YSU’s Barnes turns down Kent State

We know who the next Kent State women’s basketball coach won’t be.

Youngstown State coach John Barnes, who had two interviews on the Kent campus last week, turned down an offer from KSU. 

Barnes is the only candidate for the Kent State job to be publicly identified. He just finished his third year at Youngstown State, where he has a 57-40 record and has taken them to two post-season tournaments. Previously he was the top assistant at Wisconsin-Green Bay, perennially one of the top mid-major teams in the country, and head coach at Division II power Michigan Tech.

YSU wanted to keep Barnes badly enough that university President Jim Tressel, the former Ohio State football coach, apparently got involved.

“Continuity is important and John has done a solid job,” Tressel told television station WFMJ on Sunday. “Opportunities come along, but I think his goals are loftier than the most recent opportunity.”

So Kent State goes back to the search to replace coach Danny O’Banion, whose contract wasn’t renewed after a 21-98 record over four years.

No other candidate has been named in any report that I’ve seen. I would think it would be unusual for a school to pursue more than one candidate as intensely as KSU apparently pursued Barnes.

So what’s next? KSU Athletic Director Joel Nielsen undoubtedly has a pile of applications and a list of names. As before, they’re likely to be a head coach from a lower-ranked conference than the MAC or a top assistant at a larger team.

Barnes was the first candidate I thought of when the job opened up. I’m not plugged in well enough to have a lot of other names.

Three candidates who fit my description have already been signed up. Wright State coach Mike Bradbury, who has produced excellent teams there for five years, was named coach at the University of New Mexico at the end of March.

Albany coach Katie Abrahamsson-Henderson, who took a weak program and made it the dominant team in American East Conference, was hired by the University of Central Florida of the American Athletic Conference (think national champion Connecticut). Unlikely KSU could have competed for her. But she came from an assistant’s job at Indiana, which fits the pattern we’re looking at.

Colgate, one of the six teams Kent beat last season, just hired Bill Cleary, who had a 164-69 record in eight seasons at Division II Bloomsbury State University in Pennsylvania.

I don’t know any more about top assistant coaches than I did a month ago.

I did look up the competition — other mid-majors looking for a head coach. Here’s a list that I’m sure isn’t complete.

Eastern Michigan is looking for a new coach after Tori Verdi was hired this week by the University of Massachusetts.

Wright State of the Horizon League (to replace Bradbury).

IPFW (Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne) of the Summit League (a team that beat KSU last November).

Evansville of the Missouri Valley Conference.

The University of South Dakota of the Summit League.

The University of Vermont of the America East Conference.

The University of Albany of the America East (to replace Abrahamsson-Henderson).

Manhattan University of the Metro Atlantic Conference.

Wagner University of the Northeast Conference.

UNC-Greensboro of the Southern Conference.

Wolford of the Southern Conference.

Presbyterian of the Big South Conference.

Prairie View A&M of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Seattle of the Western Athletic Conference.

University of California-Irvine of the Big West.

George Washington (Atlantic 10) and Santa Clara (West Coast) are also looking for a head coaches, but I’d consider those conferences above MAC caliber.

That’s not terrible competition. When O’Banion was hired, something like six MAC teams were looking for new coaches.

Lots of interviews take place at the NCAA Final Four, which was last week.  So we’re likely to see movement quickly on many openings. In fact, as I researched this, I found that several openings I knew about had been filled and some new ones (like Eastern Michigan) created. I’d expect something from Kent State within 10 days or two weeks.




  1. goldenflash101

    The fact that now two coaches have turned us down is concerning. It means one of three things. We can’t offer enough money (likely), word is out that Kent’s AD is in big trouble over the softball incident or they don’t think their is enough talent on the team to succeed quickly enough. I hope we are not in the midst of a Cleveland Browns type coaching search. As I said before, we either get the right coach now or we are doomed for 10+ years. I’m getting nervous.


  2. flashfanday1

    Barnes was a good candidate, Youngstown State made the right move to keep him and maybe they sweetened the pot at home! If the search doesn’t pan out in enough time, Id still be interested in seeing what an on staff assistant coach can do with the team minus O’Banion, instead of hiring a less qualified D2 coach. Who knows, one can never predict the future, just play the odds.


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