The highlight of the Rick Barnes era with the Texas Longhorns came when point guard TJ Ford led the Horns on a magical Final Four run in 2003, prompting a heartfelt message from the Longhorns legend to his former head coach on Saturday:
Dear Rick Barnes, I never thought this day would come. I dreamed of a fairy tale ending. You put Texas Basketball on the Map. Love you
— TJ Ford (@tj_ford) March 28, 2015
One of the first McDonald's All-American recruited by Barnes to Texas, Ford's career in Austin not only launched Texas basketball to its modern pinnacle, it also had a profound impact on the recruiting trail in paving the way for future Horns stars to come to Texas like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, and DJ Augustin.
If Ford hadn't come to Texas, the best stretch of Barnes' tenure wouldn't have happened. And while Ford's comment doesn't say anything about the coach that Barnes was in his final days, his star player's continued affection says a lot about who he was 12 years ago.