Rod Barnes still waiting for payoff at Georgia State (so are we)

Rod Barnes gives Jihad Ali some instructions during a recent game against Northeastern. (Jason Getz/AJC

Rod Barnes gives Jihad Ali instructions during a game against Northeastern. (Jason Getz/AJC)

While one college basketball program (Georgia) begins to establish a footprint and another (Georgia Tech) merely resembles the gum under the ACC’s shoe, Georgia State is probably somewhere in the middle: Not great obviously but not embarrassing either, because embarrassment requires a certain level of visibility.

How much of this actually is the fault of coach Rod Barnes remains uncertain. He wasn’t handed Valhalla. It’s sort of like asking someone to build a luxury resort on the site of a former nuclear waste facility and then wonder why nobody is booking rooms right away. Bad memories and a green glow dissipate slowly.

Understand, given the high school basketball talent this state produces, there’s no reason why Georgia State shouldn’t compete for conference titles on a regular basis and go to a postseason tournament periodically. If GSU is not going to be Marquette, it certainly can be George Mason, Old Dominion or VCU (the current big three in the Colonial Athletic Association).

The Panthers aren’t nearly there yet. Barnes, always exuding confidence, will convince you he’s on the cusp. “I thought it would take five years to be competitive, to finish in the top half of the league and maybe be in the top four,” he said.

Next year is season five.

Given all that Barnes has had to clean up, the assumption is he will be back, although athletic director Cheryl Levick said only, “I evaluate each program at the end of the season.” She eventually allowed that he “has done a good job.”

Bill Curry got people excited quickly with Georgia State football. Barnes isn’t yet stirring the masses, but there are distinct advantages to inheriting a blank sheet of paper (Curry had a start-up operation) to ugly baggage (no players, academic issues in basketball).

Barnes’ won-loss records have been unimpressive: 9-21, 12-20, 12-20, 11-16 (with two regular season games left). This season includes a seven-game losing streak. But he has won before. In 2001, he was the Naismith national coach of the year at Mississippi, winning 27 games and taking the Rebels to the Sweet 16. That doesn’t usually happen by accident.

But Barnes was handed a mess at Georgia State. The academic situation was so bad that he now admits he would’ve balked at taking the job in 2007 if he had realized the extent of the problems.

“I was shocked,” he said. “We had guys just not going to class. We were already in a trouble with the NCAA for our APR [Academic Progress Rate]. We were at the bottom, not only in our league but in the country. I thought I was coming here to make some [basketball] changes but I found myself having to hang with some guys, and as a coach that kind of handicaps you. You don’t run kids off but at the same time you know it’s not going to work.

“There were times when I thought, ‘Man, if I knew it was going to be this bad, I would’ve given it a second thought.’ But that has nothing to do with the school or basketball. I just didn’t do my homework.”

He has done a wonderful job in the cleanup. Georgia State has seen its multiple-year APR score increase each year, from a low of 889 (out of 1,000) in 2006-07 to a projected 946 in 2009-10 (it’s not official yet). Under Barnes, 11 players have graduated in the last three years. The program is out of the NCAA’s academic doghouse.

That should help recruiting, which is improving. Barnes lured talented guard Devonta White from Centennial High in Alpharetta last year (although he has been injured much of this season). He said more kids now actually have heard of the program, adding, “When we started, people would say, ‘Where is Georgia State?’ Some of them were in Georgia.”

Ouch.

He knew success “would not happen over night. But I’m excited because I know what we’ve done here and I know we’re going to win.”

Of course, even at relatively off-the-radar programs like Georgia State, the “next year” remarks play for only so long. But given what Barnes inherited, waiting one more season for a potential payoff doesn’t seem unreasonable.

By Jeff Schultz

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61 comments Add your comment

Paul H

February 22nd, 2011
3:43 pm

Jamaaliver

February 22nd, 2011
3:47 pm

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 22nd, 2011
3:50 pm

What is the last school other than Uga or Tech to make it into the Ncaa Tournament ? I remember mercer in the field a long long time ago.

Jamaaliver

February 22nd, 2011
4:00 pm

Do you mean last Georgia school other than UGA or Tech?

Pepe

February 22nd, 2011
4:00 pm

I thought Lefty got GSU in a few years back…

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 22nd, 2011
4:06 pm

yeah last georgia school

JSS

February 22nd, 2011
4:19 pm

I love the State of Georgia… Only here can one delude themselves into demeaning the talents of other regions of the Country… George Mason gets to recruit Virginia, Maryland, Eastern Ohio, a shiver of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and the NY/Philly basketball pipeline. The same goes for ODU and VCU. We play some darn good basketball here. But ask any high school coach in this area; “honestly, how many of our guys are ready for top flight D-1 programs?” The answer will be 18-20… So the question becomes how many can develop into serviceable D-1 material and have the academic strength to still be around?

Georgia State must develop the pipeline to get a core of talent willing to build a program. It does not help that the former talent rich cities of Macon, Columbus, and Savannah have really fallen on hard times in terms of coaching and performance. If you think you’re going to sustain success just on Atlanta and Albany based players, then you’re sadly mistaken…

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Spears and Ben Garrett, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: After clean-up, Rod Barnes waits for payoff at Georgia State http://bit.ly/icoRtr [...]

Hammer22

February 22nd, 2011
4:55 pm

Barnes has always been known as a great recruiter, the coaching part is the question mark.

ormewood

February 22nd, 2011
5:10 pm

Georgia high school basketball is outstanding. Consequently, Georgia college hoops simply must be better than it is currently. North Carolina is a smaller state. You can throw the four ACC teams out of the discussion if you want, but in the last decade, Davidson, UNC Charlotte, and UNC Wilmington have all been in the NCAA tourney, maybe UNC Asheville and UNC Greensboro too in addition to the ACC Four. There’s simply no reason why Georgia State, Mercer, Kennesaw, and Southern should not be competitive in theri respective conferences.

Jeff Schultz

February 22nd, 2011
5:32 pm

JSS — Good comments, as always. And yes, there’s talent all over the state, and the region. They should be able to accrue enough to build a consistently winning program.

itsmeagain

February 22nd, 2011
5:36 pm

It’s hard to think that CRB should have another chance after watching this (his fourth year) be just as uncompetitive as his first. If the likelihood was that a full turn around could be expected next season, i’d be a little more encouraged, but as it stands, there hasn’t been any turnaround on the court since he’s been here. I really think GSU is trying to push its athletics program to another level, but can it accomplish this the way CRB has been taking basketball?

Hammer22

February 22nd, 2011
6:04 pm

Barnes has always been a great recruiter. The coaching part is the question mark.

An Adult

February 22nd, 2011
6:32 pm

Lefty took GSU to the big dance twice, once losing to Michigan (who won the whole thing and for some reason used GSU’s rag tag band as their band for the rest of the tournament) and the second time, best Wisconsin and then lost (or maybe the second game was Michigan, but regardless, they went twice). It’s been dismal ever since. Lefty’s replacement, ol’ what’s his name, was a bust and now Barnes. That’s something like 8-10 years of losing. Real schools would fire the coach. You don’t need to recruit 50 guys for basketball as you do for football. Even 3 or the starting 5 being good-great and all playing hard will give you a winning record and maybe a chance at the dance.

Carlton Wood

February 22nd, 2011
6:42 pm

Georgia State made it to the Big Dance back in ‘91 and again in ‘01 with Lefty Driesell when they beat Wisconsin in the first round. I guess to 18 year old recruits, that was so long ago that they truly may not have heard of Georgia State’s basketball program.

I did not realize how bad the academic situation was with GSU’s basketball team and it makes it difficult to evaluate Coach Barnes on wins and losses.

One thing that I think hurts GSU in basketball is the overall state of college basketball in Georgia the last five years. Both Georgia Tech and Georgia have been mediocre and it affects how recruits view the entire state. By comparison, you know going to play at a school in North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana, regardless of which school you attend, generally means fan support, media interest, etc.

Hammer22

February 22nd, 2011
7:01 pm

I’m actually undecided on this issue. He’s had enough time, but he inherited a mess. I can’t say that I would be mad to see him go.

Hammer22

February 22nd, 2011
7:06 pm

I’m kinda undecided on the issue. He’s had enough time, but he inherited a mess. Honestly I wouldn’t be mad if he didn’t come back. Barnes has always been a great recruiter. The coaching part is the question mark.

Geaux Tigers!

February 22nd, 2011
7:19 pm

Give him one more year. The recruiting has been better the past couple of years so the team should have some talent. With the football team getting some press now, people know about GSU. I’ve been to a couple of game the past couple of years and the teams have been competative.

What?

February 22nd, 2011
8:57 pm

I have been to every home game and am a season ticket holder. I think Barnes is a good coach however I think his judgment at times is questionable. In most of our losses we were clearly out coached (up 11 to Samford w/ 1:11 to go?). I think the fact that we have had 14 starting lineup changes in the last 21 games shows his inability to evaluate talent and to allow the kids to get into a rythm. In aggregate we generally do not spread the floor, do not utilize our big men, do not make the extra pass when it’s called for and definately do not utilize the talent we have(and WE DO have talented kids). I think it’s odd also that during times outs, he congregates with his assistants in the middle of the floor instead of coaching the kids. Unfortunately, I think it’s time to move on. Sorry coach better luck next time.

Gordon

February 22nd, 2011
9:05 pm

Barnes is the new Hewitt. Order will be restored once Tech gets a new coach.

itsmeagain

February 22nd, 2011
9:08 pm

Yeah… I’m starting to think that Barns’ contribution to the team might have just been getting it back on track academically. I think he might have exhausted his usefulness judging by the coaching

gsu01

February 22nd, 2011
9:14 pm

I’ve defended Barnes for a long time but some of the losses this year have been inexcusable and have come down to coaching. He is a great person and a class act but unless he pulls of a miracle run in the conference tourney, he should be let go.

JSS

February 22nd, 2011
9:25 pm

” Davidson, UNC Charlotte, and UNC Wilmington have all been in the NCAA tourney, maybe UNC Asheville and UNC Greensboro too in addition to the ACC Four. There’s simply no reason why Georgia State, Mercer, Kennesaw, and Southern should not be competitive in theri respective conferences.”

Oh to the contrary! Those schools are being fed by a secondary system where NC performs 20% better than Georgia K-12. Mecklenberg County schools (Charlotte) are still outperforming the majority of the Nations school districts even court order busing just ending. New Hanover schools (Wilmington) are equally performing like Georgia schools (Chatham & Muscogee). Buncombe (Asheville) gets to draw on TN/VA/NC/KY quad region… There is no real GA match for that…

That leaves Mercer and Davidson… No comparison except for academic reputation. Until the opening of the University Center in the middle of the decade, Mercer was playing in a middle school size gym on campus (Porter Gym)… This put them years behind… They blew a chance to build on a talent (Sam Mitchell) in the mid to late 80’s by being cheap and excluding the surrounding community… On the other hand, Davidson has a basketball history stretching back over 60 years… Moreover they have the largese of the Belk family… I guess we can see the difference when you really see the cause and effect…

JSS

February 22nd, 2011
9:26 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
I’m in your filter… Thanks

Panama

February 22nd, 2011
9:30 pm

Having seen all but 3 home games in person I think CRB deserves another year. JSS’s nuclear waste dump analogy was kind because the situation for GSU basketball historically has been much much worse than that.

Jee S. You

February 22nd, 2011
9:34 pm

I think our facilities hurt us more than being in Georgia helps. It’s gotta be difficult to bring people in (to play or watch) in that building.

John Smith

February 22nd, 2011
9:54 pm

First off, I think Barnes deserves to finish out his contact and see if he can built what he started. There is no question that the team is better this year, just maybe not good enough.

To respond to what several people said, including What? – In most of our losses we were clearly out coached (up 11 to Samford w/ 1:11 to go?).

If you want to say that, you also need too look at the reverse. How many times have we been down by double-digits this year and came back (see Northeastern game just a week ago). If you are going to say it one way, you better also say it the other. He has coached this team back, rather than them laying down to die. A lot of teams in the country can’t say that.

GSUFan

February 22nd, 2011
10:02 pm

Barnes should be gone. 4 years and no winning seasons with no real improvement. Why does he deserve to stay?

What?

February 22nd, 2011
10:11 pm

@John,
I began my comment stating that I think he is a good coach. It dosen’t matter that we’re able to come back to win against an inferior team. The fact that we were down to these teams is simply a matter of execution and our synergy on that particular day. Any team can beat another team on a particular day. The difference between a good team and a bad one is having a leader that knows how to utilize the talent he has, and know who to put in and when depending on the situation. I watched him call time outs with less than 1:00 to go when we were at the free throw line after the first shot. Why would you try to freeze your own kid instead of calling the TO after the shots. Additionally, I watched him NOT call a time out with .06 to go and us throw up a brick to lose a game by one point. Follow all you want but what these kids need is a leader that understands EVERY situation and that are coached to know what to do in those situations no matter what. Come to a game and watch these kids glare at coach essentially begging him to let them know what to do and then let me know what you think.

gsu01

February 22nd, 2011
10:15 pm

@John Smith – Show me one game besides Northeastern where we came back after being down by double digits? It didn’t happen more than once. And Northeastern is not a very good team. On the flip side, this team has had numerous meltdowns (some against very bad teams like Samford)

Danny O

February 22nd, 2011
10:17 pm

Enter your comments here

Danny O

February 22nd, 2011
10:20 pm

Oops.

GSU hasn’t had any success since moving to the CAA. I hoped that the higher profile conference would be a recruiting tool, but at some point it needs to translate into wins. Give Barnes one more year.

Speaking of Tech, I beg of D-Rad, please get rid of Hewitt.

itsmeagain

February 22nd, 2011
10:24 pm

I’ve got to say, there were so many times i saw other teams be down by 10 points with a few minutes left and bring it back to beat us, but very rarely did it happen for us. We are at the bottom of the conference again, and we’re not looking like that is going to change anytime soon. What will it take to change that? A new coach? If so, then thats what i’m looking for

blazerdawg

February 22nd, 2011
10:24 pm

At least GSU folks can now ask, “when does football start?”

itsmeagain

February 22nd, 2011
10:26 pm

@blazerdawg – I know right… Actually, looking forward to a decent baseball season. 4-0 right now

John Smith

February 22nd, 2011
10:30 pm

I have been to as many games as anyone making comments on this board this year. Right or wrong, the man is a National Coach of the Year, which means he has done something right in the past. Someone doesn’t just become a bad coach. As for the timeouts and such, remember that we have had three freshman on the court at certain times this year. Coach can teach as much as he wants in practice, but sometimes in a game, freshman (on almost any team) are not going to make the right decisions and a time-out is necessary.

Tucker

February 22nd, 2011
10:39 pm

Georgia high school basketball is greatly over rated by the fan base and media. There are a few super stars every year, but most of them leave the state. The D-1 schools in Georgia recruit heavily out of state, because the next layer is not of conference or national championship quality. Every coach who arrives at one of the Georgia D-1 schools declares all that has to be done to win championships is to keep the Georgia talent in state. Who has succeeded? No one comes to mind.

WeBurn

February 22nd, 2011
10:49 pm

Schultz,

Thank you for writing about Ga State, it helps with visibility when the paper actually writes about them.

That said, I think your logic of “Ga State should be good because the state produces good players” is flawed. If it was as simple as that, then why are there bad basketball programs in California or Florida? Heck, you can apply your logic to Tech and see that it doesn’t hold up.

Nick

February 22nd, 2011
11:29 pm

@What-

You obviously do not understand basketball or do not watch. Your comment on him huddling with his assistants during time outs is ridiculous! Every single team GSU has played this year has done that! Even the womens teams do that! They huddle together talk for about 10-15 seconds and then go draw up the next play with the team. I have not missed a game in my 2 years at the school and I have not once seen a timeout expire with CRB not in the huddle with his guys.

And this crap about calling timeouts before we shoot like he is icing our guy is mind boggling. Have you ever watched basketball anywhere outside of the GSU Sports Arena?! Turn on the tv lately? Happens more than you would like to admit. This is not football. A timeout before a free throw is not going to ice our own guy. Its called coaching. Putting in the play he wants in case of a make or miss. Wow.

Please sir think before you type…

Hammer22

February 23rd, 2011
12:04 am

Folks, I want to apologize for all those repeated posts. I have no idea what was going on with my computer b/c the posts weren’t showing on my screen until now.

JSS

February 23rd, 2011
12:13 am

@ Tucker…
Well, in actuality the long stain of segregation comes into play. Some HS coaches never forgave many of the in-state schools for being late to integrate. The great coaches in Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, Albany, and Savannah wanted no part of Georgia nor Tech. This is especially when it comes to the GHSA and the process of why the State of Georgia on a lack of court success in relation to D-1.

32 years have passed since Southwest of Macon won the mythical National high school. That team with Michael Hunt, Henry “Hook” McCartney, Terry Fair (UGA 82 NIT team, 83 Final Four team), Bobby Jones (WKU All-OVC), and Jeff Malone (multi time NBA All-Star) was and is a microcosm of why college basketball in this State languishes in terms of home grown talent.

Only Fair remained in-state. He was arguably the 2nd most physically talented post player to come from this State in terms of preparation for the college game. Was he the smartest? Nooooo, but he was willing to sacrifice his game for team… First with Wilkins, then with Fleming, Marbury, and the rest of the Final Four team.

In contrast, Malone went to a floundering program at Mississippi State (they hadn’t been any good since early 60’s when Bailey Howell and Red Stroud won SEC titles there) and finally lived up to his potential which was contained in high school.

Their progression as players point out why so many players ran from this State. You must get talent to play better and to their potential. Of course, the players must reach up too… James Forrest is a prime example of that failure to reach up and be coached…

HS Coaches across the state took note of the failure of their players to grow in-state. Al Wood, The Grant twins, the Albany six, Kenny Walker, Sharone Wright, Doc and Eric Manuel, and the list is countless others left the State post integration and least were relevant in the college game… Don Richardson, the legendary SW Macon coach never stirred another player to UGA…

JSS

February 23rd, 2011
12:43 am

Panama
February 22nd, 2011
9:30 pm
“JSS’s nuclear waste dump analogy was kind because the situation for GSU basketball historically has been much much worse than that.”

Hey, I remember Bob Reinhardt too! People thought one had to do was recruit Atlanta and that Georgia State would run over the old TAAC (now the Atlantic Sun)… Of course that did not happen.

That man lucked into the best self made player in this State’s history: Chris Collier… He was a bundle of untapped talent. If James Forrest would had Collier’s heart, I mean Wow!

GStateBen

February 23rd, 2011
7:19 am

For all those who believe he “deserves” another year. It’s not that simple. As a college basketball coach, you cannot enter the last year of your contract and effectively recruit. Because of the mid-season signing period, Coach Barnes and staff could not go on the road this summer and recruit.

Barnes will either receive a contract extension or be fired after the season.

GSU Season Ticket Holder

February 23rd, 2011
8:32 am

Jeff….before you wrote this column, how many GSU basketball games have you been to ? As a season ticket holder, I don’t recall seeing you at any games. So if that is the case, consider yourself just another internet blogger and not esteemed sports journalist (as that would require attending a GSU game prior to commenting).

Fire Rodney Ho

February 23rd, 2011
8:33 am

Barnes tried bringing in ACC/SEC recruits and that didn’t pan out, so now he’s bringing in talented (and local) freshmen to try and turn things around–much better recipe for success. GSU isn’t the easiest place to win, and the CAA is a tough place to win year in and year out. Unless there’s an ideal coach out there willing to take the job, I think Barnes is about as good as it gets, at least for now.

Phil Oneacre

February 23rd, 2011
9:01 am

CRB deserves his 5th year. As JSS said he inherited crap (from Lefty to crap is 3 short years) and has done as well as he could in the first 3 years. This year the talent is better, the playing is better, but the results have not been. Sometimes things just go bad for no reason at all. If they go bad next year then it would appear that CRB is not a match for GSU.

English

February 23rd, 2011
9:23 am

I’m conflicted on the CRB issue. I’ll let the administration handle this but he did inherit a mess. Barnes is our Norm Roberts. Coach Roberts was at St. John’s for 6 years (previous to Steve Lavin) and had to clean up the slime left by Mike Jarvis that it took away from his ability to coach because the Red Storm were in terrible academic standing with the NCAA. So if Coach Roberts got 6 years in the mighty Big East maybe CRB needs some more time in a tough CAA.

Again, I’m conflicted because he’s done such a good job at plugging the holes left by the Coach Perry but the administration will have to look into this.

I just want to win!!!

Hammer22

February 23rd, 2011
9:55 am

Barnes underestimated the talent in the CAA when he had all those SEC/ACC recruits come. Only Dukes from Wake Forest really turned out to be a hit. So, that set him back a lot. He has good talent in and some good talent coming in. He’s need times. GSU bball isn’t UNC bball and Barnes salary is pretty low so we should be able to wait. But, I wouldn’t be mad if he got fired.

Yikes

February 23rd, 2011
10:45 am

When I saw ” …still waiting for payoff” in the headline, my first impression was this was yet another story about Cam Newton and Auburn football.

STATEment

February 23rd, 2011
1:46 pm

This team is a joke. Offense is stagnant and substitutions and playing time don’t even begin to make sense. I am tired of watching boring and unsuccessful basketball. Something has to give!

Barnes took over a solid Ole Miss team and took them to the Sweet 16 in his 3rd year with mostly players that were brought in by the previous coach. After year 4 he struggled to reach .500 with his own players on the roster. Has to make you wonder…