Rick Barnes

Pressure mounting on Texas head coach Rick Barnes?

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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.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.