- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
The conventional wisdom on Texas Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes is that he's a good, perhaps even great recruiter who doesn't win in March.
In recent years, this conventional wisdom has seemed correct. The Longhorns haven't been to a Sweet 16 since 2008, despite the fact they've developed five NBA first-round picks in the six years since. Avery Bradley, Damion James, Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph all came through Austin. Only James advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Barnes understands he's being judged primarily on success or failure in the NCAA tournament. While the same is true for all college coaches, fans seem to reserve a special disdain for coaches who recruit well but don't take advantage of the talent in postseason play.
The stakes are even higher in Texas. "Winning" for Barnes isn't merely a tourney appearance or even a trip back to the Sweet 16; at this point, the expectation is for the Final Four or a national title, depending on the circumstances. If Barnes continues to funnel first-round picks into the NBA, he should, at some point, reach his second national semifinal (his first visit occurred in 2002-03). Whether such a milestone will indeed reflect a marked improvement in his coaching ability, however, is much less clear.
Rick Barnes has struggled to turn top talent into postseason wins. That might be about to change.