By Paul McKinney
Chucktown Chatter (twitter @chucktownchat)
The home of Bobby and Evelyn Barnes’ was filled with excitement in 1990. Seventeen-year-old Natasha, the youngest of three children, received many phone calls from various college basketball teams across the country. Natasha made an instant connection with University of Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma, during his home visit and she verbally committed to play there the following season. However, in October of that same year tragedy struck Natasha in a scrimmage game at Wilson High School, where she came down on a dead spot in the floor and tore her ACL.
Natasha Barnes grew up in Silver Springs, MD in the Metro-DC area. The Barnes are a strong family with large personalities and competitive drive. Natasha grew up playing on the playgrounds with the neighborhood boys. Always the protector, Mr. Barnes joined to watch over his little girl while she played.
“I got hurt a lot. I cried a lot. But daddy was always there,” Natasha said.
It was on these same courts that she played with her classmate and future husband Aaron.
“We both played,” Natasha said.” I even stuffed him a few times!”
Natasha describes her mother Evelyn as the rock of the family: always kind, loving, and supportive with a feisty side. Evelyn was key to the Barnes’ family dynamic.
“She is the foundation for everything for everybody.” Natasha said about her mother.
In addition to playing basketball on the playgrounds, Natasha also was a high school track star. She ran the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays. Natasha led her team to the state championship and the Penn Relays Invitational Track Meet. Moreover, she still holds many track records at her alma mater Albert Einstein High School.
The first time Natasha picked up a basketball for her high school she was 15 years old.
“I loved the adrenaline,” Natasha said.
From that day on, she decided basketball was for her. “I’m sure my track coach is still mad at me,” Natasha said laughing.
Natasha went on to be named high school USA All-American in basketball.
Following the injury, the phone at the Barnes’ home stopped ringing. The family sought medical attention and were advised by doctors that there was little chance of recovery. Medical treatment for ACL tears in the early 90′s was largely unsuccessful and athletes rarely ever returned to play. After her injury, Natasha received a call from Coach Auriemma. She described him as feeling horrible for what had happened but explained he could not reserve a spot on the team’s roster for a player who would never play basketball again.
“That changed everything,” Natasha said. The Barnes’ home received one more call from the University of South Florida Coach, Trudi Lacey. South Florida had always been in the hunt for Natasha and that did not waiver when news of the injury reached Lacy. When Coach Lacey called the Barnes family she introduced a plan for Natasha to go to Pensacola, FL to receive treatment for her knee. Following the treatment, she could play at Pensacola Junior College and if all went well, transfer to South Florida.
Natasha went to Pensacola and grew up fast. She worked hard and played the following season, and led her team in rebounding for the next two years. Pensacola also won the next two state championships. Lacey monitored her progression at Pensacola and after two years, Natasha transferred to the University of South Florida.
She had continued success at South Florida when tragedy struck again. This time it was a family member in help.
Natasha received a call from home. Her mother, Evelyn, was suffering from severe headaches that would wake her in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the doctor was unable to diagnose the cause of her chronic headaches. Evelyn refused to leave the hospital until the doctor discovered what was wrong. After further investigation, an aneurysm was discovered in her brain and she was immediately scheduled for surgery.
Natasha returned home to serve as the foundation her mother had always been to her. Although Evelyn’s surgery was scheduled to last four hours, during the procedure a second aneurysm was discovered which made the surgery last a total of eight hours.
“It was a miracle that the aneurysm was found,” Natasha said.
As her mother recovered, Natasha returned to South Florida to dominate the backboards. She graduated South Florida with a Bachelors in Communication. Natasha maintains the single season rebounding record.
Following her playing career, Natasha went on to be an assistant coach at Georgetown and Wake Forest for a total of 14 years. On March 27, 2012, she was introduced as College of Charleston’s new women’s head basketball coach.
Natasha now finds herself in a unique situation. She is a first time head coach in a new city with her husband and children still living and attending school in North Carolina. Natasha expressed that it is her goal to be a foundation for her son and daughter as she tries to model her own mother’s strength.
“She’s feisty. She’s a fighter, and she’s grounded by her faith”, Natasha said. “There’s nothing that stops her”. I can only hope to be as good as she is one day.”
Natasha says that the balance between being a head coach and a mother could not be possible without the help of her high school sweetheart, Aaron Adair. Aaron, who balances owning two restaurants in North Carolina and running the house, provides the opportunity for the children to stay in their current schools.
With a grin on her face Natasha said, “My husband knows how to do pony tails. He doesn’t mind taking the kids to the doctor. He doesn’t mind doing those things that were once for traditional for women.”
The Adairs may not be your traditional family; however, the children are very supportive of their mother. Natasha says her son and daughter are comfortable with traveling and that they think it is pretty cool. Her oldest son, Aaron Michael, is now 15 years-old. He is a 6’4″ left that plays on his high school basketball team. He enjoys bragging to his female classmates that he has two homes, one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina.
Her seven-year-old daughter, Allyssa Michelle, enjoys watching her mother on television.
Despite the long distance, the Adairs are show Natasha a lot of family support. By working together as a family, the Adairs believe that they are teaching their children how important it is to follow your dreams.
Natasha coached her first game on November 9, 2012 in front of the home crowd. Her biggest fans, her husband, children, parents, and sister, were all there to support her. Evelyn, was recognized before the game started. The Barnes and Adairs watched as Natasha led the Cougars to a 56-38 victory over Coastal Carolina. The next day the two families happily celebrated Evelyn’s 71st birthday.