When Rod Barnes coached at Georgia State in 2009, he decided not to recruit a Division I-caliber guard from the Atlanta area: His son Brandon.
So Brandon spent the next two seasons at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.
Now the two are together at CSUB -- Rod in his second season as head coach and Brandon in his first season as a player.
They'll be busy tonight when the Roadrunners (6-13) play host to Nebraska-Omaha (5-15) at 7 p.m. in the Icardo Center.
"I didn't recruit him at all," Rod said. "I said, 'We're not going to do this.'"
"This" was coaching his son.
Rod, a standout point guard at Ole Miss in his playing days, said he's seen too many awkward moments in the parent-children dynamic. He didn't want to complicate that further by becoming Brandon's coach.
"I played with guys who hated that their parents even came to games," Rod said.
"Most parents miss the boat. They get involved with their sons and daughters a little too much. They overbear. It's not a good situation for the kids and it's not a good situation for the parents. I never wanted that."
It was Brandon who pushed the issue that ultimately led to the two blending their personalities at CSUB.
Late in the 2010-11 season, while Lipscomb was returning from a road loss, Brandon said he got a phone call from his father.
"He told me, 'I just wanted to tell you I got fired from Georgia State,'" Brandon said.
A few weeks later, Rod again called his son. "He told me he had a job offer in California.
"My first thought: It was at Cal-Berkeley," Brandon said. "Then we talked more and I asked, 'You talking about Berkeley or another school?' He said, 'No. I'm going to Cal State Bakersfield.' "
Brandon said he'd never heard of Bakersfield.
"But then I did a lot of research," the player said. “I looked on the website, looked up the team. I read about Stephon (Carter), who looked like the best player there and said, ‘Hopefully some of the guys there are pretty good.’ ”
Brandon said, at that time, he was still committed to remaining at Lipscomb.
“The guy I was behind graduated, so I thought I could come in and take over the role.”
That changed as the Barnes family prepared to leave Georgia for Bakersfield.
“I went home right before they were ready to move,” Brandon said. “I saw all the boxes. I got homesick.”
Until that moment, Brandon said he thought he could handle the idea that his family — Rod, mom Bridgett and younger brother Bray — were moving thousands of miles away.
And then it hit him.
“I thought, ‘I’ll be here two more years. How many times will I get to go home? I’ll never get to see my brother play in high school.’ ”
Brandon thought about senior night, the tradition when a player’s parents join him on the floor before the player’s final home game of his college career.
“Who would come for senior night? That’s a big point in your career, and the idea of not having your family there is kind of tough.”
At that point, Brandon decided to join the family in Bakersfield. But he needed Rod’s approval.
“I thought he probably hadn’t gone through the process of understanding what he was doing and what he wanted to do,” Rod said. “I thought when he called I’d be able to talk him out of it.”
Rod said he tried to do that.
“But I didn’t tell him not to come,” the coach said. “I just told him it was going to be tough. It wasn’t going to be an easy situation. He was going to go through some stuff regular players don’t go through.”
Brandon had made up his mind. He then told the Lipscomb coaches (who unsuccessfully tried to talk him out of it) and made the move, even though it meant having to sit out the 2011-12 season per NCAA transfer rules. But he was allowed to practice with CSUB.
Both say they are happy they’re together at CSUB.
“I’m happy I’ve gotten a chance to see him develop,” Rod said. “I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity if he hadn’t come out here.
“My life has been so demanding. Coaching, that’s the way it is. You miss out on the day-to-day stuff.
“To have him with me now and realize how much I didn’t have before is rewarding.”
Brandon, a junior, said these seasons together will be appreciated more when he reflects on them years from now.
“I don’t see it now, but I’m going to really love this part of my life,” Brandon said. “I’m playing for him. I get to spend all this time with him, which I didn’t have a chance to do when I was younger.
Barnes is averaging 11.5 points (second on the team to Carter’s 15.6 average) and 4.2 rebounds in 19 games (12 starts) this season.
“This is a great experience,” the 6-foot-1 guard said of playing for his father, “something I can tell my kids about.”
Bridgett is happy that the family is in Bakersfield.
“I’m excited they’re having the opportunity to do this,” she said. “Even though I know there are some challenging dynamics to it as well.
“It is the first time he has ever coached him. I’m glad that they’ve gotten this opportunity before Brandon’s playing career is over.”
There have been some challenging times, Rod and Brandon admit.
“That’s a struggle: Trying to stay in the mode of teaching him,” Rod said. “Directing him on a consistent basis — not necessarily disciplining him because he doesn’t know or didn’t make a play. That’s probably been the most difficult thing for me.”
Rod added: “And there’s the balancing. He’s my son, but you want to be fair to each and every player.
“I don’t want to ride him too hard for a mistake he might make because another player might make that same mistake. And I don’t want to be too lenient on him.”
For Brandon, it’s a different feeling taking advice from his father compared to taking advice from other coaches he’s played for.
“When a coach says something from another school, it’s ‘Yes sir,’” Brandon said. “From him, it’s hard to swallow sometimes. When he says something, I need to trust him.
“I do trust my dad, but in the heat of the moment, he’s trying to win. I’m trying to win. I feel like I made a winning play and he looks at it: ‘Not good enough.’ Those are hard to swallow.
“It’s how you control your emotions in the heat of the moment,” Brandon added.” When things are going good, it’s easy. Controlling my emotions: That’s the hardest thing.”
Said Bridgett: “At the end of the day, we’re family. That’s enough.”