Friday, March 20, 2009

Barnes, Krzyzewski have long history

GREENSBORO – It’s well known that Duke’s fans applauded Texas coach Rick Barnes (right) for his public battles with North Carolina’s Dean Smith in the 1990s when Barnes was coaching Clemson.

Barnes’ long history with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski isn’t as well known. On Friday, a day before the Longhorns were scheduled to meet Duke in a second-round NCAA Tournament game, Barnes talked about a job interview he had at Duke in the early 1980s.

As an assistant coach at George Mason, Barnes often ran into Krzyzewski on the recruiting trail. This was early in Krzyzewski’s career, when it wasn’t clear whether he would sink or swim as Duke’s head coach.

Krzyzewski asked Barnes why he wanted to come to Duke because he was just starting to build the program and people were speculating that Krzyzewski would fail.

“I remember telling him, ‘I’ve watched what you do, and I believe in you.’ ” Barnes said. “Obviously I wanted the job. I said, ‘I believe in what you’ve done, and there is no doubt you’re going to get the job done.’ ”

Despite that praise, Barnes didn’t get the job. Krzyzewski hired Bob Bender instead.

Nonetheless, Barnes and Krzyzewski have remained friends.

“He understands like most of us in our game that the game’s bigger than all of us, and we just should do our part and get along and try to become the best we can be,” Krzyzewski said. – Ken Tysiac