Rod Barnes’ road to redemption


CSUB head coach Rod Barnes celebrates and dances after his team beat New Mexico State 57-54. Photo by AJ Alvarado/The Runner

Esteban Ramirez



When Rod Barnes first took the men’s basketball head coaching job at CSU Bakersfield in 2011, he said the team would make the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. At the time, the statement was brushed off since the Roadrunners were an independent team and recently made the jump to Division I.

Four seasons later, the Roadrunners found themselves winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and playing in the first round of the tournament against the second-seeded Oklahoma Sooners, which was a school Barnes once coached for.

CSUB head coach Rod Barnes gets upset about a call during the game against Oklahoma on Friday. Photo by AJ Alvarado/The Runner

“I don’t say I told you so. It’s not about that. It’s more about let’s do this better,” Barnes said. “Let’s do this again. Let’s strive for things that people say they are not true, and if our team can do it and our coaches can do it, then our city can do it.”

Barnes previously coached at Ole Miss from 1998 to 2006. He went 141-109 at Ole Miss and led the Rebels to an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2001. Barnes earned the Naismith College Coach of the Year in 2001.

Barnes was let go after a disappointing 2005-2006 season in which the Rebels lost 13 of their final 14 games.

“I went from (being) one of the hottest coaches in the country to going and getting fired,” he said.

He then went to Oklahoma to be the assistant coach and had the opportunity to coach Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin.

After one year at Oklahoma, Barnes went to Georgia State and was the head coach from 2007 to 2011. His record was 44-79 at Georgia State.

Then on March 30, 2011 he was named the head coach for CSUB.

After going from a Southeastern Conference team at Ole Miss to an independent team at CSUB, Barnes said he wasn’t concerned if he could rebuild his career.

“I never thought that when I got here because I believed that we would get it done,” he said.

Barnes said the whole situation and the team’s run has been satisfying for him.

“This is one that has been the most gratifying for me because I know where we started and where we ended up,” he said.

This year the Roadrunners ended with their best record in D-I as they went 24-9 in the season and 14-1 in the Icardo Center. Barnes was recognized for the team’s achievements. He earned WAC Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the 2016 Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year Award.

This award is presented annually to the top minority coach in Division I men’s basketball, and this year it featured coaches such as Texas’ Shaka Smart and Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith. Tennessee State’s Dana Ford ended up winning, but this was the first time since 2012 that Barnes made the list.

Barnes said the run was tiring, but it was rewarding.

CSUB Athletic Director Kenneth Siegfried said the run felt extremely good.

“I thought I was going to want to celebrate for five months, but we are already itching to raise the bar more,” said Siegfried.

Siegfried said Barnes came in and built the program the right way.

“He just helped build not only our entire basketball program but also has helped a lot of other sports,” said Siegfried. “As we got the infrastructure in place, then slowly but surely we were just getting better and better. There is no other coach that I’d rather have.”

Barnes said one of his goals for this program moving forward is to turn games into events that people attend regularly.

“We can do this for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “We can take our program to a whole different level. Help bring our department to be a Division I department. For my vision, we are not where we want to see. I would like for it to become an event.”

He added that there is no reason why they can’t fill the Icardo Center every time.

“For a town and a city this big that loves sports and winning as much as we do, [there is no reason to not] sell this out and to not have 3,000 people every night and come see us play. Players and coaches, we all got to continue to work.”

Barnes said the response from the community after the NCAA tournament has been unbelievable.

Barnes said more teams have reached out to him to coach for them.

“That’s going to happen,” he said. “[Siegfried] and I have talked about that, and — I don’t say this in a boastful way — I’m probably going to continue to get calls because of what has happened. We’ve taken a program that was an independent to the NCAA tournament as fast as anyone has ever done it.”

He added that he has told everyone that he is not interested in leaving CSUB right now.

Barnes added most of the offers were for associate coach or coach in-waiting.

“I came here to do something, and that’s just the type of person I am,” he said. “When I feel like it’s time to go, I’ll go. No dollar figure or no extension is going to do anything, and that’s what I told the people that have called.”

Both Barnes and Siegfried said they have been in talks for renegotiating the contract before the WAC Tournament.

“As the WAC Tournament got closer, coach Barnes and I have had multiple discussions, and they have gone extremely well,” Siegfried said. “I think he has been very pleased with how the discussions have gone. I think the biggest thing for him is how are we going to take [the program] even further.”

Barnes’ current salary is $147,484, but that does not include bonuses such as the bonus for winning the WAC Tournament. Barnes gets a bonus or incentive of $12,000.

CSUB also gets a bonus of $75,000 to $100,000 for the WAC Tournament win. The amount has yet to be decided.

“Our talks have been going well,” said Barnes. “We are still negotiating and hopefully we get to the end of this real soon. I’m sure the announcement will come real soon. I like Bakersfield. I’m pleased here.

“Obviously, when you have some success, people will want to talk to you, but [me and my family] like what we are doing here. We like our program, we like the administration, we like the city…so we expect to be back next season and hopefully we’ll be back for a long time.”

He said he would like a joint commitment to build the program.

“That’s not just going for my administration,” he said. “I want the same thing from our community. I want our community to come out and support us and help us to go back. We had a sellout game (first since 1993) and one that was close to a sellout. I think it helped with our current players. It encouraged them that the city was behind them.”

He added that the university is growing, and he would like the program to grow with it.

“I think we have proven that we can be the front door or the front step of the university that people can not only find out about [CSUB] but our city. I’m a proud coach to be doing that today, and I want to keep it going.”

Barnes is really excited for the future of the program.

“We lost two guys, but we got 10 [players] coming back that we get a chance to work with,” he said. “I thought we had a really good recruiting class. I think we are on an up-swing…I just think we got something that if we continue to build on moving forward, we got something special here. I think special things are going to happen.”