Women’s basketball head coach John Barnes steps down

John Barnes. Photo courtesy of you.edu

By Madeline Hippeard

Former head coach for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team John Barnes officially resigned Jan. 19 after 10 years of coaching.

Barnes announced he would take a leave of absence Oct. 2, 2023 to focus on personal matters.

In his absence, John Nicolais served as acting head coach for the Penguins. With Barnes’ official departure from the team, Nicolais will serve as interim head coach. 

Director of Athletics Ron Strollo was interviewed by YSU Athletics on Jan. 19 where he thanked Barnes for his years of service and support for the program. 

When he took over, our program was still in the rebuilding phase to try and replicate the tremendous success of the 1990s. Under Coach Barnes’ leadership, our team reached the postseason five times and won its first regular-season conference championship in more than 20 years. He absolutely left the program in a better place than when he arrived 10 years ago,” Strollo said. 

Throughout Barnes’ career at Youngstown State, he won 170 games and a Horizon League Regular Season Championship in 2021-2022 in which the Penguins went 24-7 overall and 18-4 in conference play. 

Barnes was also named the Horizon League Coach of the Year along with three appearances in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in 2014-2015, 2018-2019 and 2021-2022.

Despite his departure, Barnes is ranked second in program history with most wins, and his 56.7% win percentage ranks third all-time for Youngstown State.

Off the court, Barnes had the opportunity to coach players such as former Penguins Heidi Schlegel and Lilly Ritz who were two-time All-Horizon First Team honorees. 

In the classroom, YSU appeared on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll nine times and cracked the top 10 five separate times.