LUBBOCK — Texas men’s coach Rick Barnes had a close relationship with former football coach Mack Brown. The two men arrived in Austin around the same time and coached alongside each other for 16 years.
When Brown resigned last December, Barnes was there at Brown’s farewell press conference to support his friend. Many wondered if Barnes was next.
“I don’t know who thought that,” Barnes said after Texas finished third in the Big 12 with a 22-9 record. This was after the Longhorns were picked to finish eighth in the preseason. “Probably people like you that don’t know what’s going on, maybe.
“But I think if it was ever going to be a coach’s last game, I think someone would have told me a year ago,” he continued. “No one ever mentioned that. All they said to me was we want you to be happy. The only way I’m going to be happy was to do what we’ve done this year.
“Think about it, we were picked to finish eighth and the fact that I’m sitting here disappointed speaks volumes. I think we’re better than third in the league. We could have won the league. But that’s me, because i love these guys.”
All season long, Barnes scoffed at the idea he was coaching for his job. The win over then-No. 14 North Carolina in December helped quiet the murmurs. An 0-2 start in Big 12 play brought them back. And then, the Longhorns rattled off seven straight victories, including four over top-25 teams.
After the 81-69 win over then-No. 6 Kansas, any idea that Barnes would be fired was ludicrous.
“Certainly Texas is a very tough team,” said Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, who has known Barnes practically his entire adult life. “They’re a team that’ll be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“Rick Barnes has done a terrific job this year,” Smith added, “deserving of coach of the year.”
From getting fired to possible coach of the year? That’s how things stand now. Barnes is upset because he knows Texas’ overall record should be better.
“I’m disappointed because I think we’re better than seven conference losses,” Barnes said.
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