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LHN: Rick Barnes Talks State of the Texas Longhorns Basketball Program

Whither, Texas Basketball?

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Rick Barnes has been in perception management mode over the last week, recently granting a number of long interviews to various print media and releasing this 17+ minute segment on the Longhorn Network. I don't know if it's a full on Save-My-Job-Tour, but I'm guessing a trickle of negative fan sentiment has managed to penetrate the thick, insulated walls of Bellmont aided by the helpful bludgeon of a 16-18 reality trebuchet.

It's worth your time.

My takeaways:

  • The disastrous 2011 class. Barnes blames himself and his staff for bad evaluation and cultural fit with respect to McClellan and Lewis. Pretty much throws them under the bus. I'm open-minded and don't doubt that both had issues, but the buck still stops in the same place
  • Bond got hurt, fell behind younger guys, and left to pursue playing time and to expand his limited offensive game. Kabongo was a mercenary and bought in to the extent that it served his own ambition. He wanted to be a one and done and acted accordingly. Sterling Gibbs obviously was never good enough, which I pointed out within ten minutes of his first playing time here - I don't fault Barnes here beyond making a bad evaluation
  • Demeanor. Barnes struck me as subdued, almost chastened at times, though he's clearly anxious to put an awful 2012 behind him. I didn't see the reinvigoration both he and Dunn claim, though. I actually saw a guy still struggling with cause and effect
  • Media. Barnes: "Most people that report on this, don't know the facts." True. We're all blind men grasping the elephant. That's why we have W-L records. Because those facts are irrefutable
  • Culture, culture, culture. All of Barnes' proposed remedies are built on culture, "wanting to be here", and "player buy-in." Fair enough. But no mention of rethinking offense or trying to reconsider how Texas fundamentally plays basketball. No new blood in assistant hires. No tangible offerings - it's all just emotion and "we're gonna work harder"
  • You can't solve a problem 'til you define it properly. Dunn pressed him on preferred play-style and Barnes seemed to struggle saying much coherent, though he'd like to "get better on defense"
  • See above, Part II. When Dunn pressed him - diplomatically - on what specific changes Barnes is making (the blunt follow up: "So what are you doing?"), he responded with some generalities and player anecdotes. I don't think Rick is obfuscating, I truly don't believe he's walked through process, cause and effect, and there's no one that's helping him do so
  • Expectations for next year? "We want to win every game we play." Sigh. That's nice, Rick
  • Glue guys vs. NBA guys? Barnes responds again with a cultural fit perspective, but reiterates that he wants the best players possible. Cory Joseph says he wishes he would have stayed in school

In sum, I don't really see any bullshitting from Barnes - that's never really been his thing and one of the aspects of his personality I've always liked - but I do see evidence of some blind spots that no in his life will call him on. That's what ADs are for, but DeLoss is an absentee landlord, and his ability to offer coaching/personnel management advice is suspect.

Every coach of a major sport at UT is flailing, but each in a very different way.

By the way, I have a huge admiration for Kevin Dunn for doing his job and holding Barnes to account while also balancing his larger role as a personality on a pro-Longhorn network. He was respectful and fair-minded, but never lobbed softballs, didn't editorialize, nor did he ever throw Barnes a life preserver. Outstanding work. About as refreshing a piece of television journalism as I've seen in some time.

ESPN should call that dude up to the big leagues.