I know he’ll never forgive me for writing this column about him, but I couldn’t in good conscience just pass on the fact that Kevin Barnes is entering his 24th season as Anamosa High School’s varsity boys basketball coach.
Students, teachers and community members come and go over the years, so there might even be quite a few of you who didn’t know that we actually have an Iowa High School coaching icon right here in our own community.
Barnes would vehemently disagree with that statement, but I’ve always thought it to be true. As do many of his coaching colleagues around the state and all over the Midwest.
Just stop and think about that for a minute. 24 years at the same school and with the same program. Nearly a quarter-century of dedication to the kids, the school and this community is something extremely special, and incredibly rare in this day and age where often times coaches jump from one school to another (or get out of the profession entirely) for a myriad of reasons.
Being that Coach Barnes and I arrived in Anamosa at pretty much the exact same time (fall of 1995), I think I’m a pretty good reference to cover some of the highlights of his brilliant basketball coaching career, and there are a number that pop to mind over the years too.
But there’s one that I want to mention here that I think speaks volumes to Barnes’ coaching acumen and how he always has his teams ready for any situation (honestly, I could fill this sports section with all the highlights over the years).
For starters, Barnes hasn’t limited his talents to just high school boys basketball. He’s also spent time as the Blue Raiders’ varsity baseball coach (in the late 2000’s) as well as spending numerous years as a member of the Anamosa football staff (mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s), at various levels and positions from fr/so-to-varsity. He was also a longtime middle school track and field coach.
So, lets to the math here. Barnes has coached sports in the fall, winter, spring and summer during what will be his now 27-year career at Anamosa High School (Barnes did take a three-year hiatus from coaching boys basketball from 2008-2011). Another very rare accomplishment among the coaching community.
But let’s get to that all-time classic moment, it's one I've told several times before, and bears mention again here. And it started pretty early into Barnes’ tenure here.
During a memorable 1997-98 campaign, the Raiders were blessed with a huge influx of talent, including seniors Dan Achenbach (yes, Mr. Achenbach’s son), Mike Truesdell, Cory Capron, Matt Rohwedder and James Conmey, as well as juniors Scott Nemmers and Bret McNamara.
The Raiders, who finished third in an absolutely loaded Big Bend Conference (a dissolved league that no longer exists) race that winter, entered the class 3A district playoffs hosting Marion in the semi-final round. Keyed by an outstanding defensive effort (a hallmark of Barnes’ teams over the years) Anamosa posted a 41-37 victory and advanced to the district championship game at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School against top-ranked Cedar Rapids Prairie.
The Hawks, who had played the Raiders earlier that season (second game of the year actually) and had rolled to a lopsided 43-point (111-68) victory, I’m sure came into the playoff contest thinking they’d see an Anamosa team similar to the one they had played three months earlier.
They were wrong.
The Raiders stayed right with Cedar Rapids Prairie all game long (starting on a 6-0 run serving notice that this game would not be like the other), and as each minute ticked off the clock, the Hawks were becoming more and more frustrated as they weren’t only able to gain some separation, but at times actually trailed.
In the fourth, Anamosa took advantage taking a three-point lead with mere seconds remaining.
Those proved to be fateful seconds for Raider fans however.
With the Raiders leading 55-52 and about 10-seconds remaining in the game, Cedar Rapids Prairie senior Josh Kimm, who would go on to be named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball and was without question the best 3-point shooter in the state, got a contested look from beyond the arc.
As Anamosa fans were beginning to celebrate the enormous upset in the jam-packed stands, incredibly the shot ricocheted right back to Kimm at the arc (a one-in-a-million opportunity), and his second-chance try splashed through the net with five-seconds remaining.
The Raiders however, still had time.
And Barnes drew up a phenomenal play that his team ran to absolute perfection.
Capron, the in-bounds man, delivered a perfect pass to Achenbach who was racing up the floor and once received he found Truesdell near the basket for a game-winning shot attempt.
If only it could have been ended that way.
Prairie’s Gary Mackey broke Anamosa hearts however and blocked the shot at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
The Hawks controlled extra session winning 63-59, and then went on to win the substate final and eventually the state championship with no other team coming within 20-points of them.
Yes, the game was a loss, and one that still hurts deep to this day. But with the way the Anamosa boys played, and how Barnes had his team ready for the biggest sports moment of their sports lives, still resonates with me.
Barnes and the Raiders just missed making the state tournament that year, and of course he and his longtime assistants Carl Achenbach and Dennis Haefner would break through in 2016 with the greatest run the program has ever seen reaching the class 2A state tournament semi-finals before running into a tall and talented Western Christian team (who went on to win the 2A title that year) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
I know his 2021-22 version is going to be extremely entertaining to watch this winter too, just like the other 23 Raider boys’ basketball team’s he’s coached.
How do I know that? History. Which is what Barnes makes with every win as the program’s all-time winningest coach.
Thank you, Coach Barnes, for all you do. To me you’re about as good as it gets. And I know a lot of people who whole-heartedly agree with me.