First, let me just preface this piece by stating some points that should be obvious to everyone here:
1) Rick Barnes is without question the greatest basketball coach to ever set foot on the Forty Acres.
2) Rick Barnes is a hell of a good guy. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to talk to Rick Barnes in person then you know what I mean. He’s genuine, funny, and it is very apparent after just a few minutes that he truly cares about his players.
3) Rick Barnes is a very good basketball coach. Anyone who thinks otherwise may be struggling with some of the finer points of the game. And shoe tying.
4) I am a Rick Barnes fan – but not a Rick Barnes apologist.
So, having established some basics what I would like to do now is take a realistic look at the Short Run of Texas Basketball versus the Long Run of Texas Basketball; and, obviously, Rick Barnes’ impact on each.
Short Run: “Period during which only some factors or variables can be changed because there is not enough time to change the others.” (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/short-run.html)
When we look at the Short Run for Texas Basketball I believe we have to look first at what factors are the most difficult to change and eliminate them from the equation. The way I see it there are three variables that are not likely to change in the Short Run that have an impact upon the success of the program.
In order of least likely to change:
1) The Drum. – The Frank Erwin Center is, to be blunt, a shitty place to play basketball. It’s not intimidating for opposing teams, it isn’t real inviting to fans and it does not seem to offer any type of strategic advantage. However, the Drum is also recently renovated, multi-functional and good for the Administration’s coffers, and as such is probably the least likely variable to be change in the Short Run.
2) The Fans – Yes, us. We suck as a basketball fan base. I apologize if that’s too honest for some of the fans here, but I think if you really allow yourself some introspection you’ll see it’s true. Look, it’s been stated many times before that Texas is a football school. And every time it’s been said, it’s been the truth. Being a football school doesn’t cover the whole depth of the issue though. Texas Basketball doesn’t just compete against Texas Football for fans’ attention, it has to also compete against Texas Spring Football, Texas Baseball (in March) and also it must compete against the city of Austin itself. The value of entertainment for a Texas Basketball game is not that high for a fair number of Longhorn fans. It’s been that way for thirty years and I don’t forsee any dramatic change in fan behaviour taking place for the Short Run.
3) Rick Barnes. – Rick Barnes is not going to get fired. Can we just end the discussion about that now? I don’t of any rational person who thinks otherwise. The banter/confusion that I have been seeing stems from this belief that because Rick Barnes will not be fired, it is either pointless or negative to question whether or not he should be. That drives me bat-shit crazy. If DeLoss Dodds isn’t evaluating each and every single coach after each and every single season to determine if Texas has its absolute best option in place at every single position then he should be fired. And possibly jailed. This is the University of by-God Texas. We do not settle. Let me repeat that because it is a very important concept to remember when we get to the Long Run. We. Do. Not. Settle. That said, I believe Dodds and the rest of the Administration believes to its core that Rick Barnes is the best option for Texas, and given his past successes I believe it very safe to assume that Rick is a variable not likely to change in the Short Run.
Given that those are the variables are unlikely to change we should probably look at those variables which may change that may/will alter the success of the program either positively or negatively.
Here I think the two main factors are:
1) Assistant Coaches. – I know that Rick is very comfortable with the group of coaches he has on his bench. I am too. Todd Wright is the best in the business, and I am not limiting that to college basketball. Chris Ogden, Rodney Terry and Russell Springmann are all excellent recruiters and they all match Barnes’ personality. I personally don’t think Barnes will let any of the three go, but it wouldn’t surprise me too greatly if one of the assistant coaches (especially Ogden) were to get a shot at another program. It’s also within the realm of possibility that Rick would consider bringing in an assistant from outside the program to help him in his “areas of opportunity”.
2) Players. – This one is obvious. With Myck Kabongo heading an excellent class (watch out for Sheldon McClellan too) and with the possibility both Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton returning I think we’re going to see immediately what Rick Barnes is capable of with maximized talent. If Joseph (very likely), Thompson (somewhat likely) and Hamilton (coin-flip) all return Texas will have, by far, its most talent team ever. If those three return Texas would have four first round NBA picks (Thompson, Joseph, Hamilton and Kabongo), and another three or four guys who would be second round-type picks. There won’t be another team in the country (maybe KU if the Morris twins come back) that could make such a boast. Thus I do not believe that Barnes will be able to maximize this variable anymore than this upcoming year.
Given this information, I am forced to conclusion, that should Thompson, Hamilton and Joseph all stay, Barnes will be maximizing his potential as head coach at the University of Texas as I cannot see a scenario in which any of the other variables are influenced enough to account or equal the absurd amount of talent Barnes will have at his disposal next season. Of course, that would mean that this up coming season is Barnes’ beta. In other words, failing to win a national championship is probably indicative that he will never win a national championship. I know some of your heads just exploded. Take a breath. I’m not saying Rick Barnes SHOULD win a national championship next year. I’m saying that if “The Trio” <Trademark> come back and he doesn’t win a national championship it’s not unreasonable to think that he never will win a championship. And this of course brings me (thankfully for all of us) to the Long Run.
The Long Run: A period of time in which all inputs are variable.
In the Long Run it’s possible that the Erwin Center is torn down, a Cameron-esque replacement is built and filled every game (even against Rice) to the brim with basketball-crazy Austinites, and is home to the three time National Champion Texas Longhorns. Of course it’s also possible in the Long Run that Texas slips back to basketball mediocrity, never challenges for a conference championship, has trouble make the Tourney every year and fades even more into the background of Texas football. I know which one I think is more probable, but I’m beginning to fear that I may be alone. Which, I suppose brings me to the crux of my argument.
Here are the things I see/hear/read from those who back Barnes:
1) “He’s the best basketball coach Texas has ever had.”
Agreed. So what? Greg Davis may have been the best OC Texas has ever had (he wasn’t but that doesn’t dilute the point). He still sucks as an OC. I’m by no means comparing Barnes’ ability and Greg Davis’ by the way. I’m simply making the point that being the greatest basketball coach at Texas is not necessarily a redeeming merit.
2) “We’re not Kansas.”
Agreed. We’re not Kansas. We SHOULD be. That’s the problem. Texas has more resources (and I’m not just referring to money) than any other school in the country. By far. There is absolutely no reason that Texas should not be able to succeed at the absolutely highest level in every sport. None. We’re in an incredibly rich recruiting ground and we have the name brand to recruit nationally. Rick Barnes is an amazing recruiter, but it ain’t all just him.
3) “How do you know Coach X would be any better?”
I don’t. What I know is that those that risk the security of “good” for the chance to be “great” are usually rewarded, in both business and in sports. Especially when those who undertake the “risks” do so with a heavy advantage against their competition. For those that wouldn’t make on Barnes based upon the notion that the next guy might not be as good I would suggest that you stop complaining when Texas gets knocked out in the first weekend because you’ve already made the determination that good is good enough.
Here is usually where I get asked who I think Texas could get that would do a better job. I don’t KNOW if anyone could do a better job. But then Duke didn’t know what they were getting when they hired Coach K. Nor did North Carolina KNOW that Roy Williams would ever get over his phobia of national titles. Nor did Kansas KNOW that Bill Self would be a finisher at KU when he hadn’t been anywhere else. But they all took the risk.
Anyway, I’ve wasted enough of your time (assuming anyone even made it this far). Thank you.