Rebels/Barnes Talk Hoop Future at End of Season

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi athletic director Pete Boone

isn't ready to say whether Rod Barnes will be back for a ninth

season as the Rebels' basketball coach.

Reached by the Associated Press on his cell phone Wednesday,

Boone offered few specific answers but said he plans to meet with

Barnes after the conclusion of the team's fading season.

"This season was disappointing in the way that it's progressed,

but I'm really not going to get into any details," Boone said.

"It's as simple as, at the end of the year, evaluate any program

and digest what happened during the year and visit with the coaches

about it - good, bad or indifferent."

Boone declined to elaborate when asked how he evaluates

progress, a day after he told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson that

"you really need to see progress. Sometimes progress is evident to

the average fan and sometimes it's not."

He also declined to comment when asked why Barnes' future was

being questioned so soon after the coach received a new contract.

Barnes and the school last March agreed on a four-year deal worth a

reported $600,000 each year through the 2008-09 season.

Boone said Ole Miss might not accept a National Invitation

Tournament berth if one is offered next month, at least partly

because of financial reasons. Home teams must submit bids and then

draw a certain number of fans, while visitors absorb some travel

costs, he said.

"Just being invited to postseason is not a dessert, I guess,

for the end of the season," Boone said. "In addition to that, the

way the NIT has been run, it would cost a team to participate in

it. If you feel like you've accomplished less than you wanted to

and you have to pay more to go to it, I would have to have some

compelling reason why I would want our teams to go to the NIT."

Teams no longer have to have .500 records to be selected for the

40-team NIT.

The Rebels (14-11, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) entered

Wednesday night's game at Kentucky having lost eight of nine.

Ole Miss started this season 13-3 for the first time since

2001-02 - which was the last time the Rebels reached the NCAA

tournament - and during that hot start won seven straight games and

began SEC play 3-0.

Ole Miss followed that spurt with a seven-game losing streak

which ended last week with a 73-70 victory over Arkansas. The

Rebels followed that win by losing 84-55 at rival Mississippi


The 40-year-old Barnes is 141-104 in his eighth season at his

alma mater. He made the NCAA tournament in three of his first four

seasons but missed the postseason with losing records in each of

the last three years.

The Rebels finished last season 13-16. The day before the 2005

SEC tournament began, Ole Miss announced that Barnes had agreed to

the new contract.