Dear Coach Barnes: If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?

With Texas' first round tilt in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament just moments away, I'm having second thoughts. Admittedly, my feelings are mixed and a bit tempered despite being the same guy that said he was "all in" a few months ago as if I were playing poker with my heart and what love and devotion - normally reserved for UT football - I could ante up as collateral.

Due to the late season slump and another fitting for a bridesmaid dress at the Big XII Tourney, I've resigned myself  to the idea that when it comes to Longhorns Basketball, this team is probably as good as it gets and our best may never be good enough to win it all.

Yeah, I know, You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille...so be forewarned that this post is not my usual pep rally and please know that you're not only welcome to, but also encouraged to rip me a new one after the jump. But if I'm going to go dancin' again with the one that brung me, there are some things I just have to get off my chest first...

 

Before we tackle the rationale behind my 11th hour insecure-fest, I've got to ask...

Do I and the rest of you that are like me have the right to expect more? Should we just be thankful that we have a coach in Rick Barnes that puts a consistently competitive product on the floor and the Burnt Orange is represented in the Big Dance on an annual basis? And should our trip to the Final Four back in 2003 actually be viewed as making it to the top of the mountain? To that end, should winning it all just be a lucky strike extra, catching lightning in a bottle, or simply seen as the proverbial cherry on top?

I don't know, but right or wrong, right now, I don't just want more, I'm demanding it.

 

Elite college football and basketball programs share a few commonalities that I doubt anyone would argue to the contrary: a solid, consistent coach with a vision/scheme, a continual influx of talented players and decent facilities/support from the administration. But that's where the similarities end for me, especially when outlining what is truly required for making a serious attempt at bringing home a championship.

With elite football programs, a coach can set the program up to make a realistic attempt at the title once every three or four years, knowing it takes time to get key position players to a point of maturity and the team chemistry just right to handle the rigors of making a title run. Despite wanting to win every game, every year, fans - regardless of how delusional they can be - know this to be a reality of the sport.

Conversely, college basketball coaches have no such temporal luxury. Due to the constant attrition of players - either they leave early for the NBA, transfer, drop out or dare I say it, fail to live up to the hype - every basketball season, for lack of a better descriptor, has to be viewed in a vacuum.

Sure, there are holdover players from season to season and one can even make the argument that serious title contenders have to have some upperclassmen influence and stability to make a run at the title. But that doesn't change the fact that the starting five, mental make-up and overall team chemistry can be and usually are completely different from one season to the next despite the coaches and systems remaining constant. Not exactly sure why that has to be but it probably has a lot to do with the best player on the team usually being a "one and done" freshman. The team is his team. 

So here we are just moments from the tip and I see the average Longhorns fan saying to him or herself, "given the landscape in college basketball today and from my limited, somewhat unwashed perspective, I know that it takes a mix of elite talent on loan from the NBA and senior leadership to make a serious charge at the title. (At least that seems to be the formula Rick Barnes' has been running with.) So if that's the case, why shouldn't I expect this team to go all the way?"

And I don't want to hear anymore trite excuses like...

"Well, we're a football school, not a basketball school." Oh yeah, go tell that to Augie Garrido. Being a football factory didn't seem to stop him from leading us to the promised land. And go tell Florida they weren't supposed to win their basketball titles.

"Well, you sound just like UT fans before Mack Brown won a title with Vince Young, just be patient." Good point, except wasn't that Kevin Durant fellow pretty good? Must have been, we retired his jersey despite the fact that he didn't help put even one team trophy in the case. It's hard to imagine getting someone better than him on the 40 Acres and if he wasn't even good enough to get us past the second round, then forgive my blasphemy, but I don't think waiting for the second coming of Basketball Orange Jesus is a viable option.

And finally there was this retort I received after lamenting the fact Texas was now 0-6 in Big XII Tourney Title Games: "Chill Out. We'll win it eventually." The commenter was probably right to encourage me to tap the breaks, but still, when is the last time you said, "yep, 7 times is a charm."

I'm sorry, sometimes not even Abe Lincoln's refusal to quit after losing like 10 elections before winning the presidency just isn't enough to placate my immature, impatient, petulant emotional responses.

Regardless, I've got my Orange on and on my way to the Sports Bar to cheer on the Horns. Hopefully the DFW Irish contingency left me a few beers after yesterday and I think a liquid lunch would probably do me some good.

And truth be told, I love Rick Barnes. I think he's the best thing that ever happened to Longhorns Basketball and I can't imagine our team led by any other.

But Rick, I got to ask, "if not this team, which team? If not this year, when?"

Hook'em Always,
54b


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