To be truly successful over multiple seasons in college basketball, you need The Right Guy at The Right Time. It's a tricky marriage, because you always want to believe the coach you have is The Right Guy, but sometimes The Right Time is the more difficult variable. In the last 30 years, I believe Tennessee has only truly found this combination twice: Kevin O'Neill, who rebuilt a 5-22 program in the aftermath of Wade Houston and stocked the cupboard with championship talent before leaving for Northwestern, and of course Bruce Pearl. In hindsight, Jerry Green was here at The Right Time, but he clearly wasn't The Right Guy. Cuonzo Martin could have been The Right Guy, but not when he followed Bruce Pearl.
Rick Barnes is, without question, The Right Guy. His history at George Mason, Providence, Clemson, and Texas is more impressive than what Tennessee has been able to put together in our entire basketball history. Consider:
- NCAA Tournament Appearances: Barnes 22, Tennessee 20
- Sweet 16s (since expansion to 64): Barnes 6, Tennessee 5
- Elite Eights: Barnes 3, Tennessee 1
- Final Fours: Barnes 1, Tennessee 0
- All-Time Winning Percentage: Barnes .658, Tennessee .610