- CAMPUS LIFE
Rick Barnes has transformed Texas basketball, that is for sure.
Fourteen straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 13 straight 20 win seasons. Texas' first Final Four in almost 60 years (2003). All in all, three of the school's seven Elite Eight appearances have occurred under Coach Barnes. Five of the school's 13 Sweet Sixteen appearances, and he is the winningest coach in Longhorn Basketball history.
has transformed IS Texas basketball, that is for sure. I will not deny his accomplishments. But Barnes is no longer the right guy for the 'Horns, and he will not elevate the program any further than it is. And after falling to Division Two Chaminade 86-73 (and it wasn't even that close) it is clear how much the program has fallen since January 2010.
January 18th, 2010: Texas vs. Kansas State
I believed Barnes was a great coach. Texas was #1 in the nation at 17-0 and had cruised past almost everyone on the schedule.
But the 'Horns shot 9-of-22 from the free throw line in this contest (poor free throw shooting has been a staple of Rick Barnes coached Texas teams with the team only shooting about 70% once the past five seasons) en route to a 71-62 loss. It was here that Barnes seemed to lose control of his team. Texas fell later in the week at Connecticut and would only win consecutive games one time the rest of the season.
The free throw shooting got so bad, that in a 80-71 loss at Oklahoma, the 'Horns shot 10-of-27 (yes you read that right) from the “charity” stripe. Luckily, the 'Horns made the trip to New Orleans for round one of the NCAA Tournament against Wake Forest. Texas took a commanding 76-68 lead just two minutes into overtime. Texas fans all over were already planning for the match-up against Kentucky, and apparently the ‘Horns were as well. This is when Barnes’ lack of ability to coach late game situations reared its ugly head.
Texas led 80-74 when Damion James fouled out for the last time in his collegiate career. Wake hit both free throws, but trailed by four with 28 seconds to go in the ball game. They then hit a three pointer but trailed 80-79 with 15 seconds to go in the game. What happens next? The ball is inbounded to J'Covan Brown who is trapped, but instead of waiting for the foul he inexplicably passes the ball up ahead to Gary Johnson who was then fouled. Brown was an 88% foul shooter that season and gave the ball up to a 69% shooter. At this point the gut feeling of most was that Johnson would miss both shots, and he did just that. Wake smothered the rebound and got the ball to Ish Smith who sunk the game winner with less than two seconds to go in the game.
And like that, the team that had climbed to #1 in the rankings, and was considered the most talented team of Barnes’ tenure ended its season without so much as a whimper in the tournament.
The loss ensured that Texas would not salvage a disappointing season. Barnes had finish his season with what some would contend was the worst half season of coaching in College Basketball history.
After the disappointment that the 2009-2010 season turned out to be, many were skeptical of the 2010-2011 squad. The 'Horns struggled early, having to replace NBA Draft Picks Avery Bradley, Damion James, and Dexter Pittman en route to a last second loss to Pittsburgh and a rout by USC. Texas was able to turn the corner soon afterwards though, and collected big time road victories over North Carolina and Michigan State.
The 'Horns were set to face the undefeated (and eventual National Champions) Connecticut Huskies at the Erwin Center. Texas played the Huskies tight, falling 81-80 in overtime due to Kemba Walker's last second circus shot. Texas was 12-3 heading into conference play and opened up with three consecutive blowout wins including an 81-60 stomping of #11 Texas A&M in Austin.
Texas entered Lawrence, Kansas to take on the 18-0 Jayhawks and quickly found themselves trailing 18-3. Through an amazing performance by J'Covan Brown, Texas found a way to pull off a 74-63 victory and snap Kansas' 69 game home winning streak. The Longhorns were cruising having won 10 of 11 conference games by a margin of 10 or more points. But that is when disaster struck in Lincoln.
Texas was poised to take the #1 ranking after losses by the then #1 and #2 but fell 70-67 and proceeded to lose three of their last four.
Memories of 2009-2010 were running rampant in the minds of Texas fans, though Texas avoided the total and utter implosion like that of the season before. Texas closed out the season with a win at Baylor and won two games in the Big 12 Tournament before taking on Kansas in the Championship.
Texas fell 85-73, proving the earlier victory to just be a result of the usual peak early problems Barnes coached teams have experienced lately.
In the NCAA tournament, Texas scraped by Oakland in the first round, setting up a meeting with Arizona.
This was a game Arizona dominated from the beginning.
Texas had no answer for Derrick Williams. And thanks to Tristan Thompson's foul trouble, Texas struggled to get stops on the defensive end of the floor. Texas made some adjustments at the half as the ‘Horns rode J'Covan Brown all the way to a 69-67 lead with a half minute to go in the game.
Texas made a strong defensive stand resulting in a Jordan Hamilton rebound with less than 15 seconds to go in the game, sending Texas fans into a Sweet Sixteen state of mind. But a timeout was inexplicably called following a Hamilton rebound, despite him being a 78% free throw shooter for the season.
With Texas forced to inbound the ball, Cory Joseph was unable pass it in or call a time out in the four and a half seconds the ref gave him.
With ball in Arizona’s possession, the team scored via its best player ( Williams) hitting a miracle shot. However, the game was not just tied at 69, Williams got a chance for a three point play because he was fouled on the shot. Williams hit the shot which gave the Wildcats a 70-69 lead with just under 10 seconds to go in the game.
Yet again, the pitfalls of Rick Barnes coaching showed.
Texas inbounded the ball, but took way too long to get the ball in the front court to shoot a potential game winning shot. This forced Brown to take a desperation attempt at the basket that he missed. This also didn’t give senior forward Johnson enough time to get a rebound and try another shot to potentially win the game. The horn (no pun intended) sounded and sent Texas home before the second weekend for the fourth time in five years.
Can't win when it counts:
With coach Barnes, the 'Horns have won some huge regular season ball games. In 2007, they won at #1 UCLA 63-61. In 2008 they defeated Villanova. In 2011 they knocked off Kansas in Lawrence. But ultimately the wins have been for nothing, just a result of a talented squad peaking early. Sure, Texas has made the NCAA Tournament thanks to said wins, but once they got there they have squandered the opportunity.
In fact following the loss in the first weekend of the 2012 Tournament, Texas has now failed to reach the second weekend in six of the last eight seasons. During this time Texas has compiled a record of 9-8 while losing to lower seeds five of the eight years. Against higher seeds you may ask, the record is 0-3. Over this stretch, Barnes has had 11 players drafted for an average of .82 tournament games won per NBA draft pick.
And Texas hasn't been putting itself in positions to win an NCAA title since 2008.In consecutive seasons the Longhorns had three players drafted by NBA teams, and managed only a 1-2 record in the tourney during this span. The Longhorns have been plagued by potential championship pieces leaving at the wrong time, though that can be seen as a product of Barnes' NBA first mentality as a coach.
“We would love to win a national championship, but we’re not obsessed with it because we’re obsessed with these guys trying to live their NBA dream. What’s happened to Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford – I’d give up a national title for all our guys to be able to live their dream.”
Last season was abysmal. With Texas following the definition of mediocrity in the conference, finishing 9-9 and in 6th place out of 10 teams. The 'Horns made the NCAA Tournament thanks to being Texas, but it doesn’t look like they will be so lucky this season.
The 'Horns are still without Myck Kabongo, and look like a below .500 squad without his presence. Texas could easily fall against USC later today. And if they play like they did Monday night, they’ll sink to 2-3 overall when leaving Maui. If this happens, sources will be all over the place about Barnes being on the hot seat.
Coach Barnes simply does not meet the standard that a coach at Texas should achieve at a constant basis, much less that he should be a top 10 paid coach in college basketball. In 2011, Barnes ranked eighth overall, somehow ahead of Roy Williams, Ben Howland and Jim Boeheim despite them being at traditional basketball powerhouses of North Carolina, UCLA, and Syracuse respectively.
Of the coaches on the list, Barnes' accomplishments seem miniscule, even comparing them with the accomplishments of Thad Matta and Billy Donovan who are also at “Football” schools. Matta has been to two Final Fours (Runners-up in 2007) and two more Sweet Sixteens in eight seasons with the Buckeyes.
Donovan has won two national titles, been the NCAA Runner-up and won two Elite Eights in 15 seasons with the Gators. Matta has won the Big 10 five times while Donovan has four titles. Barnes won the conference title in 1999, and tied for the title in 2006 and 2008. Barnes' tournament record all time? 20-20. Matta is 20-10, Donovan is 27-12. There is no reason for Texas to continue to pay top dollar for a mediocre coach with abysmal late game coaching skills.
Barnes has helped put the program in national spotlight over the years by attracting names such as Kevin Durant and Lamarcus Aldridge but lately he has not done enough. The vast resources at Texas and the numerous division one coaches (such as Texas native Buzz Williams) could help bring the Longhorns back into national contention like they were in 2002-2003, 2005-2006 and 2007-2008.
Ultimately, Barnes will be the head coach of Texas for a long time, and I, with most Longhorn fans, hope with the bottom of my heart that he changes his style and proves me wrong. But until the fan base stops being content with mediocrity, no change is going to happen since there is no need to. Hopefully the embarrassment in Maui wakes up the fan base and at least starts to warm up the hot seat.