Tramel Barnes was named a member of the Utah State men’s basketball coaching staff on April 24, just a little over a month ago. Barnes joined the Aggies after coaching at Southwest Minnesota State University the past six seasons.
He recently took some time to take part in a Q&A.
Q: First off, having been on the job for a while, what are your thoughts on Utah State?
Barnes: “It’s been awesome. It has been good transition. I had been at SMSU (Southwest Minnesota State Univ.) since I was a player and over the last six years on the coaching staff with Brad Bigler. Having played there and it being my only coaching job, I haven’t really had a ton of experience with different programs. Being here the last month and a half, it has been a smooth transition. We did some of the same things that Coach Smith does but have some different terminology for things.
"The Logan community and people have been awesome and very friendly and outgoing. Being somewhere new and having new norms is always a challenge at times but so far it has been really easy since everyone is so helpful. Kalli (Egbert) has been a great resource in our office on helping show us where or how to do certain things around campus."
Q: Where did you grow up?
Barnes: “I’m originally from Watson, Minn., a small town of less than 300 people, but went to high school in Montevideo, Minn., which was a little bigger with a population of around 7,000 people."
Q: You have roots in the Midwest, what are your thoughts now living in Logan?
Barnes: “Obviously, it is a completely different landscape. Minnesota is super flat. I joke that you can see for about 30 miles straight, but here it is obviously different being in the mountains. I personally love the landscape out here and the mountains. Coach Peterson and I took a little break last weekend and went hiking one day. It was nice to go out and experience that stuff."
Q: Talk a little bit about your process of joining the staff at Utah State.
Barnes: “I wasn’t really job searching. It has always been important to me to have the right fit, in terms of the staff and people you work with. I had known Coach Smith, Coach Peterson and Coach Hansen over the years, running into them through recruiting events. They were at USD I was at a Division II, so we would only really run into each other during the live periods. But, I ran into them that way and developed relationships with them. The coaching fraternity is a pretty small world, so no matter if you are at different levels you usually get to develop relationships with everyone. I got the chance to talk to Coach Smith about the opportunity here at USU and a day or so later I was driving out to Utah."
Q: You are the youngest member of the coaching staff. What are you most excited to learn from the other others and what is something that you can teach them?
Barnes: “In life, you always want to be continuing to learn, whether you are the youngest or the oldest. That is something that’s been harped on me for a long time. I couldn’t have picked a better group of guys to be with in Coach Smith, Coach Peterson and Coach Hansen. They are all great people. They know a ton about basketball and x’s and o’s, but it is more than just basketball here, which I appreciate. They have all coached for multiple years and they have all been very successful and that is not always easy to do in this profession consistently. I just want to learn as much as I can day-to-day and continue to develop as a coach.
"As far as teaching them stuff, it is always new and different when you come to a new program. You usually teach some similar stuff, but you have different twists and flairs on things. That is one thing that I’m excited to bring to the table. Being a little bit younger, I feel like I can relate to players pretty well. It’s been seven or eight years ago now since I was a player, so it’s been a little longer, but that is one thing I take pride in, developing relationships with guys. That is one of my favorite parts, is seeing guys grow from their freshman year to their senior year and how much they’ve developed on and off the court. Those relationships and friendships are priceless. Whether that is with your players, your coaches or with your community, that is something that I take a lot of pride in."
Q: You were at Southwest Minnesota as both a player and a coach over the course of nine years. What is your favorite memory as a coach at SMSU?
Barnes: “Two years ago, we started our run. We had some tough years, where we were .500 and were really young. We redshirted six freshmen one year, they played their redshirt freshmen year and then their sophomore year we were pretty good. Just to see that development and growth of the team. Sometimes people don’t understand how much effort it takes to build a championship program. That was really fun to see. You have to give a lot of credit to the guys on the team for working their butts off every day, all of those hours spent in the gym and in the weight room. A lot of that stuff, people don’t think about. They earned everything they obtained."
Q: What is your favorite memory as a player at SMSU?
Barnes: “My junior year we won the conference tournament and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since about 2009, a five-year break where we didn’t have an NCAA Tournament appearance. That is always fun. We went to Golden, Colo., and played at Colorado School of Mines. Any time you can prolong your season it is always a fun experience to continue to play with your teammates and just go to battle."
Q: What is your favorite part of coaching basketball?
Barnes: “My favorite parts have been recruiting, and developing relationships with people. I have been fortunate enough to have coaches in my life to help mold me to be the person I am. That is something that I’ve taken pride in and go out of my way to help our guys with anything. I’m going to have a different role than I did at SMSU, not being able to coach on the court. I want to go out of my way that if one of our guys is struggling in anything, or just any personal issue like that, that I can be a person they can rely on."
Q: What is your favorite piece of office decoration?
Barnes: “It is a little sporadic right now. The one thing I have kept is this (gesturing to an article) “Coach Meyer Academy Notes.” The academy notes are something I’ve printed out from his website, from a coaching clinic he spoke at in 1994. It is old, but it is something that I hang up. I highlighted some stuff, but the highlighter has faded. I’ve had that ever since I have coached. I started at Northern State and played for Coach Meyer and he was one of those coaches I was talking about and was influential in getting me into coaching. It has different sayings that he would repeat to us, and as a player it was something you always remember. Other than that, my office is filled with camp stuff right now. There isn’t a lot of decoration in here after my first month."
Q: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Barnes: “Basketball-wise, I want to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Growing up and watching March Madness, there is nothing cooler than that. Getting to post-season play is always a goal. Then, when we get there, let’s make some noise and go on a run.
"Traveling-wise, I want to get over to Europe at some point. I’ve never been overseas. I enjoy learning about other cultures. We’ve got some guys on our team that are from different countries. Diogo (Brito) is from Portugal, Roche (Grootfaam) is from South America and Ben (Fakira) is from Australia. It has always been kind of cool to me to learn about different cultures.
"Third. I want to go skydiving. I just haven’t had to opportunity."
Q: What are you doing in your spare time?
Barnes: “The coaching profession can take up a lot of hours in a day. It can sometimes be a 24/7 gig. When there are some breaks, I enjoy spending time with friends and family. Back in Minnesota we have lakes everywhere, and are known for the land of 10,000 lakes. I enjoy being out on the lake, wake boarding, skiing and things like that. I used to golf a lot, but now that I’m in coaching I haven’t been able to golf as much. I get out once or twice during the summer and really enjoy that."
Q: What is your dream golf course?
Barnes: “Maybe Augusta. That would be a cool one. It has always been on the top of the list.”
Q: What is something that people may not know about you that might surprise them?
Barnes: “Growing up, I was really into skateboarding. I might be able to still do a kick flip or something. I was really into that in 5th to 8th grade. I haven’t skateboarded in a while, but it is something really random that people maybe wouldn’t guess I did."
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