Why the Texas Longhorns Need to Part Company with Rick Barnes
The second of Gary Johnson's two free throws at the end of last night's first round game fell off, and Ishmael Smith answered the call at the other end, putting a tortured Texas team's season to the sword.
Some Texas fans are likely enraged at how the season ended; others may just be happy it's all over.
The Longhorns had a rollercoaster season. They reached the summit of college basketball, a midseason No. 1 ranking, and somehow managed to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
After narrowly surviving a strong showing from a Texas A&M team that would eventually best the Longhorns in the Big 12 standings, Texas ran out of its luck.
That's right, I said it, luck. How else can you describe the non-conference undefeated record, and 3-0 start to Big 12 play, based on their finishing performance?
Who's to blame? Well, it may be hard to blame just one person, but the coach is always the first one to get that burning light shined upon him once the dust settles from another disappointing season.
Rick Barnes has got to go.
He's thoroughly proven that he is not an effective coach. He's a good coach, but he is not the type of coach who can win a national championship.
Sure the coaches of the last five national titles can recruit future NBA stars, just like Barnes. The glaring difference between Barnes and those coaches is that Barnes can't get the most out of them.
That goes for all of his players, from the future lottery picks to the walk-ons.
Case in point, the entire preseason and most of the non-conference season was spent talking about Texas' tremendous depth, and outstanding players like Damion James, Dexter Pittman, Avery Bradley, and Jordan Hamilton.
Yet Barnes failed to harness that depth by failing to establish a proper rotation. It's great to be able to go 10 or 11 deep, but it's another thing when you don't know who your best five is, and it's the middle of February.
The team has lacked discipline all year, and the only person that can fall on is the coach.
Texas is in the 300s when it comes to free throw shooting, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone that they lost their last game of the season at the charity stripe.
Maybe the torn ACL of Dogus Balbay meant that Texas truly did lose something, but let's be honest, what did Balbay give Texas other than a good ball handling guard who could dish out four assists a game?
A guy that shoots 45 percent from the field yet never puts up any shots, and shoots a staggering 50 percent as a guard from the foul line. The loss of Balbay was a net-null, if anything.
Then there is a shining example of Rick Barnes' biggest flaw of not getting the most out of his players: Dexter Pittman.
Pittman's story is well-known by now: a guy who was incredibly overweight, who lacked a lot in the way of basketball IQ, was supposed to be this transformed stud this season.
In the end Barnes was getting just 10 points and six rebounds from the guy. Now I know that those numbers aren't poor, and may suffice, but not compared to what most were expecting, including Rick Barnes, I'm guessing.
Finally, and maybe the biggest problem Barnes brought on himself, was who to start and give the most playing time to at the guard positions.
The rotations were never set and the box score seemed to always have 11 or more guys on it all season, and Texas and their fans paid the price.
Obviously there are plenty of people out there that will come to Rick Barnes' defense, but why?
If you are fine with watching one or two future NBA players each season and never making it past the Sweet 16 with any consistency, go ahead and keep him.
A few times during grade school I brought home one "C+" on a midterm report card simply because I had forgotten to complete or hand in some assignments. When my mom scolded me, or grounded me, I'd whine, "but C is average," to which she would always reply, "If you were truly a C+ student, I wouldn't be mad, but you've got straight As otherwise."
Texas has come to a point where it would be wise for Texas fans to start taking a similar approach with Barnes.
If boosters, the athletic administration at Texas, and the general fan alike truly believe that Rick Barnes is an "A" type of coach, how long will they continue to put up with "C+" seasons after the expectations have been so high?
Several teams have fired their coaches at smaller programs this year for failing to either make the tournament, or failing to win their first NIT game.
What does it say about a program that has some decent basketball tradition, that wants to be a perennial contender, that expected a Final Four (at least) out of their program and coach this season, that ended up losing 10 of their last 17 games, including their first-round game in the NCAA tournament?
If Texas wants to get rid of the disappointment felt from a season where their team was deemed the best team in the nation at one point, and has fallen out of the NCAA tournament in their first game, it's time to fix the problem at the source.
Unfortunately for Rick Barnes, his time has run out. Texas needs to move on, and bring someone in who can get the most out of his players year in and year out.
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