Originally created 04/11/98

Clemson must wait out Barnes



CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's wait and see right now at Clemson, as far as how interested basketball coach Rick Barnes and Texas are in each other.

All the school would say Friday was that it had given permission for Texas to speak with Barnes. Associate athletics director Tim Match wouldn't confirm that Barnes had interviewed for the Longhorns' job or if any negotiations were serious.

"It's a little soon to talk about that," Match said.

Several messages left for Barnes were not returned.

Barnes showed a basketball recruit around campus Friday until mid-afternoon, school spokesman Sam Blackman said, then refused to talk with several reporters waiting near his office.

Blackman said at 5 p.m. that he thought Barnes and athletics director Bobby Robinson had left for the day.

Barnes met Thursday in Atlanta with Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds and associate athletics director Butch Worley. The Austin-American Statesman reported that Dodds said he also interviewed Utah's Rick Majerus, Washington's Bob Bender, Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson and North Carolina assistant Phil Ford.

However, Bender and Sampson both took their names out of the running Thursday.

Barnes, 43, has been at Clemson four years and has a 74-48 record, taking the Tigers to the postseason four times. The Tigers set a school mark with their third straight NCAA appearance this year.

But it was not the year expected. The Tigers started ranked fifth in the country, but injuries and inconsistency dropped them out of the rankings shortly after New Year's.

Bad foul shooting and the nagging injury to point guard Terrell McIntyre led to eight Atlantic Coast Conference losses by five points or less.

After winning three of their final four games, the Tigers carried a lot of confidence into their NCAA Midwest first-round game. But they lost to Western Michigan 75-72 and finished 18-14.

Barnes will be without several key players next season with the departure of senior and leading scorer Greg Buckner, the transfer of junior Tony Christie and graduation of redshirt junior Iker Iturbe.

After next season, Barnes would have five players to replace, including starters McIntyre, Harold Jamison and Tom Wideman.

Last year, Barnes spurned megabuck offers from Ohio State and Tennessee, signing a contract with Clemson worth at least $668,000 a year and $125,000 in bonuses.

An automatic $25,000 bonus for making the NCAA tournament this year means Barnes' base salary next year would be $693,000.

Dodds has said Tom Penders' replacement will not make more than the $750,000-a-year contract given to new Texas football coach Mack Brown.

But Texas officials and supporters go after what they want. A full-court press on Brown brought the successful North Carolina coach to Austin.

"I had to make a pressure decision in a day and a half, with false reports throughout the country, that affected so many people's lives," Brown said in December.

When Barnes came to Clemson in 1994 to replace Cliff Ellis, he took what one local paper said could be the "worst team in ACC history" and drove them to an NIT appearance in 1995 and the NCAA tournament each year after that.

The Tigers' best NCAA showing was Sweet 16 in 1997, losing in double overtime to Minnesota, which went on to the Final Four.

Barnes' enthusiasm, wisecracks and easygoing Southern drawl -- he was raised in Hickory, N.C. -- made him a favorite with fans, who set records with 11 sellouts and an average attendance of 11,151 at Littlejohn Coliseum this season.

Clemson's previous record average was 9,801, set in 1997.

The school also plans an $11 million overhaul of Littlejohn Coliseum to include a practice gym, new weight room, locker rooms, media area and storage space.

Barnes' overall mark is 202-134, including one year at George Mason, six at Providence and four at Clemson.

Texas officials had hoped to name a coach as early as possible after Penders, the winningest coach in Longhorns' history, resigned April 2. But the naming of a coach by week's end appeared doubtful.

Time is getting short; the national signing period for basketball prospects began Wednesday.

The Tigers signed guard Dustin Braddick and Barnes said he looked "forward to (Braddick) helping our team in many areas."

The question now is if Barnes still means the Tigers.

Braddick said Friday he had not talked with Barnes about any departure.