Rick’s Luck

“It’s bad to have your good luck early in life.” Anonymous

Rick Barnes managed to dodge the “good luck early” bullet. His parents divorced when he was 4, and the sister who had raised him was killed in a car accident when he was 14. Despite extensive counseling, young Rick remained lost and unfocused.

Until Alice Watts came along.  His 9th grade Algebra teacher took an interest in Rick and made a deal with him: Do your work and you get to play basketball. Fail to do your work, and you won’t.

Something about that simple lesson on the importance of work resonated with Rick. Years later, he would drive a forklift in the mornings, so that he could teach and coach in the afternoons and evenings. Eventually  that work ethic would help him  land his first head coaching job.

Joe Harrington, the head coach at George Mason University, happened to be an early riser, and the morning after first hearing about Barnes, he called Rick at his Davidson office at 5:30 AM.

According to John Feinstein, author of “A March to Madness”, the conversation went like this:

“Is this Rick Barnes?” Harrington asked.

“It is.”

“Good. You’re hired.”

Over the next few years Rick Barnes would become the head coach at Providence College, Clemson University, and finally, the University of Texas. He is today considered a lucky, lucky man.


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