Hey, I know you: Former Texas coach Rick Barnes bringing Tennessee to Austin in January
Horns, Vols scheduled to meet Jan. 29 as part of Big 12/SEC Challenge; Game is Barnes’ first vs. UT since leaving Texas in 2015
“Hickory” is coming home, for one day at least.
Rick Barnes, who guided the Texas men's basketball program for 17 seasons, will bring his Tennessee Volunteers to Austin next season as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 29.
The Big 12 unveiled the full 10-game lineup Wednesday. Baylor, the defending national champion, will play at Alabama. Kentucky’s headed to Kansas. LSU will play at TCU, and Mississippi State is off to Texas Tech.
But for Texas fans, Barnes’ return to the Erwin Center takes center stage. It also makes for a perfect storybook game going into the Erwin Center’s last year. Texas will move into the new Moody Center for the 2022-23 season.
“In my eyes, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach,” current Texas coach Chris Beard told the American-Statesman on Wednesday. “What he’s done here in Austin, what he built, we all benefit from here today.
“The timing of it in year one, it might not be ideal for us,” Beard added. “But I think more important of what any individual feels, it’s what's right for Texas basketball.”
Barnes could not be reached Wednesday.
As an assistant at Texas Tech, Beard saw a different side of Barnes, who had a real friendship with then-Tech coach Bob Knight. “And we all benefited from that,” Beard said.
“I think with the basketball in the state of Texas, basketball in the Big 12, coach Barnes has done as much as anyone to strengthen our game,” Beard said. “He’s just one of the icons in our state’s basketball history.”
The Hickory, N.C., native went 402-180 during his time with the Horns. The program played in the NCAA Tournament in 16 out of his 17 seasons and reached the 2003 Final Four. Texas won three Big 12 regular season titles on his watch, the last coming in 2008, and hasn’t come close since he left.
Barnes and his staff also recruited most of the current-day NBA stars now carrying the UT banner, including Kevin Durant, P.J. Tucker and the just-retired LaMarcus Aldridge, to name a few.
After the 2014-15 season, then-Texas athletic director Steve Patterson asked Barnes to change out his staff members to refresh the program. Barnes refused, so Patterson fired him. Barnes quietly had his next job already lined up and was whisked away to Knoxville literally hours after an emotional, goodbye press conference in Austin.
Over the last six seasons with the Volunteers, Barnes has gone 123-73. Tennessee won the SEC in 2018 and played in three of the last four NCAA Tournaments.
The Tennessee-Texas game should bring about one of the biggest family moments for all Texas exes.
Beard is now coaching his alma mater and has stressed wanting to bring former players back to the fold. Barnes’ former assistant, Rodney Terry, is back on the Texas sideline, and former Longhorn Chris Ogden has an off-court role.
“With the actual basketball game, it’s the kind of game we’re trying to schedule at Texas,” Beard said. “I would predict that it’s going to be two Top-25 teams battling.”
Beard has already held one event for former players, and he stresses how they need to come back and support the program. Having Barnes back for a potential Friday night event before the game would seem like a no-brainer.
As for these games, the Big 12 is 44-35 in the cross-conference event. Texas was scheduled to play at Kentucky last year, but the game was canceled because of COVID-19.
Big 12/SEC Challenge (Saturday, Jan. 29)
Baylor at Alabama
Missouri at Iowa State
Kentucky at Kansas
Kansas State at Ole Miss
Oklahoma at Auburn
Oklahoma State at Florida
LSU at TCU
Tennessee at Texas
Mississippi State at Texas Tech
West Virginia at Arkansas