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Ole Miss: Barnes won't return as coach next season

JACKSON, Miss. -- Rod Barnes will not return as men's
basketball coach at Mississippi next season.

Athletic director Pete Boone said Friday that Barnes will finish
this season with the Rebels, but wouldn't specify whether the coach
resigned or was being fired.

A school spokesman said Barnes was traveling with his team for
its regular-season finale at No. 21 LSU on Saturday and would have
no immediate comment.

"He won't be our coach next year," Boone told The Associated
Press. "I'm not sure how all of that works out, the terminology of
that. I just don't know. We hadn't spent a whole lot of time
talking about that."

The school announced the coaching change a day after the
decision was made, Boone said. The athletic director said he met
with university chancellor Robert Khayat to discuss the Rebels'
disappointing season.

Ole Miss (14-14, 4-11 Southeastern Conference) has lost four
straight games and 11 of 12 since a 13-3 start -- its best since
2001-02, the last time the Rebels reached the NCAA Tournament.

"We were kind of hoping things would work out until the end,
and they just didn't," Boone said.

The Rebels have won five or fewer SEC games in each of the past
four seasons.

Barnes is 141-107 in eight seasons coaching his alma mater. He
led the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament in three of his first four
seasons, including an appearance in the round of 16 in 2001. But
the Rebels have had three consecutive losing seasons since 2002.

The former all-SEC guard, a 1988 Ole Miss graduate, is four
victories behind B.L. "Country" Graham on the school's career
wins list.

The announcement of Barnes' departure came almost exactly one
year after he agreed to a four-year contract extension worth a
reported $600,000 each year through the 2008-09 season.

Barnes' future was the subject of speculation for much of the
past two months. Boone told the AP last week that he planned to
evaluate the program at the end of the season.

"When you come to a decision and all parties concerned, it's
best to go ahead and talk with whoever you need to talk to and make
that decision," Boone said. "Why not try to keep it quiet? ...
Nothing's ever quiet. Any time a final decision is made on
anything, if it's going to be public knowledge, try to get it
out."

Boone said the search for a replacement was "not far along at
all."

"Fans, being what they are, sent names and stuff in, but we're
not even focused on that right now," Boone said. "When the
season's going good, or bad, there are always coaches that you're
watching, because you never know. But I wouldn't want that to be an
indication we're doing that this season. ADs always do that."