KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes is hoping to keep strong ties to North Carolina in place by adding a former Tobacco Road player to his staff.
Barnes announced Monday that veteran assistant coach Justin Gainey has joined the Volunteers’ staff. Gainey boasts 15 years of Division I coaching and administrative experience in the ACC, Pac-12, Big East, and beyond.
“I coached against Justin when he was the point guard at NC State,” Barnes said. “He was an incredibly tough competitor then, and he has that same tenacity now as a coach. Justin has a passion for on-court player development that fits well with our staff. Our players are going to love working with him to grow their game.
He’s proven that he can recruit effectively nationwide, and we’re particularly excited about his ability to maintain our strong ties throughout the state of North Carolina.”
A standout college point guard, Gainey played four seasons at NC State from 1996-2000. The Wolfpack program earned postseason appearances all four years. Gainey was elected team captain as a senior in 1999-2000 and led that squad to the NIT semifinals.
At the conclusion of his playing career at NC State, Gainey ranked second in program history in starts (103), fourth in steals (190), tied for fifth in games played (128), and ninth in assists (344).
He earned ACC All-Tournament Team honors as a freshman in 1997. And in the quarterfinals of his last ACC Tournament, Gainey recorded nine steals during a win over Virginia (March 10, 2000) — the mark still stands as the second-most steals in a game by a Wolfpack player.
The Vols have had a steady pipeline of talent with ties to the Tar Heel State since Barnes took over the program before the start of the 2016 season. John Fulkerson is a Johnson City, Tennessee, native. However, he graduated from The Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, and was selected as the Carolinas Athletic Association 2016 Player of the Year.
Jaden Springer is a Charlotte, N.C., native, as was standout Grant Williams. Jalen Johnson is from Durham.
On the current roster sophomore Kent Gilbert hails from Greenville, North Carolina.
Immediately prior to coming to Tennessee, Gainey spent the 2020-21 season as the associate head coach at Marquette. It was his second stint on Steve Wojciechowski’s staff, as he also worked with the Golden Eagles from 2014-17.
In between his stints in Milwaukee, Gainey was an assistant coach at Santa Clara in 2017-18 and Arizona from 2018-20. During his time at Arizona, he assisted in the recruitment and development of 2020 NBA Draft picks Josh Green, Zeke Nnaji, and Nico Mannion.
The Wildcats led the Pac 12 in scoring in 2019-20 and owned the league’s third-best scoring defense. Nnaji and Mannion earned first- and second-team All-Pac-12 honors, respectively, that season, while Nnaji also earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year acclaim.
At Santa Clara — where Gainey joined the staff of his head coach in college, Herb Sendek — Gainey worked closely with the Broncos’ perimeter players, including first-team All-West Coast Conference performer K.J. Feagin. Gainey also was instrumental in assembling a 2018 signing class rated among the 10 best mid-major classes in the country.
From 2010-14, Gainey spent four years on Jason Capel’s staff at Appalachian State, immediately preceded by one season at Elon — his first in an on-court coaching role — in 2009-10.
In 1998, Greensboro (N.C.) Day School, where Gainey earned NCISAA Player of the Year honors in 1995 and 1996, retired Gainey’s jersey. Gainey received his degree in business administration, with a concentration in marketing, in 2000 and earned a master’s degree in sport management in 2006 —both degrees are from NC State. He and his wife, Courtney, have three sons, Jordan, Jayson, and Jaxson.