Rick Barnes reaches a crossroads at Texas


Barnes turned Texas basketball around in the late 1990s. There's been a mixed bag of results ever since.

Rick Barnes is sitting on a goldmine as head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Barnes has tremendous financial backing, top-flight facilities and a knack for locking up top recruits. But as Barnes enters his 16th season in Austin, Texas, he has only won two NCAA Tournament games in the last five years.

If Barnes isn't feeling pressure to win already, many around college basketball are sensing his seat is getting hotter.

On Tuesday, word broke that sophomore-to-be Ioannis Papapetrou is headed back home to play professionally for Euroleague powerhouse Olympiacos in Greece. After losing his top-three scorers from last year's underachieving team, Papapetrou was expected to be one of his few go-to options on both ends of the floor. Most felt he would be headed to the NBA within a year or two. Barnes was unable to convince him to stay, and now the Longhorns are facing a lot of uncertainty with the start of practice just two months away.

It's becoming even more apparent this summer that Barnes hasn't even scratched the surface in terms of turning UT into a hoops powerhouse.

Make no mistake about it -- Texas is one of the best jobs in college basketball. There's never a shortage of money. There are top-notch facilities to help lock down one of the nation's most fertile recruiting bases. Little-to-no pressure exists with football overshadowing everything.

Barnes came to Texas prior to the 1998 season after bouncing around at George Mason, Providence, Clemson and elsewhere. He led the Longhorns to 14-straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1999 to 2012 before missing the big dance last March. He's claimed 354 of his 556 career wins at UT.

His turnaround of the program during his inaugural season remains one of the more impressive turnarounds in college basketball history, taking a team that began with a 3-8 record to a Big 12 title. He reached the 2003 Final Four, the school's first appearance in college basketball's final weekend in over 50 years.

So it's not like Barnes hasn't accomplished anything at Texas. However, for the talent he's brought in over the past decade, it's hard to think the program hasn't underachieved in the Big 12 and on a national level.

In today's what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, the past few years have left plenty frustrated in Austin.

With Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin as super freshmen in 2006-07, Barnes and the Longhorns only won one NCAA Tournament game, falling to USC in the second round. Durant would go on to be drafted No. 2 overall in the NBA Draft and win Rookie of the Year. Augustin was taken with the ninth overall pick the following summer.

Texas has won two NCAA Tournament games in the past five years. In that span, Barnes brought in five five-star recruits: Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Myck Kabongo. Bradley, Hamilton, Joseph and Thompson were all first-round draft selections. Kabongo went undrafted this summer but departed after just two seasons.

With all of that NBA-worthy talent on the roster, Barnes' ability (or a lack thereof) to develop talent has to be of concern to the UT faithful.

A handful of other top-100 recruits have also struggled to translate their talent and upside to the college level at Texas, with a pair of four-star recruits from 2011, Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, electing to transfer out of Austin after two uninspiring seasons.

Now, with nearly 75 percent of the scoring gone from last year's team, the Longhorns could be facing their first losing season since 1998. For a school that should be competing regularly for Final Four appearances, there's no excuse for all of the underachieving under Barnes' direction.

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