OXFORD – There are those in my profession who scoffed and rolled their eyes at Rod Barnes.
Every time Barnes began a postgame press conference by thanking God for the day and the opportunity, someone was looking at a watch.
Sometimes that was me, because deadline was looming.
You have to credit Barnes, though, for consistency in message.
He was never shy about inserting his faith into his interviews.
When the Rebels were winning, many considered it a subplot to a great story.
When they were losing, one statement could generate a lengthy thread from Ole Miss fans on an Internet message board.
For Barnes, the message never changed.
Most coaches care for their players, some more than others.
Some only talk about caring. Some care as long as the players are producing.
Barnes' affection for those under his watch was genuine.
When asked last week in Nashville to reflect on people and events during his eight seasons as head coach, Barnes didn't have to think long before returning three answers, each of them about a former player: the conversion experience of Jason Flanigan, the better “path” chosen by Rahim Lockhart and an increased concern shown for academics by Londrick Nolen.
Caring doesn't automatically mean your players make good decisions. All of Barnes' did not.
Being a decent fellow and a devout Christian also doesn't necessarily make your job easier.
When the Rebels' Sweet 16 team disassembled, Barnes didn't immediately restore the talent base to the same level.
The losing began, and he wasn't able to reverse the trend.
His longtime relationship with the university as a player, assistant coach and head coach may have bought him more time than other coaches would have had.
There was thought within the administration to offering him a different job at the school, but Barnes, with no lack of clarity, publicly stated his intentions to follow his “calling.”
That's a good thing.
In 22 years of harassing coaches, I've seen some good ones and seen some dirtbags.
I would send my kid to play for Rod Barnes with no hesitation and would have confidence the lessons we tried to teach at home were being reinforced.
We need coaches who teach life skills as well as basketball, football or whatever their chosen sport.
Basketball was a priority for Barnes' players.
So was preparation for the day they no longer bounce the ball.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal.