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ESPN: Rick Barnes/change


Sirhornsalot
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http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/10341319/rick-barnes-making-changes-see-texas

 

 

New-look Longhorns are a surprise

Texas lost its top four scorers, but Rick Barnes is pushing all the right buttons

 

Sometimes a man just needs to vent.

 

Not for any particular reason. But sometimes, he just has to talk and he just needs someone to listen.

 

That's what Rick Barnes did Sunday in a conversation with ESPN.com, 24 hours after Texas defeated nationally ranked Iowa State, and days before it picked up another quality win over Kansas State.

 

He just stepped to his pulpit and began to preach from the Book of Change, while promoting the new culture that has boosted this season's Longhorns. They will enter a Saturday matchup at Baylor boasting a slot in a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 months after many projected doom for a team that lost its top four scorers -- all of whom had eligibility remaining -- from last season.

 

"The one thing that we've always tried to stress with our players is we don't want anyone that has a sense of entitlement," Barnes said. "We want players that understand work. We've had a lot of guys that have come in here and made themselves better players and they bought into the culture that we had. And we lost that."

 

He had earned the right to briefly evangelize about the things that happened behind the scenes a year ago and marred the overall production. The things that appeared to jeopardize his job.

 

In October, he walked to the podium at Big 12 media day in Kansas City amid a lingering gray vibe that had surrounded his program since it failed to reach the NCAA tournament in March for the first time during his term. Everyone in the room knew what Barnes knew. After 15 seasons that included two Elite Eight appearances and a Final Four run, his seat was warmer than it had been at any point in his career.

 

"I worry more about basketball," athletic director DeLoss Dodds told Sports Illustrated before the season. "If I were going to pick one [program] to worry more about, I worry more about basketball."

 

Last season's struggles were complicated by problems in the locker room, though. And that's what Barnes wanted to express without demeaning the kids who left.

 

The departure of multiple contributors further diluted a rocky season that included a 7-11 Big 12 record. But maybe it was a cleansing.

 

Myck Kabongo (undrafted) and Ioannis Papapetrou (overseas) turned pro. Julian Lewis and Sheldon McClellan both transferred. Barnes never called them bad kids. But the coach and some of his current players agreed that last season's internal climate was messy and the program's past makeup contributed to that.

 

They implied that the pieces and parts just didn't fit together. No amount of layup drills, pregame speeches, team meals and game film can alter the environment if the guys on the court don't jell.

 

"It's good to go into practice and not have people complain about not wanting to be here," junior Jonathan Holmes said. "You can get better with people who want to get better and actually want to be taught stuff. It's just good to be around a group of guys that are all like that."

 

The professional success of former Texas stars Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge might have given some young players false perspectives on what it would take to reach the NBA, Barnes said. That didn't help team chemistry.

 

"I probably talked to more parents a year ago than I had in my lifetime wanting to know why their son [didn't] do this, do that," Barnes said. "The only answer I could give was the players that had gone before them put themselves in the position they're in. … I think I've spent more time in the last two years talking to players about effort, attitude than I had in the other previous two years. It's amazing. I knew last year at a point and time in the season that changes had to be made. We had to get guys who wanted to be coached. We've made a conscious effort of doing that."

 

Now, he's running a Texas team that is the sleeper in the Big 12 and a candidate for an NCAA tournament invite.

 

The stat sheets identify the factors that have fueled this redemptive episode in Austin.

 

Holmes is putting up all-conference numbers. Cameron Ridley finally looks like the young man who warranted a spot in the 2012 McDonald's All American Game. Javan Felix is the steady presence in the backcourt. Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Holland, both underclassmen, are averaging more than 19 points combined.

 

But there's also a change that the box score doesn't capture.

 

Although this is a program without senior leadership, it's also a team anchored by players who feel more comfortable addressing problems.

 

"The difference is we can go to one another when we see something that's not right and the person that you're talking to won't take it the wrong way," Holmes said. "I think last year, if we would've tried to correct somebody whenever they were in the wrong, they would have either not listened or it would have affected that relationship. [Now] it's guys that are willing to hear that they're wrong and they're willing to change."

 

Barnes' players hated to see the way last season ended, but they're enjoying the new tone.

 

"It's a totally different vibe now because we've turned it around," Felix said. "It's all positive. Even when we lose, it's positive as possible."

 

Texas basketball's unexpected rise is tied to that shift, one that Barnes sees daily now.

 

There is still a chunk of the season left. Texas, like every other team in the country, could continue to progress or begin to struggle. The latter would magnify the pressure on Barnes and lead to more questions about his future.

 

If the Longhorns keep this up, however, Barnes will credit a critical change that you can't necessarily see on the court.

 

On a recent visit to a Longhorns practice, former graduate assistant Riley Davis recognized it, too.

 

"He said to me when I walked in there, 'Coach, I was stunned hearing them talk about all the things they have to do to improve as players," Barnes said. " 'I can tell you a year ago walking in here, no one was ever talking about basketball. It was anything but.' That's how I know the culture is where it's supposed to be. They're a great group of guys and they want to be good."

Edited by Sirhornsalot
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One cannot overestimate the effect of a few malcontents on a team. I had a similar experience with the first baseball team I coached at McCallum. For reasons too long to go into here, I could not get them pulling in the same direction or to do anything I said. During my previous three years in Brenham, the team lost 13 games. During my first year at McCallum, my team lost 13 games, and I was the same coach I had been in Brenham. I had good players, but they would not listen. I am confident that Barnes has looked at himself and perhaps made subtle changes, but basically he is the same coach. The major difference is the absence of malcontents and a team that is unified, has bought into what the coach is teaching and is busting its collective ass to work and play hard and to get better. I love this team, win or lose. They give everything they have each and every time they take the floor.

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I don't think the fact that Rick realized things had to change and he needed a different type of player should be lost. Rick has been doing this for a very long time and I have to give him credit for understanding what happened and how to go about fixing it. I think with another good recruiting class this could be a very good team next and I think he has bought himself at least another year to keep moving the forward.

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One cannot overestimate the effect of a few malcontents on a team. I had a similar experience with the first baseball team I coached at McCallum. For reasons too long to go into here, I could not get them pulling in the same direction or to do anything I said. During my previous three years in Brenham, the team lost 13 games. During my first year at McCallum, my team lost 13 games, and I was the same coach I had been in Brenham. I had good players, but they would not listen. I am confident that Barnes has looked at himself and perhaps made subtle changes, but basically he is the same coach. The major difference is the absence of malcontents and a team that is unified, has bought into what the coach is teaching and is busting its collective ass to work and play hard and to get better. I love this team, win or lose. They give everything they have each and every time they take the floor.

 

I agree with you and I would guess it might be more of a problem on a basketball team, if for no other reason there are fewer players on the team and 2 or 3 cancerious players have the possibility to cause more harm.

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Barnes absolutely deserves credit for this turn around. It's a big deal that someone at his stage in coaching can fully admit mistakes were made and then actually change it. He talks at length about the culture change and he has to be applauded for making significant changes in a short amount of time.

 

We will see if he can sustain this young, new culture through a TOUGH schedule. The team has showed grit. You can't ask for much more than that especially after last year.

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Barnes absolutely deserves credit for this turn around. It's a big deal that someone at his stage in coaching can fully admit mistakes were made and then actually change it. He talks at length about the culture change and he has to be applauded for making significant changes in a short amount of time.

 

We will see if he can sustain this young, new culture through a TOUGH schedule. The team has showed grit. You can't ask for much more than that especially after last year.

 

Great posts JimR, Chitown, Showhorn.....It is great to see what Barnes has done with this talent level....We all looked at this team at the beginning and all said...."No Way".......Now we are saying "Way"....

 

JimR hit the nail on the head....Malcontents and Misfits are a cancer....they destroy any team unity or team effort....

 

Cleaning house was the best he could for the program and his coaching....Now the players are listening, reacting, and playing the way he has been teaching....We may not make the tournament this year, but the team has taken big steps to the future of the program...

 

Now we need to win some/any recruiting battles for the high school talent here in the state....

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