A year ago, if you were to tell anyone in the know around college basketball that Rick Barnes was a lame duck coach, that statement would not have been met with too much skepticism.
Texas had lost its four leading scorers—two of whom transferred along with two other rotation players—off a dysfunctional team that was pretty mediocre. Barnes had gone another year missing out on the best recruits the state of Texas had to offer.
The brand was stale. The future looked bleak.
On Wednesday, the image rehabilitation was in full force on national television as Myles Turner, the top-ranked recruit left in the 2014 class, picked Texas over Kansas, Duke and a whole host of suitors that didn't need Turner as much as Texas needed Turner.
And here's the crazy thing: The Longhorns don't necessarily need Turner for their team next year—and I'll get to that—they need him for their image.
See, the state of Texas has produced more talent than any other state in recent years when it comes to hoops, and the state's biggest school was either an afterthought or runner-up for nearly all those blue-chippers.
From 2010 through 2014, the state had 20 players listed as top-40 prospects, according to Rivals.com, and until Wednesday, Texas had just signed one of those guys (Cameron Ridley). That was a major issue, one that UT's administration would likely take a look at once Barnes fell on hard times again.
Not only did the Longhorns and Barnes benefit from Turner choosing them on Wednesday, it didn't hurt that they've been out front as the favorite for months and thus a topic of conversation in the recruiting world.
The old saying goes that any press is good press, but that hadn't been the case a year ago. When "what's the matter with Texas" was what folks were talking about in the basketball community, that was not a good thing. That's the type of thing that scares off recruits.
Turner's announcement, and the attention it's received, is the type of thing that reels top recruits back in, and it wouldn't have happened if Barnes had not made a decision to clean house of all his bad seeds a year ago and get his program's reputation back intact.
"There was no question that was going to happen," Barnes told Bleacher Report last November of the transfers he essentially helped pack their bags. "Halfway through the season last year, I made that decision: 'This is the way it's going to be.'"
Barnes also knew he needed to pick up his recruiting game, especially with a new administration coming to UT, one that cut loose football coach Mack Brown. Barnes and his staff targeted Turner, who had a huge summer last year and emerged as one of the top players in the class.
Barnes also went out and made a really smart hire to help him get Turner in Jai Lucas. Lucas' father, John Lucas, had been working with Turner and already built a relationship with the big man.
Had the Longhorns met expectations last year—and expectations were low, including being picked eighth in the Big 12—it may not have mattered how hard Barnes recruited Turner or whom he had on his staff. Had the Horns bombed in 2013-14, who knows if Barnes would have still had a job.
That's why Barnes owes a lot to his team that got back to the NCAA tournament and renewed his enthusiasm for coaching.
That entire group is back this coming season, which was a great selling point to Turner. He'd be playing with a winner. The 'Horns are so strong up front, in fact, that it wouldn't be surprising if Turner comes off the bench as the third big man behind Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes.
Regardless of his role, what's important is that Texas will likely debut high in the rankings next season—we have them 11th—and there will be a buzz on the summer circuit that Texas is a major player again.
It may take a year for Turner to adjust to the college game and wait his turn to become the star big man at UT. That doesn't mean he'll be a bust. That's how it works when you have great depth and talent. That's how it works when you're one of the top major programs in the country.
Remember, Texas was there not too long ago. Barnes had it going pretty good with 14 straight NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four, and coaching 10 first-round draft picks in his first 14 seasons in Austin.
You can argue that the lack of a national title meant the Horns weren't a top major program, but those numbers above say otherwise.
Are they back to being one of the top major programs in the country now?
There's still some work to be done. But they're back on the upswing, and their made-for-TV infomercial that doubled as Turner's announcement sure didn't hurt the cause.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.
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