COLUMBIA — From 2000 to 2004, Kerensa Barr patrolled the Hearnes Center court as the point guard for the Missouri women’s basketball team. She finished a stellar playing career with a school-record 489 assists. She still ranks second in steals (242) and free-throw percentage (.812) and is in the top 20 in many other categories.
Tigers coach Cindy Stein said Barr always seemed like a personal extension of herself on the court. Proving Stein prophetic, Barr joined the MU coaching staff immediately after her playing days ended. She was a graduate assistant for the 2004-05 season and became one of Stein’s top assistant coaches the next two seasons.
Until Friday night, Barr had never been on the opposite end of the court. In her first season as an assistant coach for the Murray State Racers, it’s fitting that her first game would be in Columbia against the Tigers.
The unique situation didn’t escape Stein, who had her hands full with a talented Murray State team even without the coaching connection.
“Murray State is already a good team,” she said. “They have Kerensa Barr on their bench, and she could probably tell you every single call and where everyone was supposed to go.”
The second-guessing started before the opening tip and continued until the final whistle of the Tigers’ 73-64 win Friday.
“It was a little stressful preparing against Kerensa,” Stein said. “I mean, do you change your calls, because she knows them all? She was one of those point guards that could call the play before I did, and we would be on the same page. I would have had to be more creative, if we had gotten into close late-game situations, because she knows exactly what we want to call there. I’m glad we could pull it out.”
The relationships between the coaching staffs doesn’t end with Barr. Murray State head coach Jody Adams is one of Stein’s best friends, and Adams has Stein to thank for adding Barr to her staff.
“She (Stein) is someone I look to as my best friend and a mentor, and I knew Kerensa was coming from a great program,” Adams said. “She wants to be a head coach one day. She wants to learn a new style, to learn a new system.”
After only a few weeks as an official part of the Racers’ staff, Barr has more than made a strong impression.
“I think she’s great, the kids love her. She’s infectious,” Adams said. “They are always asking for more one-on-one time with her. She really does make us better.”
Adams is no slouch, either. She was the starting point guard for the 1991 national champion Tennessee Volunteers under legendary coach Pat Summitt and made a name for herself as an assistant coach, winning the 2003 AFLAC Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Friday’s game against Missouri was Adam’s first as a head coach, but she downplayed the difference in her job description.
“I coached no differently than I did as an associate head coach,” Adams said. “The biggest thing now is instead of relaying information to the head coach, the players are coming to the bench and looking to me. For the most part, I remain who I am.”
Even though Missouri’s victory allowed the teacher to grab the first punch line from her star pupils, Stein and Adams joked back and forth on the way out of the interview room. But Stein’s smile was just a little bigger.