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‘First Class Person’: Greg McDermott Congratulates Rick Barnes After Season-Ending Loss

Rick Barnes
Tennessee HC Rick Barnes. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

In an ever-changing, volatile college basketball landscape with new and changing rules from season to season, Creighton head coach Greg McDermott pointed to his longtime colleague Rick Barnes as the example of how to navigate the waters.

“He’s what’s right about this business.”

Barnes’ Tennessee Volunteers knocked McDermott’s Creighton Blue Jays out of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Detroit with an 82-75 win in the Sweet 16.

With four of his top players lined up next to him, McDermott led off the Creighton postgame press conference with an opening statement on the main stage. McDermott spent plenty of time praising his team for their hard work and effort throughout the season but led off his press conference by congratulating Barnes and Tennessee.

“Congrats to Tennessee,” McDermott said postgame. “They’ve got a heck of a team. They played really well tonight, really shot the basketball well. I’ve known Coach Barnes a long time. There’s a lot of good people in this business, but you’d have a hard time finding one better than him.”

While representing the SEC and the Big East today, Barnes and McDermott shared the Big 12 conference back in the day. Barnes previously served as the head coach at Texas from 1998 to 2015 while McDermott was the head coach at Iowa State from 2006 to 2010. McDermott told a story on media day on Thursday about how he sought out the advice of Rick Barnes when deciding whether to take the Creighton job prior to the 2010 season.

“I hung up the phone with him when I pulled into the hotel parking lot 40 minutes later, and he just drilled me with questions and things to think about, short term, long term, that I think speaks to who Rick Barnes is,” McDermott said on media day before the Sweet 16.

More from RTI: Social Media Reacts to Tennessee Advancing to the Elite Eight With a Win Over Creighton

With a win over Creighton on Friday night, Barnes earned his ninth NCAA Tournament victory with Tennessee, a new program record. Barnes and the Vols will head to the Elite Eight on Sunday afternoon for the first time during his tenure on Rocky Top and the third time in his career overall.

Tennessee has no easy matchup, though. The Vols will be squared up against Midwest Region 1-seed Purdue for a spot in the Final Four. Purdue beat Tennessee in November during the 2023 Maui Invitational, but both teams are operating much more efficiently during tournament time. It’ll be a new game for both teams, but an opportunity for Barnes to continue to make history in Knoxville.

“While I’m disappointed that this journey has come to an end, I’m excited for him and his program,” McDermott said of Barnes postgame. “He’s a first-class person and coach. He’s what’s right about this business.”

(2) Tennessee will take on (1) Purdue on Sunday afternoon at 2:20 p.m. ET in the Elite Eight. Stay tuned to Rocky Top Insider for live coverage leading up to the game, live from Detroit.

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