Five for Five: YSU women’s basketball coach John Barnes

New Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach John Barnes sat in his office on Aug. 28 and gave an insight to his experiences so far in Youngstown. Barnes was an associate head coach with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay last year after spending the previous two years as an assistant with the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin.
Through practices with the players and the new system, what’s been the biggest surprise or excitement for you?

You know, the players work really hard. They really want to do well and continue what they’ve started. That’s exciting to me because you can do good things with players that work together and stick together. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to win.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Probably the biggest challenge has been, basketball wise, they ran a five-out system. I’m going to have a post player down low, so I’m kind of changing that mold into utilizing the post player more than they have in the past. They relied heavily on the [3-point field goals]. I mean, we’re still going to shoot the 3, but we’re going to look to throw the ball inside quite a bit more. Other than that it’s been a great transition. It’s just busy because the first month was just trying to get a staff together and hired. Then the second month, we went right into camps. Third month, right in July recruiting, we’re gone for almost the whole month. It’s been kind of crazy, kind of busy, but it’s been all good.

I’m sure you’ll be getting this question a lot, but how can you replace Brandi Brown?

We’re not going to try to replace Brandi Brown with someone. We’re pretty much going to make it a team effort. Everybody’s got to step up their game. Everybody’s got to rebound a little harder. Everyone’s got to look to score a little more. And I think if you do that collectively, you’ll be fine. I mean it was a similar situation with us in Green Bay last year. Losing a WNBA player in Julie Wojta, how are they going to survive? Everyone just stepped up, ended up 29-3 and made the NCAA Tournament. We’re just going to try to do it collectively.

Coming from Green Bay, a team that’s obviously been the team to beat in the Horizon League for the past few years, what preview do you have for them? And how can you beat them?

It’s interesting because they lost six seniors this past year, so they’re going to have a whole new look. But in knowing coach [Kevin] Borseth forever, that’s going to help me in terms of going up against them, but I’m really more focused on our team and what we need to do to get better every day. If we do that, that’ll give us a chance against anybody we play. That’s all we can ask for right now.

You said earlier that you haven’t been able to scope out Youngstown yet, but have you seen, city wise, the differences between Youngstown and Green Bay?

It’s funny you ask that because they’re very similar in terms of industrial cities. I think Green Bay is a bit bigger, but from what I hear, Youngstown was that size back when the steel was kind of booming. I’ve seen the communities very supportive. We had our golf outing, which was sold out. We’ve done some events. We’ve helped out the YMCA. It seems like a close-knit community to me. People are all friendly. The food is outstanding.