Skip to content

What a difference a year makes for Texas, Rick Barnes

May 2, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

source: Getty Images

Getty Images

While Rick Barnes has won nearly 70 percent of the games in which he’s coached at the University of Texas, there had been the feeling in recent years that the program had underachieved. Given the importance of the month of March in college basketball, not going deep into the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis can be an issue when running a program that has (in the eyes of many) the resources needed to be a power player in the sport.

With Texas having missed the NCAA tournament in 2013 and making just one Sweet 16 appearance since 2006 (2008), it wasn’t too difficult to find those critical of what Barnes was doing in Austin. And with four members of the 2012-13 team transferring and two others turning pro, the 2013-14 campaign didn’t look all that promising from the outside.

As a result practically any preseason “hot seat” list included Barnes’ names, with the veteran coach ranking among the top names most likely to be in search of a new position at season’s end. And within the program, Barnes and his staff focused on what they could do to get the program headed in the right direction.

“When players come in and leave your program, obviously it goes back to the evaluation part of it,” Barnes said in an interview conducted in May 2013. “That’s the one thing I think we did as a staff a year ago [2012] with what will now be our sophomore class, we said we’re going to be really selective in terms of making sure we get the right kind of player to fit what we want at the University of Texas.

“The one thing was, we want guys who truly want to be at the University of Texas for all the right reasons,” Barnes continued. “We’ve never wanted someone not to pursue their dreams of playing in the NBA or whatever that may be. But while they’re here what we want is the University of Texas and our basketball program to be really important. And I feel like the energy in our program right now, this spring, is the best it had been in a couple years.”

Many scoffed at those words, seeing the fact that Texas’ top two returning scorers averaged 6.8 (Javan Felix) and 6.4 (Jonathan Holmes) points per game respectively. However Barnes’ words proved accurate in 2013-14, as the rejuvenated Longhorns won 24 games and returned to the NCAA tournament. Texas’ season may have ended in the Round of 32 at the hands of a talented Michigan squad, but the general feeling at the time was that this group chock full of rising sophomores and juniors was poised to take another step forward in 2014-15.

And then, earlier this week, five-star big man Myles Turner announced that he’ll be attending Texas next season. As a result expectations for Texas grew even more, with some even asking if the Longhorns have enough to not only contend with Kansas atop the Big 12 but possibly end the Jayhawks’ run of ten consecutive regular season conference titles.

To say the least, that’s quite the departure from where the Texas program was just a year ago. And while much of the credit will be bestowed upon Barnes and his staff (and rightfully so), those young players who weren’t expected to accomplish a whole lot in 2013-14 deserve praise as well.

Holmes (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who will be the team’s lone scholarship senior, doubled his scoring average and led the team in rebounding while also providing the veteran leadership the Longhorns needed throughout the season. And he had help in the front court, as Cameron Ridley took a significant step forward as a sophomore and both Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert solidified their spots in the rotation as well.

In the backcourt, the arrival of Isaiah Taylor and the improvement of Demarcus Holland alleviated some of the pressure that was on Felix’s shoulders in 2012-13. With Myck Kabongo suspended for most of that season Felix was asked to do a lot at the point, and the results were mixed. That changed this past season, resulting in both Felix and the team as a whole reaping the rewards. Texas hasn’t lost a single player from its rotation, and the addition of Turner gives the Longhorns a high-level talent who is expected to hit the ground running upon his arrival in Austin.

Whether it’s the people within the program or those on the outside, there’s a much better feeling regarding the state of Texas basketball this spring than there was in 2013. And for that Barnes can point to two important areas: he and his staff’s decision to pay closer attention to the commitment of those within the program, and the players’ willingness to push forward in the pursuit of a common goal.

With that being the case, Texas will move from being the “hunter” to the “hunted” in 2014-15. And in his comments following the season-ending loss to Michigan, it’s obvious that Barnes wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You go back, I can assure you this:  We were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 this year.  We won’t be picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 next year,” Barnes said. “I’m sure we’ll come out — I told them what’s going to be fun for you guys a year from now, you’re going to understand what it’s really like with the, what the Texas program has been built on, and the fact that next year we will be hunted. And that’s the way we’ve always liked it, and that’s why I really appreciate these guys.”

Latest Posts
  1. Florida State will be without two key guards Friday night

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:07 PM EST

    Aaron Thomas Aaron Thomas

    Aaron Thomas and Devon Bookert both suffered injuries last weekend that have kept them sidelined.

  2. Right wrist injury to sideline Maryland senior wing four weeks

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EST

    Dez Wells, Hugo Naurais Dez Wells, Hugo Naurais

    Dez Wells made just five of his 20 field goal attempts against Iowa State. This injury may be the reason why.

  3. Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Oklahoma, No. 2 Wisconsin meet for Battle 4 Atlantis title

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:24 AM EST

    Buddy Hield, Zeek Woodley AP

    Providence better focus on Yale and not get caught looking forward to their game at No. 1 Kentucky on Sunday.

  4. Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Wisconsin remains undefeated, No. 5 North Carolina bounces back

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:01 AM EST

    Jabril Trawick, Duje Dukan Jabril Trawick, Duje Dukan

    North Carolina did a better job on the boards while also forcing 23 turnovers in their win over UCLA.

  5. Penn State unveils new uniforms for next two games

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:53 PM EST

    Patrick Chambers AP

    Penn State will return to the school’s original colors- black and pink- for their next two games.

  6. Bronson Koenig, Duje Dukan step forward in No. 2 Wisconsin’s win over Georgetown

    Nov 27, 2014, 6:08 PM EST

    D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Bronson Koenig D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Bronson Koenig

    Koenig and Dukan combined to score 18 points in the second half for the second-ranked Badgers.

  7. Richmond loses reserve guard to left foot injury

    Nov 27, 2014, 5:24 PM EST

    Chris Mooney Chris Mooney

    Khwan Fore’s averaging 7.5 minutes per game in two appearances this season.

  8. Report: Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins broke his jaw

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:56 PM EST

    St Joseph's v Gonzaga St Joseph's v Gonzaga

    Perkins was kicked in the face by a Georgia player.

  9. Pregame Shootaround: Enjoy your Turkey Day!

    Nov 27, 2014, 11:19 AM EST

    Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo) Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

    It’s not just football that’s on today.

  10. St. John’s seniors say they ‘grew up’ against Minnesota, but have they?

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:14 AM EST

    D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo) D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo)

    A lot is riding on this season for St. John’s. Can they consistently be the ‘grown up’ team they claimed to be on Wednesday night?

  11. Late Night Snacks: Two ranked teams fall at the Battle 4 Atlantis

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:07 AM EST

    Kelan Martin, Marcus Paige AP

    Two Big East teams made statements in the Bahamas, and No. 3 Arizona won the Maui Invitational.

  12. The little things made a big difference in No. 3 Arizona’s win over No. 15 San Diego State

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:07 AM EST

    Sean Miller Sean Miller

    Arizona scored 22 points off of 14 San Diego State turnovers, and that along with good foul shooting proved to be the difference.

  13. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s shot propels Georgetown past No. 18 Florida

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:56 AM EST

    D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

    Georgetown committed 19 turnovers, but they shot 49 percent from the field and earned another quality win for the Big East.

  14. Rick Pitino gets his 700th career victory, but his team remains cold from three

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:22 PM EST

    Rick Pitino Rick Pitino

    Through five games Louisville is shooting 24-for-105 from three. They’ll need to shoot better than that when Ohio State visits next Tuesday.

  15. #POSTERIZED: St. John’s forward Sir’Dominic Pointer finishes with authority (VIDEO)

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:11 PM EST

    Sir'Dominic Pointer, Tony Chennault Sir'Dominic Pointer, Tony Chennault

    Sir’Dominic Pointer picked off Minnesota center Elliot Eliason’s outlet pass and made the big man pay for his mistake.

  16. Binghamton’s leading returning scorer, rebounder takes indefinite leave of absence

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:05 PM EST

    Tommy Dempsey Tommy Dempsey

    Justin Reed was one of America East’s best guards in each of his first two seasons, but that hasn’t been the case in 2014-15.

  17. Buddy Hield, improved shot selection the keys in Oklahoma’s win over No. 22 UCLA

    Nov 26, 2014, 6:42 PM EST

    Buddy Hield, Zeek Woodley AP

    After launching 22 three-pointers in the first half, Oklahoma took a wiser approach to the offensive end of the floor as they outlasted No. 22 UCLA.

  18. No. 5 North Carolina’s loss highlights issues with their rebounding, toughness

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:29 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It’s hard to put too much stake in one loss, but there are a couple of things from this game that we need to keep an eye on.