In an emotional final press conference, Rick Barnes discussed his 17 seasons with the Texas Longhorns, his deep faith, and his affection for the program after Barnes and the school "mutually" agreed to part ways on Sunday after days of speculation and reports about his future.
"It's like someone told me TJ Ford tweeted -- you want the fairy tale ending, you want it all to end right, but sometimes you don't get what you want in life when you want it," Barnes said. "You don't always get the results in athletics when you want it."
Over the last seven seasons of his tenure, Barnes certainly did not get the results he wanted, failing to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and missing the Big Dance entirely in 2012-13.
But most notable were his thoughts on his final days in the program. While Barnes said that he doesn't want anyone to think he's bitter and said it wasn't fair to talk about the discussions he held with athletic director Steve Patterson, the most lengthy pauses during a press conference that featured the former head coach actively holding back tears at several points came when he was asked about the circumstances surrounding his departure.
Barnes admitted that he was "surprised" when the leaks from the university came out on Thursday saying that he would have to remove his assistants or be fired himself. Athletic director Steve Patterson had told the longtime head coach that he would return for another season in the direct aftermath of the NCAA Tournament loss to Butler in the round of 64, even as Patterson notably refused to offer any public comment.
What changed over the following days?
Carefully considering his words, Barnes said that "some things changed," which may have been the fact that Patterson ultimately wanted changes that Barnes wasn't willing to deliver even though strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright and all the other assistants said that they would resign so that Barnes could keep his job.
"i couldn't do that," Barnes said. "That would be me saying this about me. Believe me, I've leaned on and been carried by a lot of great people here. To tell you about the kind of staff I have, though, we're in this together."
Ultimately, it came down to Barnes taking a principled stand, placing his values above his own job.
"I love this program, but I will tell you that I love these people who have been in my life and affected my life and have helped me do the job we're asked to do more than I care about my job."
As much as the struggles over recent seasons sunk Barnes and turned the fan base against him, he could have returned for another season had he been willing to sacrifice a group of assistants that have been with him for years.
The decision certainly did not sound mutual, however -- Barnes said that he respects the right of the university to make choices regarding his future and that he doesn't want to pick at those decisions or put a damper on the situation, but he also admitted that he told Patterson he wanted a chance to finish the job.
"I think we're close," he said of his team.
Given the clear regard that Barnes has for former athletic director DeLoss Dodds, about whom Barnes spoke fondly on multiple occasions during the press conference, the comments by Barnes about the current athletic director didn't suggest a lot of respect for Patterson, who has drawn criticism for his handling of the situation, including from BON's own Peter Bean:
Reasonable minds may differ as to whether Barnes deserved another year at the helm, but one thing is absolutely clear: he didn't deserve a patronizing, meddling middle ground. And that's precisely what this little ploy by Patterson was -- a really silly, myopic move that reflects a gross misunderstanding of priorities, an inflated ego, and outright negligent comprehension of staffing in college basketball.
The situation spurred a big-wig donor to tell Burnt Orange Nation that Patterson is a "bull in our china shop."
Regardless of whether the decision actually was mutual and how Patterson handled the situation, Texas is now in the market for a new basketball coach for the first time in a generation after Barnes went out with the same type of class he exhibited throughout his long tenure in Austin.
As much the program clearly needed some type of change, Longhorns fans can only hope that the next head basketball coach carries himself half as well as Barnes, whose deep humanity was on full display in his final moments.