When Unity Reed needed a temporary head boys basketball coach this season, Jeremy Barnes checked all the boxes. He graduated from the school in 1997 and was the longest-serving member on the program’s current coaching staff.
Barnes stepped in after long-time head coach Marcus Lawrence opted out this season with concerns over COVID-19. Lawrence, who has led Unity Reed for 20 seasons, recommended Barnes fill the opening, and Unity Reed activities director Kevin Turner agreed.
“He’s more than capable,” Turner said.
Barnes said he had no idea Lawrence was planning to take the season off until Lawrence called him one day and informed him of his decision.
“I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I will represent the program well,” Barnes said.
Barnes said the biggest switch from assistant to head coach is the administrative duties, especially with the school changing its name from Stonewall Jackson to Unity Reed over the summer. The team is still waiting for one more batch of new jerseys to complement what they already have.
“In a couple of huddles, I find myself saying ‘Raiders on three,’” Barnes said. “But the name change is good. It’s a fresh start for here and the community.”
With only one starter returning after Lorenzo Nichols transferred to Virginia Academy, the Lions are young this season. But the players embraced his promotion when Barnes told them about the change.
“I said that I was running the program this year and we are going to have a different energy,” Barnes said. “They responded, ‘We’re ready, coach, let’s go.’”
Barnes looks forward to having the chance to become a head coach, something he’s aspired to for a while.
Barnes led Stonewall in scoring his senior season, averaging 17.5 points a game before heading to Montgomery College-Takoma Park for two seasons and then finishing up at Panhandle State University in Oklahoma.
Barnes joined Unity Reed as an assistant starting with the 2005-06 season. He worked with the freshman team before becoming the head junior varsity coach the following year. Last year was Barnes’ first on the varsity staff. Barnes works full time for the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative and helps run a program that assists high school athletes in the recruiting process.
“I’m absolutely excited for this opportunity to be a head coach at home,” Barnes said.