Tennessee coach Rick Barnes reviews season-opening basketball win over Presbyterian
Vols basketball Rick Barnes said he felt “sick” on Sunday afternoon when Tennessee fired football coach Butch Jones.
“The hardest thing for me with Butch, as a friend, was I know that bothered him that he couldn’t do more,” Barnes said Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club. “I know he wanted to do more. … He really did respect and love the people here.”
Jones was fired Sunday after a 50-17 shellacking at Missouri on Saturday, dropping the Vols (4-6) to 0-6 in SEC play. He ended his tenure at Tennessee with a 34-27 mark in his five seasons, with a pair of 9-win seasons before regressing dramatically in 2017.
“One thing I can tell you about Butch is that no one put his heart into it any more,” Barnes said. “You step back and as a coach you ask where did it get away from him? I’m not sure that people really appreciated those 9-win seasons.”
Barnes, who is in his third year at Tennessee, recalled his first conversations with Jones and then-athletic director Dave Hart.
He said Hart had told Jones “that this football program was in shambles” and that “it would take him a long time to get it going.” Jones made a bowl game in his second season before winning three straight bowl games.
“He got it going quicker than maybe people thought,” Barnes said. “All I can say is he left it better than he found it. We always talk about giving our all. He gave his all.”
Vols head coach Butch Jones is out at Tennessee. Here’s a look back at his time with the team.
Barnes, whose Vols (1-0) play High Point on Tuesday, said he is sure Jones will wind up coaching again soon. He likened the situation to what he witnessed during his time at Texas, when football coach Charlie Strong also struggled to live up to expectations and was dismissed.
“The coach coming in, I would ask this question: What’s expected of me?” Barnes said. “Is 9 wins not enough? Is going to a bowl game (not enough)? Do I have to go to the Final Four every year for college football? That’s like someone saying to me you’ve gotta be in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 every year. If somebody told me that, I would say I don’t want to work for you. I want to be there every year, but I’ve been doing it long enough to know there’s 350 other schools that want to be there.”
Barnes lauded the University of Tennessee leadership, from chancellor Beverly Davenport to athletic director John Currie.
Specifically, Barnes praised the way Currie handled the situation with Jones on Sunday, but more so for how he handled the previous few weeks as the Vols struggled throughout the season.
“I thought John was tremendous with the way he has been with Butch,” Barnes said. “If you knew what I knew, you’d be proud that he’s our AD. He has done some great things with the way he supported Butch all the way. He did and Butch would tell you that he really did. He was around. He let the players know.”