The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy ran an interesting column that closely mimics what Wiggins has said in this space before, though he takes it one step further. DeCourcy argues that "Coaching the Texas Longhorns is the best job in college basketball."
Wow. Strong words. Is he correct?
DeCourcy breaks the argument into three points: location, resources, and tolerance. Let's take them one by one.
Regarding location, DeCourcy notes not only the pleasure of living and raising one's family in Austin, but also the proximity to so much talent within the state. Houston has given us T.J. Ford and Daniel Gibson. Austin has produced A.J. Abrams, Brad Buckman, and Chris Mihm. Dallas has provided us with Lamarcus Aldridge, could have provided C.J. Miles, and may yet yield Darrell Arthur. So not only is Austin itself desirable for Rick and his family, but the proximity to these young stars makes Texas an attractive destination for the super-preps to stay close to home.
Turning to resources, DeCourcy provides some surprising numbers. You might have guessed that UT's overall athletic budget is the largest in the country, but did you know that Texas spent twice as much on its basketball program than N.C. State? In fact, the Horns checked in at #7 on overall expenditures on the basketball program. For a "football first" school, that's no small commitment to #2. Texas now boasts one of the most amazing training facilities in the country, with lavish locker rooms and world-class weight and practice facilities. If you were a supremely talented young basketball star, you'd be impressed by it, too.
Lastly, DeCourcy turns to what he calls "tolerance." DeCourcy points out that the Horns did manage to sell out most of their biggest games, but that there were far too many empty seats for many games, even marquee matchups. The upside, he argues, is that the football-crazed fans relieve the exacting pressure on the head basketball coach that others at basketball-first schools have to deal with. Whereas at Duke and North Carolina the head basketball coach is the one who gets scrutinized to death on the message boards and airwaves, at Texas that angst and hostility goes toward Mack Brown and the football team. You didn't see Texas fans hurling themselves off of bridges and threatening to violently hurt Lamarcus Aldridge when he disappeared in the Elite Eight. But ask Chris Simms if Texas fans carry any resentment or hostility toward disappointing performances in football games.
DeCourcy then goes right to Wiggins other apt comparison by talking about how nicely things shaped up for Billy Donovan at Florida, another "football first" school. And it's a good comparison. Barnes is in a position to do exactly what Donovan did this year. Rick's gotten close twice now, and eventually some superstar stud from Texas will take us all the way. Is a national title an inevitability? Maybe not, but you have to like the position we're in.
All of which makes DeCourcy's question so interesting: could there be a better place to coach for Rick Barnes than Texas? Assuming he likes Austin as much as DeCourcy suggests he does, and isn't itching to return to his roots in North Carolina, a strong case can be made that there's nowhere better to be. And while we're going to do our best here at Burnt Orange Nation to make sure that Rick has to endure at least a -little- bit of criticism from time to time, we're awfully happy he's here. The future remains bright for the Horns hoops team. Thank you, Rick Barnes.