Stat Guy: Rick Barnes’ recent struggles similar to Mack Brown’s ending

Drew Lieberman

When Rick Barnes and Mack Brown were introduced as head coaches for men’s basketball and football, respectively, their careers were somewhat destined to be compared.

In the 1996–1997 season, then-men’s basketball coach Tom Penders led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16, and then-football coach John Mackovic won the Big 12 Championship game over heavily favored Nebraska.

Both coaches followed that up with losing seasons in their 1997–1998 campaigns, leaving Barnes and Brown to turn the programs around after achieving success in the ACC.

The majority of their tenures were filled with victories.

Barnes’ teams qualified for the NCAA tournament in the first 15 of his 16 seasons coaching Texas men’s basketball, whereas Brown won 10 or more games every season from 2001–2009.

Barnes led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16 or better five times in a seven season stretch from 2002–2008, including the school’s first Final Four appearance since 1947. Brown coached the Longhorns to their first national title since 1970 in 2005 and almost won a second title in 2009.

But the programs’ success hasn’t carried over into this decade. 

Much like Brown’s tenure ended, Barnes has struggled to bring Texas basketball back to the level of success he set the bar to in the mid-2000s. In each coaches’ last four years, their numbers are eerily similar — and not in a good way for Texas. 

Both coaches had similar winning percentages in this time period. Brown posted a 30–21 record (58.82 percent), and Barnes sits at 79–55 (58.96 percent). In the first three quarters of their tenures, both coaches won at a much higher rate; Brown won 82.58 percent in his first 12 seasons, and Barnes won 72.12 percent in his first 13.

Barnes’ teams compiled a poor record against teams that made the NCAA tournament, similar to Brown’s struggles against teams that went bowling.

Using Lunardi’s projections, which are bracket projections,  to fill in the 2015 tournament field, Texas is 21–45 against opponents that make the Big Dance, including 13–35 against conference foes. Brown, on the other hand, went 16–19 against teams that played in bowls, including 11–16 in conference play.

Likewise, both coaches’ records against teams in the AP top 25 are comparable. Brown went 4–15, and Barnes posted a record of 10–32 — both winning percentages of under
25 percent.

From the 2011–2012 season to the present, the basketball team is 35–37 in regular season conference play under Barnes, but it is only 22–36 when excluding Texas Tech and TCU, the perennial cellar dwellers from the record. From 2010–2013, Brown went 18–17 in conference play but was only 12–16 when excluding Kansas and Iowa State, the two worst teams in the Big 12 over this stretch.

In addition, the two times Brown and Barnes each finished below .500 in conference play occurred in their past four seasons.

If Barnes continues to follow Brown’s decline, he may end up with the
same fate.