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Rod Barnes returns to Ole Miss, gets warm welcome and ejection

It was a nice, albeit abbreviated, homecoming for the former Rebel.

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Rod Barnes had his day back in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday. It just ended a bit earlier than he probably expected.

The former Ole Miss player and coach was back in his old stomping grounds, as he brought his current team — CSU Bakersfield — into The Pavilion for the program’s second-ever game against an SEC opponent. There was love all around for a coach who led the Rebels to their lone trip the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend with a Sweet 16 appearance in 2001.

There just wasn’t any love between Barnes and the referees.

The ninth-year Runners coach received a pair of technical fouls within moments of each other midway through the second half. It was the first time he’d been ejected in Oxford, and talked about it in a release after the game.

“We’re going to fight until people recognize who Bakersfield is and every time we go to the floor, I’m going to fight for our guys. I thought there were too many bang-bang calls and we weren’t getting any and I expressed that to the referee. It was okay for me to get the first technical, but I thought the second was unbelievable.”

CSUB ultimately fell 83-67 after having fought back from an early 12-0 hole to trail by only three at halftime. And despite the quick hook for Barnes, it was seemingly a heartwarming day for the Ole Miss program icon — who won 141 games and went to three NCAA Tournaments over his eight years in charge.

The game reportedly had its origins in Barnes trying to schedule a game in the Southeast for several CSUB players from the areas. He apparently found a willing partner in Kermit Davis, and a rare feel good situation for a coach returning to a school he did not voluntarily leave was born.

It wasn’t, however, a feel good day for a Runners team that is gearing up to play their final season in the WAC before moving to the Big West. Nonetheless, the quality job that Barnes has done in Bakersfield was hopefully driven home to some casual fans in his former home.

Barnes took over at CSUB in 2011 following a four-year stint at Georgia State. At the time, both he and Runners program were looking for a new beginning. CSUB was just a handful of years removed from transitioning to Division I, and had posted single digit wins in five of its six Division I seasons as it navigated the wilderness as an independent. Barnes took over, helped move the team into the WAC and by 2017 had racked up an NCAA Tournament appearance and trip to the NIT semifinals.

He talked about what that meant to him, and the program, in an in interview in 2017.

“I really took this job trying to resurrect my career, to prove I can build a program and that I’m a good coach. I wanted to leave my stamp on a program,” Barnes said. “A lot of people have helped and it’s been a team effort. It’s amazing to watch the transformation.”

He’d already left a stamp at Ole Miss, and it was good to see that recognized on Saturday.