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Tom Hicks: Former Texas AD Steve Patterson had a "fatal flaw"

The influential former regent still believes that Patterson was a perfect fit. Except for one big problem.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, ousted Texas Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson was called the perfect man for the job by former president Bill Powers.

Once upon a time, Patterson revealed an easy laugh and deeply-held feelings for his alma mater.

Then his "fatal flaw" ended his tenure after only 22 months on the job.

After an emotional introductory press conference that also included Patterson joking that his wife had to stop him from naming his son Bevo instead of Austin, I wrote about his notable humanity and drank the burnt orange kool-aid on Patterson being the right choice.

The search committee for Texas clearly felt like Patterson was a strong fit. Where West Virginia Oliver Luck played it safe in his interview, Patterson didn't hold back, demonstrating a vision for Texas athletics and a willingness to make tough choices:

Patterson impressed everyone with his intelligence, his grasp of the big issues in college sports, the homework he'd done on the pressing issues specific to UT. He came in pretty much brandishing an org chart for the new direction of UT Athletics. He had thoughts on obvious inefficiencies in the current administrative structures, offered his blueprint for consolidation, wowed them with his capital projects bona fides, and expressed not caution, but genuine excitement that he'd be picking new head coaches in every revenue sport early in his career.

While Patterson received universal praise for his hiring of two African-American head coaches to lead the school's two most important sports, his intelligence never translated to communication skills and his vision for the future alienated those at every level of the university.

Former Texas regent Tom Hicks was one of those who supported the hire of Patterson. Still does, actually, according to an interview with the Dallas Morning News. But now Hicks understands what become all too apparent -- Patterson didn't have the communication skills to keep the job, in notable contrast to his predecessor, DeLoss Dodds:

"I haven't changed my mind about Steve Patterson," Hicks said. "I think he's one of the smartest athletic executives in the country. I think he has the fatal flaw of not being a good communicator. And the nature of the job is, with our fan base, people want to have kind of a warm and fuzzy feeling from people.

"Steve just didn't provide that."

Indeed, the humanity that Patterson seemingly showcased in his introductory press conference never truly appeared publicly during his time at Texas.

Perhaps it was just an act for the media on that day in early November of 2013. Perhaps the power brokers at Texas should have known better.

Oregonian colunist John Conzano certainly would have told them, had they cared to ask.

Shortly after Patterson's hire, Conzano recounted a number of ugly incidents from Patterson's time as the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, including this one:

Patterson once threatened to fire a line of staffers at the practice facility because a trade proposal appeared in The Oregonian. He lined up the secretaries, demanding to know who leaked the deal. He roared, saying he'd fire them all to ensure he got the guilty party. One of the women cried.

What Patterson never knew, and to this day probably doesn't care to know, is that the source of the leak was -- himself. He'd accidentally left the trade proposal in plain view on a fax machine tray at the practice facility.

That was Patterson.

Once upon a time, it seemed like there was a chance that Patterson learned from those mistakes. Even Conzano, one of his harshest critics anywhere, acknowledged that might be possible.

Instead, Patterson just repeated them all, even failing to listen to Hicks when the former owner of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars told him that he needed to hire a right-hand man to communicate with the important constituents at Texas.

Maybe that was Patterson's intention when he fired longtime SID John Bianco and recently announced the hire of Kevin Mortesen as the school's Chief Communications Officer. But even that backfired, as Mortesen's background with Applebee's and I-Hop became a punchline because of pancake tweet after pancake tweet and he never had a chance to define the narrative around Patterson.

Mortesen was two months too late, as president Greg Fenves was already tired of hearing from donors and faculty and fans complaining about Patterson. He'd already told the athetic director to change his personal style, but Patterson couldn't do that.

And so, after all that initial promise and after all the positive things Patterson did that no one will ever care about when discussing his legacy at Texas, his fatal flaw, that defining bit of hubris, brought him down.