Fall 2022

Coach Rick Barnes sends daily prayer to ESPN's Dick Vitale: 'God is using him in a great way'

Sunday morning, following his team’s 52-51 loss to Texas on Saturday, Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes did what he does every day: send a prayer to legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale.

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Vitale — who is battling multiple health issues, including lymphoma, and taking the remainder of the season off to rest — shared the prayer Barnes sent him in a tweet. Mentioned in the prayer were Bible verses Matthew 19:26, Psalm 91:1 and Psalm 46:1.

“Lord, we know that Dick has been through a lot,” the message said in part. “Praying, Father, for You to give him rest for his mind, body, and spirit from the fatigue he is facing. We pray for needed strength. Things sometimes in life feel impossible, but God, Your Word says that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26).”

Speaking to the media Monday, Barnes discussed the prayers and his relationship with Vitale.

“His involvement and what he’s done for cancer is remarkable,” Barnes said, via WBIR. “He’s impacted so many lives. I think God is using him in a great way.”

While the gesture is obviously intended to offer love and support to Vitale, Barnes acknowledged he is benefitting from his selfless act too.

“I really have great admiration for Dick,” he said. “He’s a fighter right now. He’s fighting a battle he has fought for so many people and like I said, he’s been an inspiration to a lot of people. Our conversations as of late have impacted me as of late as much as they’ve impacted him.”

Saturday’s game was an emotional one for Barnes, who spent 17 seasons as the head coach at Texas and led the Longhorns to the Final Four in 2003. He made the NCAA Tournament in all but one of his seasons in Austin.

The school released a tribute video on social media before the game.

The 67-year-old took over the Tennessee program prior to the 2015-16 season and won a share of the SEC regular-season title two years later, the Volunteers’ first since 2008. Tennessee went 31-6 the following season and reached the No. 1 spot in the AP poll, something that also hadn’t happened since the 2007-08 season.

Barnes joined Sports Spectrum’s “Table Forty” podcast last April to discuss his faith journey and coaching career. He credited people pouring into his life and praying for him with helping bring him back closer to God.

“I’m just thankful that God, you know, He won’t let go of you,” Barnes said. “I don’t think there’s any question He had me when I was young, but I let the world take me down a road and roads that I shouldn’t have gone. But I believe that once He gets a hold of you, He won’t let you go. I think He has great plans to help me become more and more like Him every day.”

The Hickory, North Carolina, native openly shares about his faith and looks for opportunities to put it into practice.

“We’ve got to walk it more than talk it,” he said on the podcast. “I’d like to think we can do both of them.”

Barnes has Tennessee in position for another NCAA Tournament appearance with just more than a month left in the regular season. The Volunteers are 14-6 overall (5-3 in the SEC) with signature wins over LSU and Arizona.

Tennessee has not fallen out of the rankings all season and came in at No. 22 in Monday’s AP poll. The Volunteers host Texas A&M on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.

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