Unraveling Marvin ‘Bad News’ Barnes’ Troubles with the Pistons.

Bad News Barnes
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If there is one thing I can say about the 23-24 Detroit Pistons this season, There’s been no legitimate infighting amid this historically bad season. The only thing I could see as disruptive from any player from the Pistons is Jaden Ivey wanting more playing time and being a competitor; I’m not even mad at that. Shoutout to Monty Williams for keeping the players on the team focused on the task at hand and not being a distraction.

It’s pretty easy to keep players in line when you have players with good character values, but what happens when you come across a player who can’t seem to get out of his way? While the 76-77 Detroit Pistons were pretty good, going 44-38, it is considered one of the most dysfunctional teams in Pistons’ history. A lot of that goes on the shoulder of Marvin “Bad News” Barnes. In this week’s editorial, we look at the tenure of “Bad News” Barnes in Detroit.

The Early Years.

“Bad News” Barnes was a highly coveted prospect out of Central High School in Rhode Island, but the trouble he got in school almost cost him an opportunity high school kids would want. He was a part of a gang that tried to rob a school bus! He was identified as a suspect in the robbery because he wore his state championship jacket with his name embroidered on it. The case was handled through the juvenile system, and despite that, He attended Providence University.

His Years At Providence University.

Barnes spent three years at the University of Providence, averaging 20.7 PTS, 17.9 REBS, and 2.7 AST. The Friars went 77-14 in Barnes’s three seasons on the team. During his sophomore season, Barnes was the first player to go 10/10 from the field. This record was held for thirteen years until Kenny “Sky” Walker went 11/11 from the field in an NCAA tournament game 1986. In his senior season at the school, Barnes led the nation in rebounding with an average of 18.7 rebounds. Barnes holds the school single-game scoring record with MarShon Brooks for points in a game with 52, which he achieved against Austin Peay on December 15, 1973. Despite his achievements at the university, there were some controversial incidents.

The Tire Iron Incident.

On October 19, 1972, Barnes hit his teammate Larry Ketvirtis in the face with a tire iron. The incident occurred at the beginning of the Friars’ chase for the National Championship that year and almost blinded Ketvirtis. Barnes approached Ketvirtis in the dining hall and asked him to come outside to talk to him. Then, Barnes hit him with the tire iron. Despite this vicious attack, the school did not suspend Barnes, and Ketvirtis couldn’t play during their run in 72-73.

The School and the coaches were reluctant to punish Barnes or get him the help Ketvirtis needed.

“The priest down there, when he showed up in the cafeteria, I asked him several times to call the Providence Police. He would not do it,” said Ketvirtis.

“I talked [with Coach] Gavitt. He was still around the campus that night. He would not take me to the hospital for emergency medical treatment. The old coach didn’t care if you needed medical treatment or emergency care. The whole right socket of my eye and cheekbone was smashed. [My eyeball] was dangling — I was fortunate not to lose my eyesight. It was pretty rotten,” Said Ketvirtis, who was interviewed in April 2023.

Eventually, Barnes was indicted for the incident, released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond, and granted permission to play with the team. Barnes ultimately pleaded guilty to assault and received probation for the incident. In November 1975, a federal court judge ordered Barnes to pay Ketvirtis $10,000 in damages.

The NBA vs. ABA

Barnes was courted by both the NBA and ABA coming out of college. He was selected with the second pick of the 1974 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was also chosen with the second overall pick in the ABA draft by the St.Louis Spirits. Barnes decided to go with the ABA’s St. Louis Spirits because the Spirits could offer more money than the NBA. With his playing future set, Barnes would begin his first season in St. Louis with a bang.

On the court, Barnes dominated. He averaged 24.0 PTS, 15.6 REBS, 3.2 ASTS, 1.2 STLS, and 1.8 BLKS while playing in 77 games for the Spirits. His rookie season was dominant. He was an all-star, Rookie Of The Year, ABA All-Rookie 1st team, and All-ABA 2nd team. In his second season in the ABA, Barnes averaged 24.1 PTS, 10.8 REBS, 2.2 ASTS, 1.9 STLS and 2.0 BLKS. Those numbers were enough to get him to his second consecutive all-star game. Despite “Bad News” dominance on the court, There were some questionable moments of rebellion.


  • He was late to practice once, and the coach asked him why. He said he couldn’t find his car and lost it in downtown St. Louis. The coach asked him what he drives, which was a Bentley. How many Bentleys could there be in St. Louis in the 1970s?
  • While the team was going through the pre-game warm-up, Barnes took the opportunity to pursue a young lady in the stands. Barnes was benched for the game and scored 40 points and 20 rebounds.
  • He never showed up for personal appearances. The team would have events at the boy’s, luncheons, or grand openings, and Branes never attended.
  • The team had a flight from New York to Norfolk, Virginia, but Barnes missed the team flight. He also missed the 9 am, 11 am, and 1 pm flights, so he had to charter a private jet to Virginia. 10 Minutes before the game, “Bad News” Barnes shows up wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a full-length $10,000 mink coat, and a bag of McDonald’s hamburgers and fries in his hand. And he announces, “Boys, because Game Time is on time.” He was benched that game and put up 40 points and 20 rebounds.

“The Time Machine.”

The funniest act of rebellion that “Bad News” showed had to be after the Spirits had played a game against the Kentucky Generals. The team was getting ready to fly back to St. Louis. When you look at your plane ticket, the departure and arrival times are listed according to each airport’s time zone. Louisville is on Eastern Time, while St. Louis is on Central Time. So the ticket says departing Louisville at 8:00 AM but landing in St. Louis at 7:59 AM. “Bad News,” Barnes refused to get on the plane, saying, “I ain’t gettin’ in no time machine.” He rented a car at the airport and drove home.

With the NBA and ABA getting ready to merge after the 1976 season, and neither the Kentucky Colonels nor the St. Louis Spirits being part of the merger, Barnes was prepared to bring his colorful personality onto another team.

Welcome To Detroit.

In the 1976 dispersal draft, Barnes was selected with the 4th pick by the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were going into their second year of the Dave Bing trade and were led by Bob Lanier. In addition to drafting Barnes in the dispersal draft, they also acquired M.L. Carr from St. Louis. Despite their 44-38 record, The Pistons were described as dysfunctional. The dysfunction was caused by Barnes, who was still doing what got him reprimanded by his coaches in St. Louis.

Barnes was at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport when it was discovered he had a gun in his luggage. He was arrested for the incident, which violated his probation from the incident he had in college. He was sentenced to one year in jail but would be allowed to serve his time after the season. For his transgressions on the court, Barnes would be benched by head coach Herb Brown, to which Barnes replied, “News didn’t come to sit on no wood.” He broke his hand late in the season and couldn’t play in the Pistons 2-1 series loss to the Warriors. After the season, Barnes would serve 152 days in the Cranston Correctional Institution in Rhode Island.

Downward Spiral

Barnes was traded twelve games into the 77-78 season to the Buffalo Braves, who then sent him to the Boston Celtics. Barnes played for the Boston Celtics for one season, and with Boston, Barnes admitted to cocaine use on the bench. “Yeah, I was doing it on the bench. I was playing for the Celtics, and I was sitting next to Nate Archibald and somebody else, and I was snorting cocaine right there on the bench while the game was going on. They all moved away from me. I had it under a towel. I don’t need to say that my career didn’t last much longer after that.” He would finish his career with the San Diego Clippers before going overseas to play in Italy.

Good Intentions, Bad Timing

After doing a couple more stints in prison, Barnes improved his life. He began to talk to the youth in his hometown of Providence, telling them not to make the same mistakes he did. He had also been drug-free for many years. Unfortunately, in 2014, Barnes would pass away. It was reported that he may have relapsed and died due to acute cocaine and heroin intoxication. He was sixty-two years old.

In Conclusion.

This is the downside of being a professional athlete. It’s all good when you have the money and fame, but if you don’t have a strong mind and an incredible will not to let it get to you, you could be a “Bad News” Barnes. He was a tremendous athlete and did some fantastic things on the court, but his actions showed no accountability from the people holding him accountable. When you have people who won’t speak up when you’re wrong and challenge you, You will go through life thinking you can do whatever you want. I wish he had the right people in his corner to confront him when needed, and maybe this story wouldn’t be as sad as it is.

Rest In Peace
Marvin “Bad News” Brown
July 27, 1952 – September 8, 2014

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