Everywhere Matt Barnes coaches, he gets results. In his two previous head coaching stops, he took non-contending programs to the playoffs in the first seasons he was there.
At his first head coaching job at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, he led the team to its first postseason victory and in his second year, he led them to win the California Pacific Conference. He also spent a year at Lubbock Christian University, where he led the team to it’s only first place finish in the Heartland Conference.
Barnes now faces his greatest challenge at SF State, which finished last in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference at 3-14-1 in 2013, and haven’t had a postseason berth since 1978.
“It’s been kind of a perennial losing program and we were just picked two days ago by our peers to finish last in our conference again,” said Barnes. “(But) I’ve been taking over teams since I’ve started coaching, teams that need help and programs that need help and I’ve made a living off turning things around.”
Barnes was a late addition to the soccer program, after new Athletic Director Charles Guthrie hired Barnes one week before the season started. According to Barnes, most coaches are hired in the spring and given the opportunity to recruit.
“It’s hard coming in, I didn’t know any of the players before (and) I’m meeting guys my first day of practice,” Barnes said. “I don’t know exactly who was on the team last year, who’s been recruited, who’s a walk on (and) who’s planning on redshirting. I didn’t have any idea on what I was walking into.”
Even after the late start, Barnes got the team on the right track by both preaching hard work, and putting in the hard work himself.
“I talk a lot about being blue collar, so I want my kids to wake up everyday and come to work and work hard,” said Barnes. “I’ve had to mimic that, so if I come here and I work really hard for these guys, and I’m showing them how much I care, and how bad I want them to be successful, (then) they will, and I think they have.”
Barnes’ played multiple positions throughout his playing career. First he was a goalkeeper in high school, then he transitioned to a defender in college and finished off playing forward as a professional. His well-rounded experience helps him relate to the players he coaches.
“He’s a real player’s coach,” said senior Hayden Roberts. “We can already tell we’re improving (and) you can see a change in the team.”
Senior Kevin Johnson agreed, adding that Barnes seems to really care about his players.
“We want to give him the same effort he’s giving us, that’s the biggest change,” Johnson said.
According to Barnes, the most important lesson he wants to teach his players is to always compete.
“More than anything, I’m trying to create competitive men I really believe in,” Barnes said. “If I can instill that in these guys through the medium of soccer then I’m going to be pretty happy looking back on my career.”