Busting Brackets

Where Do The Texas Longhorns Go From Here?


Rick Barnes is out after 17 seasons as the head coach at the University of Texas. Where do the Longhorns go from here?

Rick Barnes’ 17 years as the head basketball coach of the Texas Longhorns came to an end Sunday. Barnes is the university’s all-time leader in wins (402-180 at Texas). His teams in Austin reached the NCAA Tournament 16 times, he won three Big 12 titles and took the Horns to the Final Four in 2003.

Barnes is out because the perception is his teams do not perform to the talent level he recruits. With high-profile talent comes high expectations and when players like Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge are unable to take the program to the pinnacle, blame must rest on the coach – fair or not. Thus, Barnes is now on the coaching carousel.

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  • The Longhorns entered the 2014-15 season with high expectations and a top 10 national ranking, but they finished 20-14 overall with a 8-10 record in Big 12 play then flamed out against Butler in the Round of 64. This sealed it and Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson forced Barnes to make changes in his staff or be let go. Barnes chose loyalty and there will be a new head man in Austin.

    Without doubt, Texas is an elite job. Austin, Texas is a desirable city. The Texas resources and facilities are unmatched and new arena plans are on the horizon. Texas is a hotbed of basketball talent with Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth nearby and the Horns have the brand (and network) to recruit nationally. Money, budget and resources are limitless.

    But Texas has a unique basketball culture. What direction will Patterson take with this hire and will he factor in some of the quirks of coaching basketball at a football-crazed university?

    The usual names are beginning to surface and Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth may be the top target.

    (Brian Davis of the Austin American Statesman)

    And of course Gregg Marshall of Wichita State is rumored to be high on the list. The Longhorns may be in a battle with fellow football-rich rival Alabama for Marshall’s services.

    It is also important to note that Patterson spent time as an NBA executive with the Portland Trail Blazers and he could pluck a coach from the professional ranks to lead the Longhorns.

    Another name to keep an eye on is Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech. Williams built an incredible rapport with Texas high school coaches during his stint as an assistant coach in the state. He is a native Texan with deep recruiting ties to the state.

    What Patterson must ultimately decide is not only who is the best coach available, but who is the best best fit in Austin.

    In Austin, the key will be being both good and entertaining to watch. The Longhorns under Barnes were often very good and sometimes great. They have had gaudy win-loss records and top five rankings. Yet the Frank Erwin Center, the on-campus home to the Horns, is often only two-thirds (or less) full and strangely quiet.

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  • Patterson’s challenge will be bringing in a coach that will create an attraction with Longhorn fans and hysteria among the student body. Texas has been a top five team and the arena has still be quiet and largely empty. Winning may not be the only prerequisite for the next Longhorn coach. Winning while being entertaining will be the job requirement.

    Texas has won and won big yet fans in Austin stay away from games that promise to end 53-50 even when Big 12 titles are on the line. Barnes publicly complained at times about having to face raucous crowds at places like Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State only to have them greeted by emptiness and silence in Austin.

    The next head coach needs to be someone who can remedy that problem AND win in March. Perhaps that is why Smart and his “Havoc” brand of basketball are rumored to be Patterson’s top target. But would “Havoc” work at Texas?

    Pressing teams struggle on the road and the best guards in America are often unfazed by the press and turn the aggressiveness into easy baskets. Further, will the elite talent needed to win at Texas be interested in diving on the floor for loose balls and sharing minutes with the army of players needed to make Havoc work?

    The state of Texas would offer Smart an army of bodies to make his system go, but is it a system that can win it all and challenge in the Big 12? Havoc has entertainment value and Smart’s name has buzz and that may be the top qualification for Patterson.

    With the dismissal of Barnes, Texas has stated that winning in March is the goal and anything less is unacceptable. The next coach will be expected to do that and do it with style.

    Next: NCAA Tournament: 10 Initial Thoughts On Final Four