Rick Barnes might have been fighting for his job at the beginning of the season. Yesterday, he was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year after leading Texas to a 22-9 record with 11 conference wins.
According to Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News, the media thought Barnes was doomed in November before the team even played a game. The coach never worried, though.
You might recall that in the autumn, having missed just one NCAA Tournament in his 15 seasons as Texas head coach, Barnes was having to cope with questions about his job security in public interactions with members of the media.
Asked in one such November forum whether he was worried about keeping his job, he responded, “I don’t want to disappoint you, but I’m not.”
The Longhorns finished the 2012-13 campaign with 14-18 record and 7 conference wins. During the offseason, five players left the school. Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Jalen Boyd all transferred. Myck Kabongo entered the NBA Draft and Ioannis Papapretrou signed with professional team in Greece. Due to the defections, the team was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll.
Instead of being one of the conference’s worst teams, Barnes’ group battled to be one of the conference’s best. With junior Jonathan Holmes as the team’s only upperclassman, the young Horns stunned the country with their surprising turnaround.
Holmes (13.0 ppg, 7.3) played terrific all season and made the All-Big 12 Second Team. Freshman Isaiah Taylor landed on the All-Big 12 Newcomer Team after averaging 12.6 points per game. Along with Taylor, sophomores Cameron Ridley (11.5 ppg, 2.2 bpg) and Javan Felix (12.0 ppg) were selected to the Honorable Mention list. Not even Barnes could have predicted this much recognition for these players’ performances.
Texas earned the third seed in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament and will play West Virginia on Thursday night at 8:30 Pm CST in Kansas City. Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, Barnes will certainly be back in Austin next year. His ability to guide this inexperienced squad might be his best coaching job yet.
Most experts probably won’t pick the Longhorns to go far in this year’s tournament. Then again, most experts probably didn’t pick them to finish third in the Big 12 either right?