School gives Barnes five more years

YOUNGSTOWN — Recruiting. Coaching. Preparation.

The three are the lifeblood of a college basketball coach. Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach John Barnes deals with those three on a daily basis.

The 2019-20 Penguin team is on the YSU campus. The current focus is practicing, honing skills in preparation for the upcoming season.

The last thing Barnes wants to concern himself with is whether his contract will be renewed. It was set to expire on April 30, 2020, just after this upcoming season. On Thursday, YSU gave the veteran coach a five-year extension.

The extension includes the ’19-’20 through ’22-’23 seasons plus a university option for the ’23-’24 season.

Barnes’ teams have made the postseason in four of the six seasons since he took over the Penguins in 2013-14 — twice in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and twice in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

YSU went 22-10 last season with one of its many appearances in the Horizon League semifinals and was later selected to the WNIT.

“Having that kind of support, trust from President (Jim) Tressel to (YSU Director of Athletics) Ron Strollo to (YSU Assistant Athletic Director) Elaine Jacobs, their belief in myself and the staff in what we’re doing means more than anything,” said Barnes, who has won 104 games with YSU. “That allows you to focus on the job at hand in terms of recruiting. Our whole team is on campus right now. We’re practicing so I can focus on those type of things and making sure everything is getting done with the program rather than be worried about contracts and things like that.”

Barnes has been instrumental in the Penguins resurrecting themselves from the doldrums through most of the 2000s, including an 0-30 season near the end of that decade. YSU is closer to the 1990s when the Penguins made three NCAA appearances, including their last one in the 1999-2000 season.

Strollo knows the importance of women’s basketball to his athletic program. He’s well aware many college programs around the country would like someone of Barnes’ ilk.

Not only is he a successful coach, Barnes has had his team ranked as some of the best student-athletes on campus. The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association ranked the Penguins No. 3 after the ’15-’16 season and No. 7 after the ’18-’19 season on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll.

Losing Barnes to another university is the last thing Strollo and YSU want to see.

It gives YSU’s assurance to current players and those who have given verbal commitments for the ’20-21 season and beyond.

“I think it was important to both of us to kind of come out and say we’re committed to John and he’s committed to us, which provides a lot of stability to our current student-athletes and some predictability to some future recruits,” Strollo said.

YSU is instrumental to many entities around the Mahoning Valley, not just those recruits, current players and those encompassed in the college community.

“I think it’s important to mention the work his staff has done,” Strollo said. “It should be commended. This town and this campus enjoy really good women’s basketball. It’s important to us. It’s important to this community for us to have some stability there.”

Right now, there’s no place Barnes would rather be than on the Penguins’ bench as coach.

“It’s a great place to work,” he said. “The people that work at YSU are second to none. The community support, the boosters, everybody around the Mahoning Valley has taken myself and my staff and the team in like family and treated us that way.

“It’s a great place to be. We’re going to do everything in our power to work as hard as we can to try to win that Horizon League championship and hopefully make a trip or two to the NCAA Tournament.”

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