For the few Texas fans who still care that the basketball team exists, head coach Rick Barnes most likely ranks a solid fourth on their “Most Hated Citizens of Austin” list—right behind the ménage-a-trois of Mack Brown, DeLoss Dodds, and Manny Diaz, and just in front of the person who leaked the story about Major Applewhite’s indiscretions at the 2009 Fiesta Bowl (just ask Chris Simms what it’s like going head to head with the Major).
Needless to say, it has not been a good year for Longhorn basketball. It started with the suspension of the team’s best player, Myck Kabongo, and it’s gotten progressively worse from there. There have been blowouts, blown opportunities, and a loss to a team too small to be in the same competition classification (Google “Chaminade Division II”, and the first link listed is the Horns’ game recap). As it stands now, UT sits at 12-15, eighth in the Big 12 conference (which only has 10 teams), and 143rd in RPI, behind the likes of George Washington and Robert Morris.
General rule of thumb: When you’re a big state school, you never want to be trailing any university named for a revolutionary that helped form the actual states themselves.
Just as 2010 shattered Mack Brown’s record of set-your-watch-to-it consistency and 10-win campaigns, this face plant of a season strikes at the heart of everything that Barnes has built in Austin. This is his 5-7, and once you take away his NCAA Tournament appearance streak—which, unless something crazy happens, will end at 14—the leg on which Barnes’ haters stand becomes that much stronger. Suddenly, there’s not as much ammunition to defend against calls that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, that his teams always underachieve, that he’s more interested in helping players get to the NBA than he is in winning championships, and that he’s maxed out his success at Texas. That’s the negative narrative hanging over Barnes’ head at the moment, and if it were up to most fans, his bags would already be packed and the pink slip would be on its way to his locker.
The irony, of course, is that, in many ways, he’s doing exactly what fans claim they want him to do.