Barnes still bringing intensity to Carson hoops |

Barnes still bringing intensity to Carson hoops

Barnes still bringing intensity to Carson hoops


Appeal Sports Writer

Ric Garcia first got a look at Bruce Barnes when the youngster showed up to compete on his seventh-grade track team at Carson Middle School. It didn’t take long for Garcia to see that Barnes possessed some qualities that any coach would like.

“He was one of the toughest guys – athletically speaking – that in 31 years I’ve ever had,” Garcia said of Barnes, who is in now in his eighth year as head coach for the Carson boys varsity basketball team. “I don’t know if there was anybody as competitive as him.”

Just how competitive is Barnes?

“I literally don’t like to lose at anything,” Barnes said. “Whether it’s Monopoly, kickball…That’s the way I’m wired. Maybe there’s a fault in that wire.”


Barnes, now 43, is once again sharing his disdain for losing with yet another crop of undersized players, who nonetheless have started out the season 6-3, using their energy and executing their game plan in order to hang in with their predictably taller opponents.

Barnes has never been blessed with a player taller than 6-foot-4, but he coached Carson to two zone titles in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons, winning Coach of the Year honors his first year at the helm for the Senators.

Since he can’t coach height, Barnes has been successful in instilling in his players the same kind of fire and passion he once displayed as a 6-3 forward under former Carson High School coach Pete Padgett.

“He wasn’t the greatest basketball player, but I remember that if he missed four times in a row, he got every rebound and got the putback every time,” said Garcia, who in addition to recently steeping down as the CHS girls coach, was an assistant for Barnes from 2001-03. “He had a relentless desire to succeed. He got everything he could out of his body.”

Carlos Mendeguia, the Senators’ assistant coach since 2000-01, remembers going with his older sister to watch Barnes play at Carson High in a packed gym.

“He was very physical. He was very intense,” Mendeguia said. “He tries to coach the game exactly the way he played. He pushes the kids to get every ounce out of them.”

Reno coach Kyle Schellin was a freshman on Barnes’ junior varsity team and said there’s a reason his former coach has been successful in getting the most out of his players.

“He always gets his players to buy into his style,” Schellin said. “That means working hard, playing defense and getting out and running the floor. If you play for him, that’s how things are done.

“We never got outworked; we never got outhustled. He shaped that kind of mentality in Carson City. He continues to do that today.”

Just ask David Eller, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, who says the intense Barnes has many ways to get across the same message.

“Be as rough as you can, be as smart as you can and be strong the whole time,” Eller said of Barnes’ credo. “Never give up. Keep playing until you can’t play any more. He says that over and over in different words.”

If Barnes is merely saying it instead of demonstrating it, it must mean Father Time and a pair of knees with no cartilage have doubled-teamed a lesson into him: No more shocking your players by diving onto the floor to show them that THIS is the way to grab a loose ball.

“He’s always been a hands-on coach,” Schellin said. “He demonstrates how to do things, whether that’s stepping up and to take a charge, diving on a loose ball or boxing a kid out. For some reason, he likes to go full speed all of the time. It makes a point. The kids buy into that. It cements the pact.”

Mendeguia said Barnes still gets intense now and again and scrimmaged a couple of times in the spring, establishing his ability and desire to get in the mix. That said…”I usually pay for it the next day,” Barnes admitted.


Barnes got his start shooting hoops at the Carson Recreation Department and played for Carson Middle School before going to CHS.

“As an athlete in high school, most people’s aspiration is to play at the next level – it was definitely one of mine,” Barnes said. “That was one reason I tried to outwork everybody. I wanted to see if it was for me.”

It was, and Barnes went on to play for Menlo College, in Atherton, Calif., where he was a forward for the Oaks for three years and spent one year as a graduate assistant under Bob Williams (who is now at Santa Barbara).

Barnes studied humanities with an emphasis in history and minored in English. He received his degree in 1988, went to the University of Nevada to earn his teaching credentials and went on to receive a Master’s degree at Grand Canyon University.

Before settling in as the varsity head coach, Barnes began in 1988 as a JV assistant coach under Ron Tamori, was the JV head coach for five seasons, and was Padgett’s assistant for two years before taking off for two years.

During that time he assisted his best friend and fellow 1983 CHS grad Eric Swain at McQueen for a couple of weeks before coaching the eighth-grade team for two years at Eagle Valley Middle School.


Swain, who also coached at Reno and now commands a team at Buchanon High School, in Clovis, Calif., enjoys rubbing it on Barnes that has yet to beat him as a coach (although he also said it would be a while before his young Buchanon team plays Carson), but said his friend’s best quality is his loyalty.

“When a player is finished with his playing career, Bruce will still be there for whatever they need. He’ll give them a recommendation for college or a job. He’ll look out for his kids as long as he can.”

Garcia agreed.

“A lot of people don’t know how much he cares for his athletes,” Garcia said. “If a kid is hurt, he’s the first one there. Outside of basketball he always takes care of his athlete. He’s there for that kid for life.”

Barnes said about seven or eight former players recently came to practice and shot the ball around and would participate in an upcoming practice.

“It’s good to see them come back,” Barnes said. “It’s not all about basketball. I help them in life situations. They know they can always come back; after all, they gave me everything. That’s something that’s pretty special.”

Barnes said his No. 1 thing in life is loyalty, something Swain found out firsthand. In the summer following their senior season, Swain’s mother, Francis, was killed by a drunk driver.

“If not for Bruce’s friendship and loyalty, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today,” said Swain, who also played with Barnes at Menlo. “It was a fork in the road, going to college. It would’ve been easy to give up. I’m in a college dorm, I don’t know anyone except for one guy (Barnes). It was hard for a couple of years, but he was there to help out in tough times.”


Barnes is a big believer in a person surrounding himself with others who have similar qualities – in his case, competitive, hard-working people, such as Mendeguia, Garcia and Swain.

“The way I look at it, we have two head coaches – I’m just the one who’s allowed to stand up,” Barnes said of Mendeguia. “When Ric was here, we had three head coaches. I’ve been very fortunate. Carlos’ time and commitment are second to none. Carlos spends a lot of time breaking down film. He has a four- or five-page breakdown ready before each game. We had seven pages for Reno – a scouting report on their sets and players. It’s far from all me.”

Barnes said such preparation serves at least two functions: He can sleep easier at night knowing his players will have a better chance to win; and he feels like it sets a good example for his players.

“They see how much time is put in, how dedicated we are,” Barnes said. “They’re smart enough to pick up on it themselves.”

One of those players also happens to be Barnes’ 15-year-old son, Brian, who has earned some significant playing time as a freshman this season on the varsity team.

“It’s something that’s pretty special,” said Barnes, who has two other children, Lindsey (22) and Amanda (20), and a wife of five years, Shawna. “It’s a tough situation on any kid. On the basketball floor I treat him the same as the other kids – probably tougher. He’s proved to his teammates he belongs. The bottom line is the kids who play against him know he belongs.

“He’s a straight-A student – he fits in. He’s a good person, a good student and a good player.”

Brian said his father does well in separating home life from basketball, all while retaining his competitive nature.

“Sometimes he pushes me more than anyone else, but that’s natural,” Brian said. “He knows what I can do. I like it. It gives me a chance to play for him. It’s nice to spend time with him and get that bond.”

Barnes’ players have won the state academic championship three times and he stresses the virtues of an education to go along with the tools basketball can help sharpen.

“It’s a means to an end,” Barnes said of the sport he loves. ” Within this game are a lot of elements: It can help you to be loyal, responsible and committed. It can help you be successful in the long run. The way I look at it, if you put in time, hard work and are competitive, good things will happen.”

And there’s no fault in that philosophy.

• Contact Mike Houser at or 881-1214.