By LARRY VAUGHT
First-year Tennessee coach Rick Barnes knows that Tennessee has had more success against Kentucky than any other SEC team which he says is “something to be proud of” even if UK still had a dominant lead in the series.
“Kentucky being a two and a half hour car drive from here, it should be a big rivalry, it should be. But the fact of the matter is, I want our program to get where we’re like their program in the fact that everywhere we go I want people to get really excited. So we don’t have to look far to see what we should be striving to be,” Barnes said.
“We could look that way, we could look to the East a little bit and see some ways that it needs to be done. And so I obviously have great admiration for John (Calipari), and I have admiration for Kentucky basketball through the years.
“I also know that the University of Tennessee has had success and it’s about stability and consistency. That’s what we hope our staff can do — that we can make it one of the great rivalries, what we all want it to be. But to do that, to make it a rivalry, you’ve got to beat somebody, you’ve got to beat people. I hope over time that we can do that.”
If things had worked out differently, Barnes might be coaching at Kentucky instead of Calipari. He was contacted about the job when UK hired Billy Gillispie.
“I was contacted about it, but I was in a situation at Texas where, and I’ve said to you guys before, that being there and working with DeLoss Dodds is where I had hoped to finish my career and I wasn’t looking to go anywhere else at all. I really wasn’t,” Barnes said.
“But the fact is, it didn’t work out that way and I think I’m right where God has put me and I’m excited about that.”