"I came to RCC in August of 1965. During my first academic year, I was not eligible to play on the basketball team, because I was from out of state. In those days, community colleges encouraged local athletes to participate. After I year, I became eligible to play basketball. My first year at RCC was Coach Tarkanian’s last year at RCC. He left RCC and took the same position at Pasadena City College. I watched several of their games, and I went to Bakersfield for the state championship.
Coach never knew who I was, because I was not eligible. In the fall of ’66, I went down to Wheelock Gym in the morning and introduced myself to Coach Mulligan. I told him that I had been in school last year and that I had played high school basketball in Indiana. I told him that I loved to play, and that I had requested my high school coach Mark Hammel to write him a letter about my having played for him.
I went to try-outs that afternoon in Huntley Gym. Wheelock was undergoing construction. I was the last person added to a team, and we scrimmaged for about an hour and a half. Coach let about 15 guys go in, and for the last half hour of practice the rest of us continued to scrimmage. I learned, later, those 15 guys had been playing summer league basketball for Coach Mulligan. With that knowledge, I thought Coach already had selected his team.
I was leaving the gym, and I was not planning on going back, when I heard Coach Mulligan say, “Hey Barnes come here”. When I approached him he said this to me, “We can use you”. Obviously I didn’t quit, because I became the starting point guard for the next two years.
After I finished playing at RCC, I received a basketball scholarship to UC Irvine. My wife, Becky, and I went back home to Indiana for a short vacation before we moved into married student housing at Irvine. I saw my old high school basketball coach. Coach Hammel told me this story. I don’t know when Coach Mulligan wrote the letter, but he wrote Coach Hammel and he said, “Send me all the Mike Barnes’s you’ve got”.
I never knew Coach Mulligan had written to my high school basketball coach. I never talked with Coach Mulligan about that letter, but I was really grateful that he said what he said. Coach Mulligan made a huge difference in the rest of my life. He was the best coach that I ever played for. I learned an incredible amount of basketball, and I applied a lot of what he taught me. Finally, in every job I ever applied for, he was instrumental in my being hired.
I apologize for rambling on, but this college and Coach Mulligan gave me opportunities I never had out of high school. I was the first and only member of my family to go to college and graduate. I remember everything that I just told you like it was yesterday."
Mike (Coach) Barnes
Riverside City College Alumni and Faculty Member