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Rick Barnes Review: Texas Basketball Coach Is On The Hot Seat

After beginning his tenure as the Texas Basketball head coach with a remarkably successful decade, Rick Barnes suddenly finds himself coaching for his job following five disappointing seasons that have seen the program slide in the wrong direction.

Cooper Neill

BON Basketball Editor Jeff Haley and I have been planning a comprehensive post series on the topic of whether or not to replace Rick Barnes for more than a year now, but the various delays that prevented us from doing so have proven to be fortuitous, as the context of the discussion has changed dramatically since the time when we originally discussed the series.

There is still room to debate whether or not Texas would be wise to retain or replace its head basketball coach, but following the disastrous 2012-13 campaign that saw the Longhorns finish with a losing record for the first time during the Barnes era, coupled with some troubling trends on the recruiting trail, this much is not debatable: Texas' head coach is on the hot seat, and may well be coaching for his job next season.

Our Motives

Heading into the 2012-13 season, both Jeff and I still considered the case for retaining Rick Barnes to be stronger than replacing him. Seven months later, however, what was once a straightforward analysis is anything but clear cut, with the evidence in favor of replacing Barnes now just as strong, and arguably stronger than, that in support of his retention.

This post series aims to explore the "Replace or Retain" question in considerable depth, outlining what we consider to be the right questions to ask and presenting evidence relevant to their answers. Notwithstanding the howls of a small but vocal minority of readers who have misunderstood and/or caricatured Jeff and I as uncritical Rick Barnes fanboys whose loyalty to UT's head coach is blind and unassailable, this post series does not set out to present an argument for keeping him. Perhaps it would have a year ago, but our position has never been about loyalty to Barnes himself but to what the evidence suggests is best for Texas basketball.

In that sense, Jeff and I have never been invested in one answer over the other. We're invested in the right answer, and more than that, arriving at the right answer for the right reasons. An argument that reaches the right conclusion for the wrong reasons is not a good argument; it's a happy accident. The only arguments for replacing Rick Barnes towards which Jeff and I are hostile are weak and/or unsupported ones. On the flip side, however, we're no more interested in bad arguments for retaining Barnes.

When we say this post series aims to set forth the right questions to ask, then, we're in large part talking about focusing the discussion on an empirical analysis of relevant evidence. Rebutting weak and/or unsubstantiated arguments for replacing Rick Barnes is not a reflection of our marriage to retaining him, but of our commitment to asking and answering this question seriously.

Series Outline

A truly exhaustive analysis of this question would consume several dozen blog posts and voluminous data analysis, and we don't pretend to be undertaking such an endeavor. This aim of this post series is more modest but still -- we hope -- comprehensive enough to provide a valuable contribution to the discussion.

To that end, the post series will open with a review of Rick Barnes' 2012-13 season, in the same form as the player reviews, followed by a post that explains in greater detail the lens through which Jeff and I view the 'Retain or Replace' question, which is driven in large part by the downside risks of replacing a successful head coach.

We'll then look at Barnes himself, exploring his resume at Texas and comparing it to his peers, and from there, we'll present a pair of posts focused on the replacement side of the analysis, first by asking why it has proven so difficult for teams to find a great coach, and second by surveying the current field of potential replacements for Rick Barnes. We'll then wrap things up with a final post tying everything together.

This post series is intended to be a guiding voice of a dialogue, and we fully expect the comment sections to contribute at least as much to the discussion as the articles themselves, if not more. So have at it, fellow hoops junkies. We look forward to hearing from you.