BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer email@example.com
Last season, Rod Barnes took over a Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team that hadn't reached double-figures in wins for four seasons, or since the Roadrunners last played a Division II schedule.
The 16-15 season enabled CSUB to qualify for the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament, the first postseason appearance for CSUB basketball in its Division I history.
Barnes, who was the Naismith national coach of the year while at Ole Miss in 2001, and also coached at Georgia State before coming to CSUB, talked about this season's team with The Californian.
Q: Were you happy with last season?
A: Yeah I was because when it's all said and done you want to have a winning season.
If you asked me last year before the season even started: "Coach, if you had a winning season and made postseason play, would you call it a great year?" I would say yes.
As a coach there are games and situations you thought could have gone better. But from start to finish I thought we got better and we showed throughout the season we were pretty solid. And there wasn't a whole lot of peaks and valleys. Night in and night out you want consistency. We had some tough battles and setbacks, but our team bounced back.
We pretty much beat up the Big West Conference. To do that in our first year here says something about the kids on the team.
Q: Will the roles of your six returners (guards Stephon Carter, Zach Lamb and Issiah Grayson; forwards Tyrone White, Adam Young and Mo Hughley) be the same?
A: (There will be) some changes. First of all, Tyrone White has had a really good summer, Stephon has had a good summer and preseason since we've been working out.
Stephon: Every game last season we put him on their best guard. This year we've got my son (Brandon Barnes), Erik Kinney and Javonte Maynor, who can relieve him of that, so he won't have to press so much on both ends of the court.
We had guys last year who had to hit shots. Tyrone had to make shots. We've got other guys who can help us score.
Tyrone will play more positions. He'll do the same things, but we can use his size (6-foot-7) and shooting ability to put other people in good positions.
Zach (Lamb) will play a whole lot more point guard because we've got a chance to be bigger. But he's a guy we expect to be a primary ball handler.
The good thing with our team is we've got a lot of versatility. We can do a lot of different things. We will press a lot more. We're becoming more of a type of team I like to coach.
Last year our front line was a little thin. And our guard position was not as experienced or deep. We've got some guys who are a little more of an upgrade and more experienced this year.
Q: What do the three redshirts from last year (guards Brandon Barnes and Javonte Maynor; forward Kregg Jones) bring to the table?
A: Javonte is a really solid guard who can really shoot the ball. My son is a wing, more of a defender, a rebounder who can score.
With my son being the same mode as Stephon, we'll ask him to do more of the dirty work. Not that Stephon won't. But if Stephon gets two fouls, we can put my son against their best offensive player. Or we can switch them.
Q: How hard is it coaching your son?
A: First of all, my wife and my kids have been around basketball. They understand the game and what is being asked of me to do.
When he first got here it was tough. An adjustment. I'm on him every day. He's known all his life I've had high standards for him, and he's experiencing that every day. In his mind he's thinking, "I'm never supposed to miss a shot, I'm never supposed to do anything wrong."
As his dad, I'm just glad he's here. I have high expectations, so anything that's said is magnified from my point of view. Even when it's not meant to be magnified he receives it that way because I've never coached him.
My other son plays at Liberty. I never talk to his coaches about him.
With both of them, my thing is: Do they act right? Are they sportsman-like? Do they have a good attitude? The next thing is to just play hard.
We've got a neat thing that we do. I'll call him and I'll say, "This is dad." And I'll call him and say, "This is your coach." So that has made it fun.
I enjoy it now. But it is tough. You want to see him do well.
Just having your son around every day, participating in his life in the formidable times of his life, is good.
Who wouldn't want their kid to be around? Even if it's tough at times?
Q: What newcomers have impressed you the most?
A: We have a freshman, Erik Kinney, who's really good. He has the potential to be a really, really good player here.
I think he can contribute right away. Will he be a great player right away? Well, he's got some guys in front of him so he may not get the chance to highlight his skills.
Our big kid, (Tyler) Smith (a 6-foot-11 center). I've been surprised how well he's caught on and how hard he's been working. And his attitude.
The rest of the guys have not been disappointments but those are the two guys. Oh man, they'll be good.
Q: What is your message to the community as the season nears?
A: I think you'll see a lot of growth. We're a little bit older team. Our schedule is tough. We have to have people out here yelling and screaming and involved at our games.
More importantly, we're still in a foundation mode. We're not in a "We've arrived" mode.
I said last year I didn't come here to build a season, or to win last season. We came here to build something that's going to last.
The names may change. Stephon Carter may leave, Brandon Barnes may leave. But we've got to continue to build so we can be a team and program that's respected. Not only respected but one our fans can be proud of.
Last year we made the postseason. We've proven it can happen.
The next step after you've had a winning season is to win 20 games. After that, it's winning a conference championship.
This is the year we need people to support us, for people to get on board. Because when we make that transition to the WAC, we want to be ready in every phase.
We want to win when New Mexico State comes here. When Seattle comes in here, we want them to realize we're a place that's packed and the community is really involved.
I want to be competitive enough in Year No. 1 we can win the league tournament. Now that we're in the WAC, when we have kids visiting us, we can't have a half-filled Icardo. We need our fans and students to come out.
I think our team will play hard, we'll play fast and we'll be a neat team to watch.