Texas Longhorns athletics director Steve Patterson reportedly held several recent meetings with head basketball coach Rick Barnes and wants changes, according to multiple reports on Thursday evening:
Sources indicate that after several meetings with AD Steve Patterson, Texas MBB Rick Barnes will have to make changes in the program to stay— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) March 27, 2015
Source: Texas AD Steve Patterson pressuring Rick Barnes to make staff changes. If assistants don't change, Patterson will change head coach.— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) March 27, 2015
Said one source: "Steve Patterson believes the status quo is not acceptable."— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) March 27, 2015
Following another one-and-done performance in the NCAA Tournament to close out a disappointing season in which the team failed to meet high expectations, it's clear that Texas fans feel the same way -- the status quo is most definitely not acceptable, as an even 75% of fans polled by BON want Barnes gone.
Based on the reports, the decision is now up to the longtime head coach.
He can scapegoat an assistant or two and have an opportunity to redeem himself with one last chance to make the elusive tournament run with an experienced team that will add at least two guards in Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach who may be able to help alleviate the team's long-distance shooting issues. Or he can decide that the assistants aren't the problem, take a principled stand, and take the fall himself.
A source told Horns247 recently that Barnes would prefer to resign than fire his any of his assistants.
There's been some talk about changes anyway since special assistant Jai Lucas may not want to spend a third season behind the bench. Lucas represents a key figure for the program in the Houston recruiting scene, where the Lucas name carries significant weight.
So which assistant is the weakest link or the most likely to leave?
Is associate head coach Rob Lanier safe since he's one of the major voices on the staff who often draws up plays late in games? Or will that make him more susceptible to taking the blame?
Perhaps it's a time for a change in scenery for assistant Russ Springman, who has been on the bench with Rick Barnes for his entire tenure in Austin, spending the first three as an administrative assistant before moving into his current role. And maybe for former player Chris Ogden, too, who played at Texas from 2000-2003, then spent two years as a student assistant, three years as an administrative assistant, and has now been an assistant since 2008.
One potential issue with firing assistants is that quality coaches may not want to leave their current jobs with the lack of job security for Barnes. For rising coaches with any type of stability, why would they want to take a job working for a potentially lame duck head coach?
Depending on how Patterson wants to proceed, Barnes could either have several days to make his decision or an extremely limited amount of time -- the head coach's buyout reduces from $1.75 million to $1.5 million on April 1, but with potential top target Gregg Marshall's Wichita State Shockers bounced from the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night, all reports indicate that the Alabama Crimson Tide will begin pursuing him hard.
If Patterson sees Marshall as his best option to become the next Texas head basketball coach, Barnes may have to make a decision quickly.