Rick Barnes on Tennessee basketball vs. Texas in Big 12/SEC Challenge

Rick Barnes had always turned down the opportunity to face Texas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The Tennessee basketball coach didn’t want the matchup. He didn’t want it to be about him and his return to the school where he coached for 17 years. 

Barnes changed his mind this time when ESPN asked about the pairing.

“What the kicker probably was is my grandson’s birthday is right around that day and I am going to let him sit with me on the bench,” Barnes said Monday at the Emerald Youth Golf Classic.

Tennessee will play at Texas on Jan. 29 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, one of the highlights of a grueling nonconference schedule for the Vols and Barnes’ first clash with the school where he won more than 400 games.

Barnes said a few factors changed his mind about playing Texas, including his grandson, Caleb, turning 12. Notably, Texas’ plan to close the Erwin Center, its long-term basketball arena, and open the Moody Center played into Barnes’ reasoning..

“I have great respect for the University of Texas,” Barnes said. “When they asked this year, really and truly, knowing they are going to tear down the building that I coached in for 17 years, it is good to go back and be part of the final year in that building.”

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