KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee coach Rick Barnes’ new surroundings have the veteran coach adopting a slightly different approach in preseason practices.
Barnes has needed to do more teaching so far as he goes over the different drills that had become second nature to his players at Texas, where he had coached for the last 17 seasons. Tennessee started practice last week as the Volunteers adjust to their third coach in as many seasons.
“We’d been 17 years where we had certain core basic drills that we knew, the players knew (and) we just called them out,” Barnes said Tuesday. “Now we’re teaching them everything that we want to implement and put in. It’s fun.”
Tennessee wants Barnes to provide the stability that’s been missing from its program with all the coaching turnover. Barnes replaced Donnie Tyndall, who went 16-16 in his lone season at Tennessee before being fired in March as the NCAA investigated his two-year tenure at Southern Mississippi.
Senior guard Kevin Punter acknowledged the coaching change was rough and that he thought about leaving, but Barnes’ arrival made him stay put.
“I’ve been watching Coach when he was coaching KD (Kevin Durant) and all those pros he got,” Punter said. “For him to be here, I already knew his background, and all I probably needed was just to talk to him and that pretty much sealed the deal. I already knew what he does for a lot of his players.”
Barnes went 402-180 at Texas and reached the NCAA Tournament in 16 of his 17 years before getting fired in March. His teams have earned NCAA bids 19 of the last 20 seasons overall.
“We’re not going to shy away from saying what we want,” Barnes said. “We want to be part of that tournament and have a chance like anybody else to play for the whole thing.”
Barnes could have a tough time getting back to the tournament this year.
Tennessee must replace all-SEC guard Josh Richardson, who led the Vols in points, assists and steals as a senior last season. Freshman Lamonte Turner has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the 2015-16 season, leaving Tennessee without any pure point guards as it gets ready for its Nov. 13 opener with UNC Asheville.
Barnes said Punter and senior Armani Moore would get the initial opportunities to play point guard. Punter’s a natural shooting guard. Moore is listed as a forward but can play a variety of positions.
Another challenge for Barnes involves getting accustomed to his new players and figuring out how to get the best from each of them.
“What’s their starter button?” Barnes asked. “You can’t coach them all the same. You can demand the same from all of them, but you can’t coach them all the same. Some guys can take whatever. Some other guys are a little more sensitive. It’s important for our coaching staff that we do know how to handle each one of them.”