Senior Writer

Flourishing Five No. 2: Barnes brings hoops up to Texas' lofty standards


(Fourth in a series. Some schools have great football teams. Some have great basketball teams. But a select few have the best of both worlds. ranks and profiles the schools who’ve positioned themselves for success now and into the future in both sports. Today, No. 2 Texas. Thurs., Aug. 5, No. 1 revealed, honorable mentions and struggling programs.)

Texas had just finished ninth in the Big 12, Tom Penders had just resigned as the school's basketball coach, and athletic director DeLoss Dodds had just hired Rick Barnes to replace him, which led to a state-of-the-program chat between Dodds and Barnes.

The year was 1998.

Dodds, as Barnes remembers it, was pretty straight-forward.

Flourishing Five: No. 2 Texas
Texas football
Dennis DoddDennis Dodd
It's hard to believe now, but at the tail end of the '90s, Texas was low. Enter Mack Brown and the Longhorns have become college football royalty. Read >>
Texas basketball
-- Advanced to Elite Eight twice (2006, '08)
-- Shared two Big 12 regular-season titles (2005, '07)
-- Recorded program's first 30-win season in 2005-06
-- Kevin Durant named player of the year (2007)
Draft picks
PlayerPick (Year)Team
LaMarcus Aldridge2 (2006)Chicago
P.J. Tucker35 (2006)Toronto
Daniel Gibson42 (2006)Cleveland
Kevin Durant2 (2007)Seattle
D.J. Augustin9 (2008)Charlotte
Avery Bradley19 (2010)Boston
Damion James24 (2010)Atlanta
Dexter Pittman32 (2010)Miami
Related links
Texas Longhorns official site
Series rundown
No. 5 Pittsburgh: Football | Basketball
No. 4 Wisconsin: Football | Basketball
No. 3 Ohio State: Football | Basketball
No. 1 Florida: Football | Basketball
Blog: Honorable mention | Who's the worst?
"They win at everything at Texas," Barnes told me over breakfast one morning in Austin. "He said they wanted to win at basketball, too."

In other words, Dodds wanted Barnes to explain what he needed to be successful.

Long as it was reasonable, he'd do it.

And because Dodds kept his word, and because Barnes was the perfect hire, and because T.J. Ford and Kevin Durant were program-changing student-athletes, there is no denying that, 12 years later, Dodds and Barnes have succeeded in their quest to make Texas successful and nationally relevant. That helped the Longhorns land on the list of the nation's best football/basketball schools.

You know what else helped?

UT football.

"People say, 'You're a football school.' I say, 'Great!' Football helps us!" said Chris Ogden, a former Texas basketball player and current Texas basketball assistant coach. "Vince Young helped us. Vince Young is cool. Vince Young made Texas cool. It all helps."

With other schools on this list -- No. 5 Pittsburgh, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 3 Ohio State -- it's been simple to point to one or two things and credit them for a rise in prominence. Such is not the case here. Texas basketball has become Texas basketball because the athletic director made a great hire, because the recruiting base is awesome, because UT is a powerful and national name, because the school possesses and allocates the money necessary to do everything in a first-class way, because a little point guard enhanced the brand by taking the Longhorns to the 2003 Final Four, and because a tall wing enhanced it even more by taking college basketball by storm in 2007.

There are at least a dozen ingredients.

Some matter more than others, but they've all played a role in helping Texas make 12 consecutive NCAA tournaments under Barnes, who has personally made 15 straight thanks to trips while at Clemson in 1996, 1997 and 1998. It's a stunning accomplishment, yet one that most forget when discussing Barnes because people tend to focus on the fact that he's only made one Final Four and led Texas past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament just five times. Consequently, Barnes is sometimes criticized the way Billy Donovan used to be criticized, you know, back before Donovan, seemingly out of nowhere, won back-to-back national titles after regular early exits.

"Coach is going to win the whole thing there; I really do believe that," said former UT assistant Ken McDonald, now the head coach at Western Kentucky. "He's reloaded every year and just been so consistent. He's going to win the whole thing at Texas, eventually."

That's not a popular opinion this offseason considering the Longhorns were one of last season's most disappointing teams. They went from No. 1 in the country to unranked in a span of two months. They ultimately lost to Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"Did we have a disappointing season? Hell yeah," Ogden acknowledged. "Stuff didn't mix. Things didn't go well. We didn't do a good job coaching. It wasn't our best season."

And yet it still resulted in an NCAA tournament appearance.

"You're exactly right," Ogden said.

The point?

While even programs as strong as North Carolina and Connecticut have down seasons that result in NIT appearances (like last season), Texas has been able to avoid such deep dips under Barnes. Only Kansas, Duke and Michigan State have participated in more consecutive NCAA tournaments, and there's no reason to suspect that statistic will change this season considering the Longhorns have again reloaded. First-round picks Damion James and Avery Bradley are missing, sure. But two more future first-round picks -- i.e., Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson -- have enrolled and figure to play a prominent role as freshmen.

Both are from Canada, by the way.

That's the other thing that makes UT dangerous.

The Longhorns have long been a threat to get the state's top prospects -- "If you grow up in Texas you hear about Texas nonstop your whole life," McDonald said. "Texas is shoved down your throat at an early age, and that really helps the culture of recruiting" -- but now they're also a threat nationally and internationally.

Texas went to Maryland to get Durant, Washington to get Bradley, California to get Jordan Hamilton, and now Canada to get Joseph and Thompson, making it clear that the Longhorns under Barnes -- and thanks to assistants Rodney Terry, Russell Springmann and Ogden -- can pretty much go anywhere and compete for elite recruits.

UT's class set to sign in November offers further proof. The Longhorns have already secured commitments from four top 100 prospects -- two from Texas (Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis), one from California (DeAndre Daniels), and one from Canada (Myck Kabongo). As long as Texas continues to recruit that way, this string of 12 NCAA tournament appearances will almost certainly turn into 13, then 14, then 15.

Will it ever result in UT basketball overtaking UT football?


Probably not in stature, certainly not in the hearts and minds of Texans.

But, as Ogden pointed out, that's fine.

The goal has never been to overshadow football.

The goal has always been to win big, just like in football.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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