Two days after being named an assistant coach at the University of Washington, Storm radio and TV analyst Adia Barnes looks the part. She showed up at the Storm’s business offices Thursday decked out in her new favorite color, purple. Barnes took a minute to chat about getting into coaching while continuing in her role with the Storm.
Have you always been interested in coaching?
As a player, I wasn’t thinking about coaching. When I was about 25, Coach (Joan) Bonvicini [Barnes' college coach at Arizona, who is now the head coach at Seattle University] offered me a coaching job. Back then, I was like, ‘No way!’ I was still playing, still having fun. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about coaching, but I’ve always liked mentoring and I’ve always liked camps and individual work. So I didn’t realize how much I liked coaching until after. Then I started thinking, ‘What are my passions? What are things I like to do?’ It always went back to coaching. I never thought a few years ago that I’d try to make a career out of it.
How did this opportunity with the UW women come about?
I heard a lot of buzz about who they were most likely going to hire. There were all these names being thrown out. I think when you get done playing for 12 years professionally and traveling all over the world, you want to find one place. For me, my second home – now my permanent home – is Seattle. I’ve been a part of this community. I didn’t want to pursue a job anywhere else. I love the Storm broadcasts, I love being part of this organization, so I definitely knew I wanted to continue to do this.
So when I heard Kevin McGuff got the job, my reaction was, ‘Wow!’ He’s a great coach. He’s a proven winner. He built Xavier – he was Xavier Basketball. I became Private Eye Barnes and did all kinds of research from his ex-players to people who knew him and coaches who coached under him. All I heard was great things. So I thought, if I’m going to put myself in a situation to learn and be mentored, it’s from someone like him – an up-and-coming, great coach. Then, it was here in Seattle, so it couldn’t get any better. I can stay here, stay involved with the Storm, be mentored by one of the greatest young coaches. It’s just a dream come true. That’s the only job I went for, the only job I wanted. If I hadn’t gotten it, I probably would have pursued a job somewhere else in a few years, but this was perfect.
What kind of potential is there for the Husky program?
I think tremendous opportunity. I think he’s going to reinvent the future. I look back at when I played in the Pac-10, ‘94 to ‘98, I remember how Hec Ed used to be. I remember there were 5 or 6,000 crazy fans. When we had Washington on our schedule – even Washington State, those were two tough teams. That was a tough road trip. It hasn’t been like that. I think he is a coach that can keep players here in Washington. That’s a huge thing; there is so much talent that has not stayed here. I think that’s going to be one of the first things you have to do. There are a lot of good players in this region. I think this program is going to really turn around and has a tremendous amount of potential. It should be in the top tier for sure.
There have always been ties between the Storm and the Husky women. Can you strengthen that relationship?
No doubt. I think I’ll be the bridge. That’s a direct connection. They can both help each other grow. This is a basketball city. The Storm fans, we have 10,000 of the best fans in the world and by far in the WNBA if you look at the other arenas. We have a core group that loves basketball. They want to follow UW, but they want to follow a good product and coaches that are out in the community and doing a lot of stuff the Storm does. I think that as a staff, we understand that. I know Coach McGuff has done that. The buzz that’s created now, there’s going to be a lot of momentum. We’re excited – I know I’m excited.
Why was continuing to do Storm broadcasts important to you?
I love it. I love the WNBA. I’ve been involved in the WNBA since the second year – so 14 years now. I really have built a family here. It’s not like it’s a job, it’s like it’s part of my family. It doesn’t feel like work. I get to analyze and talk about something I love. I think the skills that I’ve built as a broadcaster are going to help me with communicating, with analyzing. Then the other thing, from a personal, coaching standpoint, it’s awesome for me. I get to go learn from Kevin McGuff, Mike Neighbors, Kevin Morrison on one coaching staff. Then when I’m traveling, I get to go learn from WNBA Coach of the Year Brian Agler, Jenny Boucek and Nancy Darsch. Nancy Darsch was a huge college coach. Jenny Boucek’s been a head coach in the WNBA also. I get six incredible mentors. What other young coach gets that? On the road, I can come to any practice. So I have a tremendous opportunity to grow a lot in a way I think other young coaches don’t. I saw all those things, when I thought about my decision, and that’s why I thought, ‘I want this job. I’m getting it.’ I just went for it. I figured if it was meant to me, I was going to get it. Everything happened perfectly.