There are not many coaches out there that have it as good as Rick Barnes.
He’s the head coach of the men’s basketball team for the most recognizable university in the state of Texas which just so happens to have one of the richest athletic departments in the country. And that athletic department also doesn’t give two hoots about the basketball program so long as they are winning enough games to be relevant.
When you combine the salary with the lack of expectations and pressure, there’s an argument to be made that Texas is the best job in the country. Seriously.
But things haven’t been going all that well for Barnes of late. Last season, his Longhorns went 16-18 and lost in the CBI, extending their streak to five consecutive seasons without making it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. That streak will likely continue into next season, as Jaylen Bond, Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan followed Myck Kabongo out the door.
How bad are things getting for Barnes down in Austin?
In a place where they couldn’t possibly care less about college basketball, local columnists starting to take notice. In Kirk Bohls’ story from over the weekend, this nugget was included:
“If I said I was not concerned, that would not be accurate,” said Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, who said he has had serious talks with Barnes. “I am concerned. I am troubled by it, and we need to get it fixed.”
When was the last time you heard DeLoss Dodds say anything about the Texas basketball program?
That’s a problem.
To be fair, some of this isn’t his fault. He didn’t expect Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson to be one-and-done recruits. He couldn’t have known that Myck Kabongo would be a bust that missed two-thirds of last season because of issues stemming from his relationship with an agent.
But Barnes isn’t known as a guy who is a great x’s-and-o’s coach. His reputation is as a recruiter, someone that amasses talent and rolls the ball out, hoping that his guys end up being better than the other guys. That’s fine when your roster has guys like Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin and Damion James. When that talent well dries up, however, it becomes a different story.
Right now, Barnes isn’t getting it done on the recruiting trail. Texas is a gold mine of basketball talent right now, and schools like Kentucky (Julius Randle, the Harrisons), Oklahoma State (Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash) and Duke (Matt Jones, Rasheed Sulaimon) and pulling talent out of the state, Baylor and Houston are having more success keeping in-state kids in state.
Think about it like this: there have been 11 five-star recruits to come out of Texas during the Longhorn’s Sweet 16-less stretch. Barnes has landed exactly one of them: Cameron Ridley.
That’s not going to get it done.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.