Never Tell Me the Odds: Who will Coach the Texas Longhorns Basketball Team?
by Adam Sweeney
The Texas Longhorns Men's basketball team is heading into a new era now that former head coach Rick Barnes is out and apparently headed for a brighter shade of orange at the University of Tennessee. Who will emerge from the treasure trove of head coach candidates that Texas athletic director Steve Patterson and friends are looking at? Let's take a look at some of the check marks a candidate needs to possess in order to be the head coach at Texas.
1. Make sure that your talent plays up to its potential.
The chief complaint from critics of Rick Barnes is that, while he prepared his players to get to the next level in the NBA, he rarely got the most out of them while they were on the Forty Acres. When you can't get a team with Kevin Durant past the Sweet 16 then you're doing something wrong. Texas can get stud players, but who will get the most out of them?
2. Do damage when March Madness comes around.
Rick Barnes sported an impressive 402-180 (.691) record while at the University of Texas, making him the winningest head coach at Texas. Hell, he led the team to 16 NCAA Men's Tourney appearances. He also hasn't made it to the Sweet 16 since 2008. Let's put that in context. George W. Bush was still in office, Wall-E was a popular film, and Miley Cyrus hadn't even experienced her first twerk the last time Texas went to the Sweet 16. It's time to embrace the here and now.
3. Beat Kansas.
Pop quiz; what is a Jayhawk? Time's up. The correct answer is a mascot for a team whose ass we should kick consistently. End of story. If Wichita State can do it then why can't we?
Those 3 basic criteria serve as the foundation for our search. That said, let's play the odds and see who should emerge as a top-tier candidate for the University of Texas Men's basketball coaching position.
Smart took VCU to the Final Four in 2011 so we know he can make the most of his opportunities. No offense to 2011 VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez, who was America's Sweetheart during the Rams' 2011 run, but teams go as far as their coaches take them. Ask Michigan State and Tom Izzo about that.
Smart built his reputation in the way former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson did, by playing a Forty Minutes of Hell style defense and giving teams headaches. He is a high energy guy, a young coach, and could be the face of a program that is desperate need of a wake-up call. Rumor is that Smart is already talking to Texas but then again we were hearing rumors that Nick Saban was heading to Austin 2 years ago. To quote former Texas governor Rick Perry ... "Oops."
Odds he's the new coach at Texas: 3-1
Wichita State owns the state of Kansas and that is to the credit of their head coach. I don't care how many times you see the smug smile on Kansas coach Bill Self's face, Gregg Marshall and the Shockers run the the Sunflower state the way Master Blaster ran Bartertown in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Throwback!). There is realistically no reason that a team as small as Wichita State should be able to beat Kansas, but there also is no reason that Paul Blart: Mall Cop has a sequel coming out. The lesson here? Screw your logic. Gregg Marshall has led the Shockers to 30 wins the last 3 years, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Men's Tournament, and the Final Four in the 2012-2013 season. He also scalped Bill Self less than two weeks ago in the Tourney. He did this with players like Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet, and Cletus Spuckler. What do you think he could have done with LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford, and the Durantula?
Odds he's the new coach at Texas: 5-1
While brother Sean Miller gets most of the run as the coach of the Arizona Wildcats, Archie Miller is doing more with less. He helped the Dayton Flyers make it to the third round this year with six players on scholarship, after dismissing starting center Devon Scott for and backup big Jalen Robinson, and nearly knocked off Oklahoma on way to the Sweet 16 without a player over 6-foot-6. Any chance to beat the Sooners is a welcome opportunity in Austin. He's only 36 and probably the easiest get of all the coaches on this list. Hiring Miller would help set expectations for the basketball team at a more reasonable level and parallels the pick-up of Texas football head coach Charlie Strong. He's a coach who is committed to character and can get the job done against the paper lions of college basketball.
Odds he's the new coach at Texas: 10-1
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson's NBA roots run deep so it's not unreasonable to believe that he would make a run at a coach in the pros. The cream of the crop would be Brad Stevens, who took Butler to the NCAA National Championship game two years in a row, and was one miracle shot from Gordon Hayward away from crushing Satan himself, and by that I mean the Duke Blue Devils. Few coaches understand the X's and O's like Stevens, who is a calm and confident leader who demands and believes team basketball trumps the one-and-done trend of college basketball. He also isn't afraid to take chances and switch things up, which should be music to the ears of Texas fans who grew tired of Rick Barnes' stagnant offense. Your top offensive play should not be called "The Deer in the Headlights," unless you are the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brad Stevens would be worth $3 million a year and then some. He is already ranked by many as a top ten coach in the NBA and he would get my vote as one of the top 5 in college basketball.
Odds he's the new coach at Texas: 50-1
"Isn't that head coach in the film Hoosiers," you ask? You bet your autographed "Free Myles Turner" shirt it is. Let's look at the parallels between fiction and reality before you dismiss the former coach of Hickory High as a candidate. In Hoosiers, Normal Dale stepped in after the previous coach died. In reality, Rick Barnes is alive and well but we certainly saw more than a few of his teams go six feet under during his Texas tenure. A head coach's job is to take his team to new heights on the court while also preparing them for the harsh realities life presents off the court. Gene Hackman, who played the aforementioned Coach Dale, did that and more by telling the actors who played the ballers from Hickory to make sure they checked their "draft potential." Now, tell me that isn't a coach that you could recruit with. And like some players in amateur athletics, they even still get small residual checks once in a while for their glory days. Storming Norman also demands the respect and passion from his fans. Check out this quote from Coach Dale:
"I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team."
Translation: You better pitch your tent outside the Frank Erwin Center early or you're running gassers, Texas fan. A coach who insists on accountability from all? Welcome to Texas, Coach Dale. Let's go cut them nets.
Odd he's the new coach at Texas: A Jimmy Chitwood shot and a prayer.