Coach Barnes taking leave of absence

Coach Robert Hays was photographed by David Dermer for the Women's Basketball Team prior to the 2020-21 season. Photos courtesy of YSU Sports.

By John Ostapowicz and Cameron Niemi

John Barnes, head coach of Youngstown State University’s women’s basketball team, announced Oct. 2 he will take a leave of absence to focus on family matters.

Associate head coach John Nicholais will serve as acting head coach in Barnes’ absence. The duo of Nicholais and Barnes have been coaching since 2013.

Nicholais previously coached as an assistant at the Division II level with Drury University from 2008-2013 before signing with the Penguins.

Before coaching for Drury, he was also an assistant coach at Glenville State University from 2003-2008.

Before the season starts Nov. 8 against Xavier University, Nicholais said he’d ensure the culture will remain normal, despite Barnes’ leave.

“We just want to move forward and the team knows that we have objects and things we need to get covered,” Nicholais said. “We’re trying to move forward the best we can.” 

According to the Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Ron Strollo, there is no timeline on when Barnes could return.

“We are going to move forward and he needs to do what’s best for his family and himself and we need to take care of the student-athletes,” Strollo said.