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Barnes chats with fans at ECCC

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
June 11, 2003
DECATUR Rod Barnes stood next to his car chatting on his cell phone outside the East Central Community College cafeteria, as the sun made its slow decent from the hot summer sky last Monday.
The man, who took over the head coaching duties for the Ole Miss men's basketball program on April 9, 1998, came to the junior college campus to take part in the Newton County Ole Miss Celebration.
Barnes, who played for the Rebels from 1984-88 and was an assistant coach from 1993-98, turned off the phone, and he made his way into the campus eatery to meet the university's athletic supporters, who were decked out in red and blue.
The night in the ECCC cafeteria didn't just give the hoops coach a chance to meet the program's fans and supporters, and vice versa. It also gave those in attendance a chance to find out the state of the Rebels team.
Ole Miss suffered its worst year under the watchful eye of Barnes last season.
The Rebels streak of four postseason appearances (three NCAA, one NIT) under Barnes came to an end, and the team sputtered to a 14-15 record (4-12 SEC).
Barnes had averaged 20 or more wins per season in his first four years on the bench, but the coach said he feels the team will rebound in the upcoming season.
The two players Barnes will be getting back for the 2003-04 season are forward Justin Reed and forward/guard Aaron Harper.
Reed averaged a team leading 14.6 points per game, and Harper notched 11.6 points per game last year.
Ole Miss did lose a number of players from last year's squad, with five seniors graduating and four underclassmen not returning to the team.
The high number of overturn resulted in a recruiting class that was geared toward junior college transfers.
Four of Ole Miss's six recruits have come from the junior college ranks including, 6-foot-9 forward Byron Burnett from Southern Union St. (Ala.) Community College, 6-foot-6 forward Tommie Eddie from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, 6-foot-1 guard Ed Glass from Kaskaskia (Ill.) Community College and 6-foot-6 forward Marvin Moore from Southern Union St. (Ala.) Community College.
Barnes is not just dealing with changes in his line up this offseason.
The 2001 Naismith Coach of the Year is also coming to terms with issues about the scrutiny collegiate coaches are under thanks to recent scandals.
Iowa State head basketball coach Larry Eustachy's and Alabama head football coach Mike Price's firings because of their off-court behavioir rocked the college coaching landscape recently.
The two prominent coaches dismissals from their programs because of poor conduct has heightened every college coaches' awareness of their behavior away from their teams.
Barnes, who has never been involved in a scandal, said he hasn't had to change the way he acts because of the new heightened scrutiny.
Because of his clean track record the coach can focus on his job, which is to bring the Rebels back to the level of success the program has enjoyed for nearly his entire tenure as an assistant and head coach.