Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Sunday in Rick Barnes' foyer

     I was glad to see that Rick Barnes found work with the University of Tennessee just two days after being ushered out by the University of Texas. He's a good man and a good coach, and I'm glad he will not have to spend Easter negotiating for a job. 
     That's what he was doing in 1998 when he left Clemson to go to Texas. That Easter morning was the last time we dealt with each other face-to-face. 
     My job at the time was to cover Clemson sports for The Greenville News. The year before, Barnes had taken Clemson to the Sweet 16, which for a sportswriter like me meant a sweet junket to Kansas City and San Antonio.
     But small-town Clemson and the condescending ACC were starting to chafe on him. At the same time, big-time college sports was making me pretty cynical.
     We were both ready for a change, and as usual Rick was a step ahead of me.  
     It all came to a head that weekend, as Barnes negotiated with Texas. Understandably, he was not returning calls to reporters. So I had to go knock on his door.
     Rick, on the phone, invited me into his foyer and disappeared around the corner to complete the call. When he came back, he was cordial enough, but obviously he didn't appreciate my invasion of his privacy. 
     "It’s Easter Sunday, for goodness’ sake," he said. "What kind of Christian are you?"
     What could I say?
     It was a good question, even if he didn't mean it that way.
     I mulled that for a while and eventually decided I would no longer be the kind of Christian who chased coaches and recruits for a living. Through a series of events marked by the fingerprints of God, by the next Easter I had found my calling in Boone and was safely out of the newspaper business.
     Thanks, Rick, for the best career advice I ever got.
     Have a blessed Resurrection Day, everybody.

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