In the waning days of his worst season at Texas, Rick Barnes’s security comes into question


Shelby Tauber

Texas head coach Rick Barnes walks off the court after the Longhornsr recent 79-70 over in-state rival Baylor. 

Wes Maulsby

Rick Barnes has been good for Texas.

Many of the peaks for the program have occurred under his watch.

Texas has been ranked in the Top 25 for 175 weeks under Barnes since 1999, which is more than triple the amount in the 50 years of basketball played prior to his arrival. Additionally, Texas has spent 84 weeks in the top 10 since he took over which is a much more than the three it achieved over the previous half a century. He has made Texas relevant on the national scene. At its peak under Barnes, Texas could be spoken of in the same breath as programs like Duke, North Carolina and Kansas. And it only seemed like a matter of time before he took the Longhorns to the mountaintop.

But that was about five years ago.

The program is no longer at its peak.

It’s heading in the other direction.

Texas won three NCAA tournament games in 2008 on the way to its last Elite Eight appearance. Since that year, it has reached the program’s only No. 1 ranking and it won in Lawrence, Kan., for the first time in the program’s history. But in those four trips, it has come away with two wins in four tournament appearances. 

That’s not going to cut it. The Texas administration knows it. The fans know it. Barnes knows it.

So with the Longhorns only a week away from missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998 — the year before Barnes  was hired — the obvious question has to be asked: Is his job safe? Given 1,500 words, I would be able to come at that question from multiple angles and arrive at a decent answer. But with a third of that space, I’ll cram that into one word: No.

While he most certainly is not on the verge of termination, he hasn’t done himself any favors. Without the raw offensive talent of someone like T.J. Ford, Kevin Durant, Jordan Hamilton or J’Covan Brown, the Texas offense often looks as though it is trying to put the ball through a 10-inch rim. It has no margin for error. The Longhorns still play defense and Barnes can call a heck of an out-of-bounds play, as evident in the dramatic win over Iowa State three weeks ago. But Texas has significantly fallen behind Kansas in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks are the undisputed kings of the conference. They are one win over Baylor away from winning their ninth straight conference championship. Texas has won three since 1999. Kansas has won the Big 12 tournament six times since 1999 while Texas has never won the tournament. 

The door is open. If DeLoss Dodds wanted to — which is a different discussion altogether — there are candidates out there. Miami is winning with a coach who went to a Final Four at a mid-major school. Two coaches with that same resume played on Saturday when VCU throttled Butler.

Rick Barnes can still turn this around. It only takes one good season. But until he does, he is unquestionably vulnerable.

Published on March 7, 2013 as "Barnes on hot seat, Horns need winning season".