Rick Barnes has been a head coach since 1987 and is now only a few games away from his 600th career win. The 4-time Big 12 COY has his team highly ranked yet again as he attempts to make it to postseason play for the 23rd year in a row. With all the hoopla surrounding Coach K’s march to 1000 career wins, it is worth spending a few moments to reflect on a coach who is better than ever at age 60. CHD’s Jon Teitel spoke to Dan Gavitt, VP of Men’s Basketball Championships for the NCAA and a former assistant to Barnes at Providence, about his old boss and what makes him such a great coach.
Coach Barnes worked as an assistant for several legendary coaches (including Eddie Biedenbach/Wimp Sanderson/Gary Williams): which coach had the greatest impact on him either on or off the court? I would not single out any specific one, as he learned something from all of them, including Joe Harrington at George Mason.
What are your memories of the 1990 NCAA tourney as assistant coach under Rick at Providence (Alex Davis scored 24 points in 27 minutes in a 1-poing overtime win by Ohio State)? It was devastating. If we had won then we would have played #1-seed UNLV, and we really felt like we could upset the Rebels while knowing full-well that the Buckeyes would be tough to get past. I think it was the last game of the night so it was just a long day of waiting around until we played.
In the 2002 NCAA tourney after he had become coach at Texas his team made 11 of its first 12 shots en route to a 4-point win over Mississippi State in Dallas: how much of a factor is geography when it comes to winning games in March? I think matchups are more of a factor than geography…but it does not hurt if you can play close to home with more of your fans there rather than far from home in the middle of a hostile environment. In my experience with Rick, matchups are the key.
In the 2004 NCAA tourney Rashad McCants missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer in a 3-point loss by North Carolina: how did he keep his team focused on the next game after such an exciting finish? Rick is one of the most even-keel coaches I know, especially as he has gotten older. He never gets too high or too low and his teams play with the poise and confidence that allowthem to be prepared whether they are coming off a great win or a painful loss.
Referee Ted Valentine ejected Barnes with four seconds left in an 8-point loss to Xavier: what caused him to lose his temper, and did you feel the ejection was warranted? I do not remember the ejection, but most referees will tell you that Rick is a very reasonable guy to deal with.
In the 2006 NCAA tourney Glen Davis/Tyrus Thomas combined to score 47 points in a 10-point overtime win by LSU: was there any extra pressure on Coach Barnes to win it all that year after Vince Young led the Longhorns football team to a national title? I doubt it: he is loyal to his school and was thrilled with the football team’s success. He is proud to be a Longhorn.
What are your memories of the 2008 NCAA tourney (he beat his old assistant Frank Haith in a 3-point win over Miami)? He has a great relationship with Frank and is very proud of the success of all his former assistants.
He is the all-time winningest coach in Texas history: what makes him such a great coach, and do you think that anyone will ever break his record? “Ever” is a long time! He loves Texas and I think he will be there a long time and put up numbers that will be hard to break. He is incredibly passionate about the game of basketball and has tremendous relationships with his players and their families. He is constantly looking for ways to improve at his craft and learn more.
He set a school record by leading the Longhorns to the NCAA tourney in each of his 14 seasons in Austin, and his 17 straight tourney appearances through 2012 were tied with Mike Krzyzewski for the longest current streak by an active D-1 coach: do you think he is satisfied with his career so far, or does he feel that he needs to win a title in order to be recognized among the greats? I think he is very comfortable with the work he has put into his profession and the results that he has provided his players and programs. There is no question that his dream has always been to win a national title and that is what drives him, but I think he coaches and lives his life for other reasons than just that. I think he will win a title and it will end up being a great reward for an incredible career, but it does not define who he is as a person.