Texas and Rick Barnes Finally Part Ways

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 28th, 2015

Rick Barnes‘ last four seasons with Texas were a rollercoaster ride. After failing to win an NCAA Tournament game in consecutive seasons for the first time in his 17-year tenure, Barnes reformed the team in 2013 without once-promising recruits Sheldon McClellan, Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, Jaylen Bond and Ioannis Papapetrou. His remaining players took him off the hot seat, riding stifling interior defense to a surprise third-place finish in the Big 12 and a thrilling NCAA Tournament win over Arizona State before bowing out to Michigan in the Round of 32. You probably know what happened next, but to bring you up to speed, the Longhorns came into this season as the leading candidate to knock Kansas from its conference perch, but injuries, inconsistent offense and lax perimeter defense kept the team from meeting expectations.

Rick Barnes brought unprecedented levels of success to Texas, but rocky seasons and early NCAA Tournament flameouts finally caught up to him. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Rick Barnes brought unprecedented levels of success to Texas, but rocky seasons and early NCAA Tournament flameouts finally caught up to him. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas finished with a losing record in the Big 12 for the second time in three years, and while they had a chance to redeem themselves in the NCAA Tournament last week, they petered out in an uninspiring loss to Butler. On Thursday night reports emerged that athletic director Steve Patterson gave Barnes an ultimatum: Replace your staff or I’ll replace you. Barnes wouldn’t acquiesce to those demands, and now the two parties going their separate ways.

Though late-game execution and early NCAA Tournament exits made Barnes an easy target, his term was the longest and most successful period from any head basketball coach in Austin. When he arrived in 1998, Barnes was tasked with helping the program regroup from a scandal that ended Tom Penders’ 10-year stay. Texas found instant success with Barnes, who led the team to the regular season Big 12 title in 1999, an outstanding achievement made remarkable by the fact that the Longhorns had just seven scholarship players and lost eight of its first 11 games. For most of Barnes’ tenure, the Longhorns were the second-best team in the Big 12. He won 69.1 percent of his games in burnt orange and established the program as a force in March with five Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights and a Final Four run in his first decade at the helm. Barnes developed six All-Americans, 15 NBA Draft picks and was the first four-time Big 12 Coach Of The Year, but after reaching the Elite Eight in 2008, postseason success came much harder. Barnes failed to crack the Sweet Sixteen in his final seven seasons, and while basketball has never been the driving factor of Texas’ athletic department (or most power conference athletic departments these days), Patterson decided that seven years without a presence in the sport’s postseason second weekend was too long to bear without making significant changes.

The futures of both parties will be interesting to track. While Barnes struggled to capitalize on the talent he brought to campus, he remains among the most highly-regarded coaches in the industry. He’s been incredibly successful on the court, has never been alleged by the NCAA of any impropriety, is famously loyal both to his superiors and his staff, and can recruit at the highest levels when given the resources to do so. There were times, especially in recent seasons, when Barnes was criticized for showcasing future pros at levels that hindered the development of more cohesive — and possibly more successful — teams, but in his 2014 campaign, he showed that he could build a successful team without surefires pros like Kevin Durant or LaMarcus Aldridge, or even Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton. Moving forward, Barnes’ ability to stabilize a program without drawing unwanted attention from Indianapolis could make him appealing to Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart in his search for a successor to Donnie Tyndall. There are questions about how long Barnes wants to keep coaching that only he can answer, and Hart may end up targeting a younger, hungrier coach who can be a long-term solution like Louisiana Tech head man Michael White, but Hart can do much worse than Barnes (and did with Tyndall’s hiring).

While Barnes’ acumen is established, Patterson has much more at stake as he searches for the next man up. His demand that Barnes shuffle his staff could lead to doubts from candidates regarding potential involvement in the staffing process, but the university has such a wealth of resources in terms of money, facilities and proximity to recruiting hotbeds that it likely won’t matter. With all the assets of a blueblood program but less pressure from boosters and the general community, there’s no question that the Texas job is among the most appealing in all of college sports, and now that it’s open, we could see some real fireworks. Rumors of long-established veterans like Mark Few and Tom Izzo considering the gig are overblown, but the school could jump into the Gregg Marshall sweepstakes or court Texas native Buzz Williams. In addition, there’s a strong chance Shaka Smart hears from Patterson. No matter who’s introduced this offseason, with five juniors from Texas’ rotation still enrolled, Barnes’ successor could have more than enough talent left in the cupboard to make a run in the short term before utilizing the school’s selling points to build the program in his image.

Barnes spent his first 10 years with Texas building a powerhouse, guiding the Longhorns to an incredible 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and several deep runs, but inconsistency on the back end ultimately diluted his legacy and led to his demise. While it was disappointing to see the team slide under Barnes’ watch over the last few seasons, Texas will get the fresh start it needs and one of the most intriguing storylines we’ll see all offseason is finally in motion.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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One response to “Texas and Rick Barnes Finally Part Ways”

  1. Tony Geinzer says:

    What made Texas to make their move that Indiana didn’t? MONEY! I hate to sound like Ned Flanders, but, Steve Patterson has a University of Texas at Austin Diploma-diddly, but, it don’t mean he is sensitive to everyday Orangebloods. And, I felt DePaul got a Mack Brown hire wrong, because they needed A) The Public League B) Coach or Coaches Drew, C) The Car Show Arena they badly needed and the Aldermen Downtown Amana and Pella it away, D) Exclusive WGN Dial Turn that the Bulls didn’t have in the Bear Market of the 1970s and E) All of the Above, Beanie Sigel. And, just because DePaul and St. John’s NY don’t have Football don’t excuse them from being scowled and growled over missed oppurtunities. I’d advise St. John’s NY away from Chris “Once, Forever and For Always An Addict” Mullins, which is also Chris Herren, and Metta World Peace/War. I know Coach Lavin let the Red Storm back to the Garden after MSG Officials had wool fits over the direction of the Red Storm over an unplanned Strip Club Trip in Western PA 11 Years Ago, and Tennessee needs better leaders in their Athletic Barn, as Warlick’s Volunteers, which I’m nixing “Lady Vols” for inclusion purposes, won’t grasp success like Summitt’s Volunteers did, and I don’t like how they don’t have good boss in Athletics, even if it is Butch “Everyone in the City of Knoxville Wants Tennessee To Win” Jones for a Spell or “No Khloe and” Lamar Alexander, which he prefers to be honorable, but, I can’t take Tennessee becoming a regular in NCAA Probation.

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