ''My focus and my mindset with these guys is let's be great today. Let's win the day.''