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What Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes Said At Big Orange Caravan In Nashville On Tuesday

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

The 2024 Big Orange Caravan made its first stop on Tuesday night with Vols’ head coaches Josh Heupel, Rick Barnes and Kim Caldwell meeting Tennessee fans in Nashville.

Head coach Rick Barnes met with the media following the event and discussed the Vols’ roster construction, the changing landscape in college basketball and much more. Here’s everything he said.

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On how eventful the last month has been for him and Tennessee Basketball

“Well, it has been eventful for I think everybody in college athletics and basketball particularly, because of where we are today and with everything. But we do think we’re getting closer. But we’ve been very selective. We’ve really, my coaches, have a great deal of credit for their intel in terms of how they’ve gone about it, knowing what we would like and what we think works for us. And we’re really excited about the ones that we’ve gotten.”

On if he plans to fill Tennessee’s full scholarship roster or if they would leave spots open

“I don’t know if we’ll be totally full, but we could. There’s still a lot of time left to do that. But everything’s going to have to be the right fit and make sure the roles that we want filled would be filled. But we’re excited where we are right now, but we know we need to add a player and maybe two depending on who that might be. And if, again, we’re not going to do anything that we don’t think someone can really help us get better.”

On what the transfer portal has meant for college basketball, teams having to reshape their rosters so much

“Well, you go back, in over 45 years of this there’s been so many changes throughout my time in basketball. Back in the day you can get in trouble for just bumping into somebody at a summer league game and is a big deal. But so many rules and have changed. And I think the whole key to anything, any business practice you’re in or whatever it may be, is you have to be willing to adjust to whatever comes down the pike. And I think that’s where we are right now. I’m not sure where this will all end up and how it will be. And I don’t think there’s any coach out there that doesn’t agree that if players can help themselves financially with the NIL, it’s a good thing for them. And I know a lot of kids that have had to work their way through school. And I went to a school where a lot of people worked their way to have a chance to improve their lives with their education. And so I don’t think any coach fault that. I just think somewhere along the line there’s going be something that’s going to bring it all back in line some way. And I think we’re all waiting for that to happen.”

On why Nashville is important from a recruiting and fan support standpoint

“Well we are the state university and we’re proud to be that. We believe in everything that this state stands for and we want to honestly own the state. North, south, east and west. And we want every young basketball player, and I’m sure Josh (Heupel) will say football player and all the coaches, whatever a sport they coach would want every young person to grow up wanting to be Tennessee Volunteers. And with that said, you know, right in the heart with the state where for the next, what, 10 years I think we’ll play the SEC Tournament.  And this is a great basketball state. You go back and look at not just at what would be considered the highest level. I mean I have so much admiration for all the other coaches in the state that right now we all have tough jobs, but the way they go about constructing their rosters, rebuilding it every year and the success that teams in this state have is really impressive. But we want it to be a Volunteer State.”

On what he enjoys about the Big Orange Caravan

“I like people, I really do. Obviously we want our fans— I don’t think there’s a better fan base in the country and everybody says that. But the fact is I’ve been fortunate to be at some wonderful places and this one is unique in the fact that they love their Volunteers and whatever sport is in season they’re there, and I’ve been fortunate to see it when we first started out and we weren’t very good. The support was there. And when we were able to bring recruits  in during a time when you might not think it’d be a good night, we’ve always had a good night at Thompson- Boling, Food City Center. And so the fact is our fans are special and I’m not sure there’s special places and what makes special places are special people and we’ve got a lot of special people that support us and have been a big part of what this university’s been about. And this is a chance that we can give back and touch them and just let them know that we appreciate what they do for us.”

On if it’s difficult to continue to develop players the traditional way with everything going on in college athletics now

“Well, I think hard’s probably relevant in the fact that, you know, I think I would say that most coaches have a bad habit — Wimp Sanderson used to say he had a bad habit of playing the best players. And I think that there’s some truth to that. I mean, everybody that we want, we want them to truly have a chance to live their dream, but we also know that where they want to go, it’s about competition. And what we want to do every year from day one is prepare our guys to be the very best they can be.

“But with the portal and all that, it’s different ’cause you used to could put your roster up on how you’re looking at it down the road three, four years from now. Those days are gone, where you’re really from year to year, you’re not sure how it’s gonna play out. You almost really understand if guys aren’t playing at a point in time that, with the new rule they’re talking about putting in, they could leave in the middle of the year. Playing time is something we’ve never promised anybody that. We’ve promised opportunity, ’cause we look at every guy on our team, we respect every one of ’em and we’re gonna be truthful, be real and treat them the way I think that they wanna be treated. And that’s with just pure honesty and giving them the vision of how we see ’em and what we think they’re capable of doing. If they’re willing to live up to their end, I guarantee you everything that we talk about with ’em, we’re gonna do it from our end. We fully expect the kids that we sign, that they’re going to do their part.”

On what he’s heard about Dalton Knecht’s draft stock:

“I think a lot will depend on what he does as he goes in with his interviews and all that. But he’s put himself in a good position and we’ve heard different ranges on it, but if it is left up to him, he’ll do his work like he always does. He knows how to prepare, train like a pro. He’s got that figured out. Once people really get to know him and talk to him, they’re gonna look at him as a guy that realizes like we do, that he’s really just getting started to how good a basketball player he can be.”

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