Okay, sorry. Thanks for bearing with me. I'm going through the various stages of grief, and the yells are getting me through the anger. Rather than just scream, though, let's talk our way through this. It's therapeutic.
Two main points for discussion today - we'll do season review type stuff later.
1. Why Andrew and I support Rick Barnes and, despite his flaws, disagree with those that think he's not capable of delivering a title.
2. Kevin's Future
We'll start with Rick Barnes because I suspect that his performance (along with Kevin's future) will be the subject of greatest discussion - here and elsewhere - over the next few days.
I think there are two different ways to criticize Rick Barnes - one which I'm okay with, the other which I'm not. I'm okay with someone saying (as I often have), "Rick Barnes is imperfect as a coach in ways X, Y, and Z." The more specific, the better.
I'm not okay with people who want to take the next step and say, "Because of Rick's imperfections X, Y, and Z, he is a lousy basketball coach." The reason I'm opposed to the jump from "Rick is flawed" to "Rick is a bad coach" is the same reason I was and am opposed to jumping from "Mack Brown is flawed" to "Mack Brown is a bad coach."
Both Rick Barnes and Mack Brown are flawed. In fact, they each have coaching tendencies that drive me up a wall. Some of Mack Brown's game day adjustments are so slow I want to hurl my television off my balcony. Rick Barnes' inability to teach his guards to throw entry passes into the post has always driven me batsh-t crazy. Each coach has a list of things that they do which I absolutely hate. No doubt about it.
But. . . Mack Brown also does a lot of things well. He brings in a hell of a lot of good talent. He's built the program into a perennial top ten power. He surrounds himself with solid coaches. He does not bring negative attention to the university. When all the stars aligned for him, he won a national championship. The way he continues to recruit and run his program, none of us should be surprised if/when he wins another.
And you know what? The same is true of Rick Barnes. He hasn't won his championship yet, but he's certainly doing all the right things to get there. The way he's been recruiting and building this program, one of these years, the stars will align for him, too, and we'll be right where we were with Mack Brown. On top of the mountain. For all the people that want to criticize Rick Barnes, I only ask that you not jump from "Rick is flawed" to "Rick is a bad coach" or "Rick can never win a title." We're lucky to have a coach who has us on the short list of contenders each season. One year, it'll be our turn to cut down the nets. I promise.
Let's turn now to Kevin's future. We don't need to spend much time outlining the reasons why Kevin should turn pro. He's ready as a player, his draft stock is at its peak, and he'll make an ungodly amount of money. If he announces he's turning pro, no one will be surprised, and no one (except for a few misguided Aggies) will hold it against him. It's his decision, and if he leaves, it will be for understandable reasons.
In fact, the harder case to be made is why he should stay. Some will say there is no case, but I think there is. So let me try.
It all comes down to two words: San. Antonio.
No, I'm not suggesting that if Kevin stays he'll have a better chance of being drafted by the Spurs (though that would be soooo delicious). Rather, I intend to remind readers that next year's Final Four will be held 80 miles south of Austin.
If Kevin returns for one more season, the Longhorns will be an outstanding team. So good, I'm sure, that we're more likely than not to play ourselves to a very gaudy record, and a golden ticket to the Final Four. First round games in Little Rock, Regional Semifinals and Final in Houston, and the Final Four in San Antonio. Six games within a 500 mile radius, all packed to the brim with burnt orange faithful. As good a scenario as any team could realistically hope to have.
And why not? Kevin likes school, I gather he's grown awfully close with his teammates, and the situation in 2007-08 is tailor made for a Texas tournament run. Why not come back, shoot for the moon, and see if he can do it? The risk of injury is omnipresent in basketball, no matter the level you're playing, so the only thing he could possibly cost himself is money, and the odds of him suffering an injury that truly "ended" his career are incredibly small.
If Kevin and Texas fell short next year - well, fine. Kevin could and would then pack up and move on. The money would still be there. He'd only be more ready to star in the league right away. There's some downside to staying one more year, but there's a lot of upside, too. Kevin's not just interested in fame and money - he's actually enjoying his college experience and playing for his coach and teammates in Austin. I think he'd love to have a little bit more shine on his college career. Why not give it one more shot?
I'm just saying: I hope and pray that someone points out to Kevin the tournament sites for next year's championship. Because giving it one more go wouldn't be such a bad idea.
Now, to the big question: is this at all realistic? Call me a fool, but I'm in the "optimistic" category. I'm wrong about a lot of things, but every once in a while, you get a gut feeling about something that you just really feel - deeply and strongly - is going to happen. I think Kevin's going to return for a sophomore season. The same way I felt strongly that Duane Akina would be hired as our defensive coordinator, I feel that Kevin will return for one - and only one - more year.
It's not just that next year's tournament is tailor-made for Texas. In following Kevin so closely for the past twelve months, from his recruitment to tonight's loss in Spokane, I've gotten to know him a little bit. And if there's one thing that a lot of people who don't follow him as closely don't quite understand, it's that Kevin likes to march to his own beat. Everyone expected a blue chipper like himself, from his region, to go to a school like North Carolina or Connecticut. He came to Texas. And now everyone more or less takes it for granted that Kevin's going to turn pro. Something inside me tells me that Kevin would like very much to come back to Austin for one more run, and that everyone expects him not to is one more very good reason for him to do it.
I may be proven a fool, but I've been around long enough now to know that when you get a feeling you can't shake, you go with it.
Don't be shocked if Kevin comes back to Texas.
We can all hope, right?