Bumped. What I would have given to be there last night. --PB--
I took my sister to the basketball banquet tonight and came away convinced that Rick Barnes is the best college coach in the country, in any sport. The event itself was pretty humdrum, but it spotlighted all the strengths of Rick Barnes as a leader, coach, and man that won't show up in the box score...while the event was for the players, Coach Barnes was the star of the evening.
- I'd never heard this before, but, in kidding about Deloss's hesitancy to give him a raise, Barnes explicitly said Kentucky offered him the job last year. However, Barnes said he believes this is the best college job in the country, ahead of any other program. If he turned down Kentucky, I think it's safe to say he'll be here for awhile.
- Barnes talked about how Damion Dames and Jerry Johnson might have saved the season. I'd never heard this before either, but Barnes said the Missouri loss was his worst loss in the last 10 years b/c he didn't think we competed as a team. He said the loss stuck with him for several weeks, and he felt he was losing confidence in his team due to their effort. He said he worked the team unmercifully after that--none of the other coaches disagreed--and he couldn't let the loss go. Finally, Jerry Johnson told him he had to take his foot off their throat or the team would never be able to get back onto their feet. Barnes said this really hit home with him and changed his approach to the entire season.
Similarly, he said he realized he could never stay mad at Damion James, since Damion wants to please the coaches more than anything in the world. And if he couldn't stay mad at Damion, he couldn't stay mad at any of the players, since this team put forth such a high effort and did their best.
- Barnes was pretty ruthless on his assistant coaches. Rodney Terry apparently told Barnes that he "was ready to get married", even though he doesn't have a girlfriend. Barnes told all the ladies in the audience to look him up on "MyFace", as he was itching to get hitched.
He told Ogden he was going to be much more active in recruiting, but, if he was bad at it, he would be fired. He also said Ogden was Mr. Basketball in Texas "the worst year of players I've ever seen"
Ken McDonald got really emotional about leaving the program and begged Barnes for a home-and-home. Barnes said we would travel to WKU next year, because he knew they would suck, but then they would have to come here the next 10 years in a row, since he knew McDonald would turn it around.
- Barnes said he refuses to recruit during the season, since he "focuses on the guys who are already here." That's pretty awesome.
- Ian Mooney said Barnes made the greatest mistake in his life by not recruiting Mooney out of high school. Barnes said Mooney was the worst-shooting white guy he's ever seen in his life.
When Craig Way asked Mooney the best and most challenging thing about playing for Coach Barnes, he answered "if you can play for Coach Barnes, you can play for anyone."
JD Lewis said he had nothing bad to say about Coach Barnes, since he invests so much time into each player and their development. He said Barnes will squeeze every drop of potential out of his players, and he learned more about defense than he ever thought possible. He also noted that Coach Barnes was very explicit about the roles of each player and how much they meant to the team.
- Barnes said the most satisfying moments in his life come from being on a basketball court running his team through a practice.
- Barnes said Balbay and Matt Hill were "Top 7-8 guys" in the rotation before their injuries. Do the math on that one.
- DJ Augustin was not on stage this year, while KD was brought up on the stage before he officially declared last season. I think it's still up in the air, and he didn't even want to address it.
- I got pretty emotional during the season highlight film. This really, really, really was a special season for UT Basketball.
I know these anecdotes all seem to just show up Barnes' quick wit and passion for his players--which we all know about--but that's not what left me shaking my head the entire evening marveling at his abilities. I'm a military man, so I've seen some leaders, but I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone in as complete control of his situation as Rick Barnes. He has earned the complete respect and admiration of every single member of the program, not just the players. I know that's also not surprising, but it's different seeing it manifested in-person.
He has built the most family-driven and team environment I've ever seen, and, while each and every one of the players would KILL for him, they each respect him as their coach and a father figure. The team has a GPA of 3.29. This team came together faster and quicker than anyone thought possible, and the current bond between the players/coaches/staff seems inseparable. I got chills the entire evening thinking about how good this team is going to be next season, based off the love and dedication everyone displayed for each other. They've already started their practices for next season, and EVERYONE on-stage reiterated they want to be cutting down the nets next season.
Last night, the fans got a glimpse into the true nature of Texas Basketball. Personally, I wouldn't trade places with any current program in the country...