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Casey Christie / The Californian

The new CSUB men's basketball coach Rod Barnes, left, was introduced at a press conference Wednesday on campus. CSUB Athletic Director, Jeff Konya, is to the right.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

CSUB President Dr. Horace Mitchell, left, and Athletic Director Jeff Konya, center, welcome the new CSUB men's basketball coach, Wednesday, Rod Barnes.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The new CSUB men's basketball coach, Rod Barnes, was announced Wednesday in the Icardo Center.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The newly announced head CSUB men's basketball coach Rod Barnes, left, was able to meet a few of his players, Wednesday, including James Albright at the end of a press conference announcing the new coach.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

CSUB basketball player, sophomore, guard/forward, James Albright, right, meets Rod Barnes, Wednesday, the new head coach for CSUB men's basketball.

Only days after Cal State Bakersfield athletic director Jeff Konya decided to hire a new men's basketball coach, Rod Barnes made an on-campus visit.

Barnes, the head coach for eight years at the University of Mississippi and four years at Georgia State, didn't immediately say "yes" to the coaching offer.

But he said "yes" this week.

Barnes, 45, was introduced Thursday as the eighth head men's basketball coach in CSUB's 41-year history.

He has signed a 5-year contract that pays $140,004 per year, plus use of a car.

It is believed the 5-year deal is the longest contract offered by the CSUB athletic department. Previous coach Keith Brown had a 3-year deal that paid him $112,416 annually with no car allowance.

"I'm excited to be here," said Barnes, who has is 185-188 in his head coaching career. "Our No. 1 goal, outside of (graduating) our student athletes, is to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm sure there are questions I'll hear after this about the obstacles that stand in front of us. But I see this as an opportunity.

"The reason I made this decision: me and my family: I see great potential here. ... I know we can build a great basketball program here."

Barnes said he took nearly two weeks to consider the job and to examine aspects of CSUB's athletic program.

"I wanted to make sure we had everything covered, that we were all on the same page," Barnes said. "I asked for some time to work through the logistics. ...

"One of the reasons I'm here today is because of the talk about the vision for students athletes. It lines up exactly with what I believe."

Barnes is taking over a program that has gone 32-83 in the last four seasons since it began playing a full Division I schedule. The Roadrunners went 9-19 this past season with 14 losses in their final 15 games.

Barnes pointed to the CSUB women's basketball team, which reached the postseason the last two years and was in the Women's Basketball Invitational championship game last Sunday, and the baseball team that has beaten ranked teams South Carolina and Arizona State this season.

"You can get it done," Barnes said. "There's no question in my mind we'll achieve that."

The high water mark of Barnes' career was the 2000-01 season at Ole Miss, when he led the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in a 27-8 season. Barnes was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year that season and the national Naismith Coach of the Year winner.

He led Ole Miss to postseason appearances in his first four seasons as head coach, three NCAA berths and an NIT appearance.

Barnes' last four years at Mississippi saw losing seasons -- between one and three games under .500. He was fired as Mississippi's coach after after the 2005-06 season with three years left on his contract.

After the 2006-07 season as an assistant coach at Oklahoma, Barnes was hired to straighten out a Georgia State program that was in shambles academically: a team grade point average below 2.0 and an NCAA academic progress rate score in the 800s. CSUB athletic director Jeff Konya said the APR the NCAA wants is at least 925.

"By the time he left the program, it was in the mid-900s," Konya said, adding that the team GPA was just below 3.0. "Coach also graduated 22 of the last 23 seniors in his program."

But Georgia State never had a winning season under Barnes' direction. He was fired on Feb. 26 and had the final year of his contract bought out after an 11-18 season because he didn't win enough, Georgia State officials said.

Before he was fired from Georgia State, Barnes was quoted in a published story that he didn't go into the Georgia State job fully aware of what he was facing.

"I thought there were some disciplinary problems," Barnes said Wednesday. "But when I got in there, I saw the APR and all kinds of other problems, which set us back and forced me to keep guys who were not committed. So you struggled along for two years because those guys were young players. It slowed the process.

"We don't have those kind of problems here, which I think will accelerate our opportunities."

The biggest obstacle for CSUB is finding a conference. The Roadrunners remain a Division I independent in men's basketball.

"I believe we're going to get there," Barnes said. "I believe we have things going here that people in other conferences are going to want.

"But until that point, I've got to lay the foundation so that when that opportunity comes and we get into a conference, we can more forward."

Konya said "we shot the moon with this particular hire and we feel we have added a great piece to our puzzle of what is the future of (CSUB) athletics."

"We stand for the academic progress of our student athletes, first and foremost," Konya said. "And Coach Barnes just engineered one of the greatest Division I academic turnarounds at his last employment stop."

Konya said Barnes' ethical makeup was also an advantage.

"Coach Barnes runs a clean program," Konya said. "He's never been in a major violation with the NCAA and he's never had a scathing off-the-field scandal."

There were 40 quality coaches who applied for the job, Konya said.

"But in the final analysis, what Rod brought to the table set him apart from even the short list," Konya said.

"CSUB is about winning at the highest level," Konya said. "That's why during this search process I said we wanted to hire a coach that has seen where we want to get to, that's been where we want to go."

Barnes had his first meeting with CSUB's players early Wednesday afternoon. Four players, along with most CSUB coaches, several faculty and many boosters, were at Wednesday morning's press conference.

"I'm definitely excited," said guard Alex Johnson, who will be a senior next season. "A lot of us want a new start. Sometimes a fresh start is what's needed. This could be something great."

Forward Donald Johnson said: "I'm excited. He's talking about a lot of things."