By Joe Scalzo
If you can’t beat ’em, rob ’em.
Youngstown State’s seventh women’s basketball coach, John Barnes, has a resume that includes two stints as an assistant in the Big Ten and an impressive seven-year run as the head coach of Division II Michigan Tech, but if you ask his new players, one thing sticks out — he’s coming from Green Bay.
“They win [Horizon League] championships at Green Bay,” said point guard Shar’Rae Davis. “So that means he knows what it takes to win.”
“I’m glad he’s coming from Green Bay,” added guard Liz Hornberger. “We get better from him coming somewhere up higher and he knows how they do things. Hopefully we’ll have an advantage in playing them.”
Barnes, who was Green Bay’s associate head coach last year, was formally introduced on Thursday. He thanked YSU’s staff (“Ever since I got on campus, they’ve treated me like I was part of the family”), praised the fan base (“It’s a community that is itching for the women’s basketball team to keep climbing”) and said he’s been able to reach his dream only because his (late) father gave up his dream job as a high school teacher and coach so he could better provide for 11 kids.
“He loved being involved in that; the problem was he loved his family more,” said Barnes, who has sisters in Columbus and Toledo and a brother in Frankfort, Ohio. “He kind of gave up his love and his passion to allow his kids to do what they loved to do.”
The 40-year-old Barnes spent seven years as the head coach at Division II Michigan Tech, going 156-55 while qualifying for the NCAA tournament five times. Before arriving in Green Bay last year, he spent a season as an assistant coach at both Michigan and Wisconsin.
Barnes replaces Bob Boldon, who left to become the head coach at Ohio University two weeks ago. Boldon took over a YSU team that had gone 0-30 in 2009 and led the Penguins to a 23-10 mark this season, finishing second to Green Bay in the league standings and making the WNIT.
“I hope to keep the program in the direction it’s going and hopefully win championships while I’m here,” Barnes said.
Barnes signed a four-year deal worth $110,000 annually, which is a $12,000 boost over Boldon’s YSU contract in 2010. (Boldon will make $170,000 a year at Ohio.)
Guard Monica Touvelle, a Boardman High graduate, said Boldon’s departure was difficult but that she’s excited about Barnes.
“We were pretty upset [when Boldon left],” said Touvelle, who will be a senior next season. “Obviously, we enjoyed him. We enjoyed his assistants. It was fun to go to work with them every day. But since we found out [about Boldon] until now, the team really stuck together. It’s when we needed to lean on each other.
“We have to adjust to Coach Barnes, but it’ll be fun. He seems very energetic. I like what I’ve heard.”
Davis, who made the Horizon League’s all-newcomer team as a freshman, believes YSU has a bright future.
SDLqThere’s a lot of people coming back,” said Davis, one of four returning starters. “We have lost Brandi [Brown], who was a great player, but we know what we have to do to win a championship and we’re ready to get to work.”