OXFORD When Rod Barnes leads his Cal-State Bakersfield men’s basketball team against Ole Miss this December, it won’t be just another game.

It won’t be about revenge, either.

Barnes’ greatest basketball notoriety came as a hustling, All-SEC guard at Ole Miss in the 1980s and later as the Rebels’ head coach for eight seasons.

Barnes had a lot of success as the Rebels’ coach, leading Ole Miss to four-straight postseason berths, three of them in the NCAA tournament. He was named national coach of the year in 2001 after leading Ole Miss to 27 wins and the Sweet 16.

There was also failure for Barnes in Oxford, enough that a fourth-straight losing season cost him his job in 2006.

Now he’s beginning his seventh season at Bakersfield, having led the Roadrunners to postseason play in three of the last four seasons including an NCAA trip in 2016, the program’s first.

After building a formidable homecourt advantage at the Rebels’ old Tad Smith Coliseum, Barnes will see the inside of The Pavilion for the first time on Dec. 7.

“I’ve never carried any grudges or felt different,” Barnes said. “From the day I left I’ve always looked at Ole Miss as my school, my alma mater, my state and my people. I never experienced a sense of regret, anger, frustration … any of that kind of stuff.”

Barnes has been back on campus for different events, one of them his induction into the M Club Hall of Fame.

Upon leaving Ole Miss he served as an assistant coach at Oklahoma and the head coach at Georgia State. He continues to recruit the South after settling in on the West Coast.

Barnes says his style of play has changed through the seasons.

“We play some zone defenses and change defenses. We seldom run motion offense any more. I’ve had to change with the times,” he said.

Barnes has seen a lot of life events in California. His wife Bridgett and sons Brandon and Bray have all earned CSUB degrees.

He had conversations about scheduling a game at Ole Miss with former Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy, but things didn’t work out.

He’s glad that he and current Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis have been able to make it happen.

Barnes and the Roadrunners played at Arkansas in the 2017-2018 season. The Razorbacks won 95-68 after leading by four points at halftime.

It will be a rebuilding team that Barnes brings to The Pavilion. Last year’s leading scorer, guard Jarkel Joiner, will be on the other bench, sitting out the season as a transfer to Ole Miss. Joiner, who’s from Oxford, shot 45.1 percent from the floor, 37 percent from 3-point range and averaged 15.6 points last season.

“If we had Jarkel we’d be more competitive,” Barnes laughed. “When you look at our roster you’ll see seven or eight juniors, a lot of transfers. We’re an older team, and we have the makings of a good team.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com Twitter: @parrishalford

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