Adia Barnes went to Twitter this morning explaining what ESPN cameras caught live when she was talking with her players just moments after their spirited performance against UConn on Friday night.
Barnes was shown in a team huddle animated about their dominating performance against the Huskies in a 69-59 victory in the Final Four game at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
She expressed to her team that those who don’t believe in her team can go, you know, do something with themselves, and she showed a hand gesture. Her team swarmed around her in spirited jubilation when she finished her talk.
She has voiced her displeasure of the NCAA omitting her team from a promotional video on Thursday, a day before the Final Four, showing only the other participants — UConn, Stanford and South Carolina.
The Wildcats were also a 13.5-point underdog to UConn, which was 28-1, on an 18-game winning streak and was in its 13th straight Final Four while Arizona was in its first trip that far.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports posted a Tweet that showed Barnes’ speech to her players and mentioned rightfully, “Shame on anybody who tries to make Adia Barnes apologize for telling the skeptics to F themselves. That’s a great moment.”
Shame on anybody who tries to make Adia Barnes apologize for telling the skeptics to F themselves. That’s a great moment. pic.twitter.com/qNq1vkGPHC
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) April 3, 2021
Barnes responded to Parrish’s tweet by writing, “I was so pumped up it was the heat of the moment and it was supposed to be a private moment with my team! I told them WE BELIEVED IN US! FORGET EVERYONE THAT DIDN’T, I WILL GO TO WAR WITH U ANYTIME ANY PLACE!! Not the best look but I was loving on my team.”
😂I was so pumped up it was the heat of the moment and it was supposed to be a private moment with my team! I told them WE BELIEVED IN US!FORGET🤪EVERYONE THAT DIDN’T, I WILL GO TO WAR WITH U ANYTIME ANY PLACE!! Not the best look but I was loving on my team. 😊 https://t.co/hLsxvIFWKq
— ADIA BARNES COPPA 🐻⬇️🌵👨👨👧👦❤️💙 (@AdiaBarnes) April 3, 2021
Barnes offered her explanation and it shows her transparency to not hide from anything.
If Barnes did not have that what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality, Arizona would not be in the Final Four.
Those who know her the most have experience with her driven personality and how she channels that passion in a way that is positively infectious.
“When she played, she was a beast,” former teammate Felecity Willis told me. “She was an undersized post player. She didn’t care who she was going up against. She would get excited.
“One of my main memories of her always was that she wore a mouthpiece. She had braces. Every time she got excited and she took the mouthpiece out, she had saliva everywhere. That’s just how it was. She would get excited. She was a player you don’t want to mess with.”
Arizona with “The Dog” Aari McDonald (as she calls herself) is not one to be messed with either.
McDonald is not carrying Arizona on her back although she has clearly been the focal point with 90 points in Arizona’s double-digit wins over Texas A&M, Indiana and UConn in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four.
The fifth-year senior All-American who should be the nation’s player of the year — an honor that was bestowed on a freshman, UConn’s Paige Bueckers — has instead led a charge with her teammates standing shoulder to shoulder with her.
🗣WE ARE HERE pic.twitter.com/FbN9ke3uzN
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) April 3, 2021
USA Today’s Lindsay Schnell asked McDonald if Barnes said, “F— the NCAA!” in that huddle. That drew a laugh from McDonald. Barnes could be heard in the background saying, “No.”
Barnes later addressed that subject in the press conference commenting about the disrespect Arizona has received along its journey in the postseason, its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 16 years.
“We’re in unchartered territory, so I get the whole thing,” she said, “but initially, we weren’t mentioned when they were talking about our region (during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on ESPN), that was the first thing. Those things are motivating.
“The second thing, we were going to play Texas A&M, we were barely in the highlight video. So it was already them. Everybody thought Texas A&M. And then you fast forward, the next thing was the highlight video (Thursday). We weren’t in it, there were three teams.”
Barnes added the slight by the NCAA was “motivating” but also acknowledged, “it means nothing.”
“We don’t care. We believe in each other. We believe in what we do and that’s just motivating,” Barnes said. “I’m like, ‘Okay, show them, be on the next video.’ So it doesn’t matter. It just motivates us and I love it. I love it. I’ve been an underdog all my life. I’ve been too small to do this or too inexperienced to do that.
“We prove it wrong every time so I don’t care. It just motivates me and my team.”
Aari McDonald just told the national media, “My name is Air-ee not Arr-ee.”
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) April 3, 2021
It is inspiring to see Barnes being true to her team on such a fierce, competitive stage as the Final Four.
That fight is leaving an indelible mark on her players. The sign of a great coach is the passion and characteristic shown in how her team plays.
Arizona is showing that moxie in its dynamic run, and the nation is becoming enamored by it.
“I don’t feel like I need to apologize. It’s what I felt with my team at the moment. And I wouldn’t take it back,” Barnes said Saturday morning in a Zoom press conference. “We’ve gone to war together. We look around the room and we looked around the circle, we believe in each other. So I’m in those moments. And that’s how I am, so I don’t apologize for doing that. I’m just me and I have to just be me.”
I would love my 16-year-old daughter, who is already strong-minded, to have at least one hour with Barnes to open her eyes more to how a winner handles her business.
Imagine the benefit Barnes’ players have being around her hours throughout the day.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.