Basketball head coach Rick Barnes has dished out plenty of blame in recent weeks as the Longhorns continue to plummet towards the cellar of the Big 12 conference.
Texas has dropped five of its last six games and watched its 2-1 conference record crumble to 3-6 as they struggle to stay afloat in the league. The only Big 12 team with a worse record than UT is Texas Tech (0-8).
Throughout this rough stretch, the Longhorns haven’t gotten the best leadership from their head coach. He’s pointed fingers at nearly all of the players. Yet, he hasn’t said that he simply needs to coach better.
Most of UT’s woes comes down to execution, and that rests with the five guys on the floor. But coaches must take some of the blame too, right?
During Texas’ struggles on the football field for the past two seasons, Mack Brown hasn’t been afraid to say he needs to perform better as head coach. That notion seems to be lost on Barnes.
Barnes publicly bashed freshman point guard Myck Kabongo for not running the offense against Kansas. And it wasn’t the first time he butted heads with Kabongo. In late December, he criticized the point guard’s toughness after a game at North Carolina.
Kabongo says he wasn’t aware of Barnes’ public rants but acknowledged that criticism comes with the territory.
“It’s coaching,” he said. “It’s part of this game. I’m playing the point guard position. If you know the position, it’s an extension of the coach. It’s coaching and I’m taking it.”
But the six freshmen aren’t the only one Barnes is displeased with. Even the seniors aren’t safe. After Saturday’s 76-71 loss at Baylor, Barnes chided starting forwards Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene for a poor showing to start the game.
“We didn’t execute our game plan with what we wanted those post guys to do,” said Barnes, who noted things got better when Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond entered the game. “We didn’t stay with the scouting report. Those are the issues we’ve talked about.”
Barnes has made it no secret that he’s not pleased with the team’s commitment and consistency in practice or on game day.
“We’ve played enough games that guys have to understand that,” he said. “That bothers me more than anything.”
And what about the Longhorns’ best player, J’Covan Brown? Nope, he’s not immune from Barnes’ wrath either.
After Monday’s 67-66 loss to Missouri, Barnes criticized Brown for failing to execute on the Longhorn’s ultimate possession — even after UT designed a play during a time-out. The junior guard didn’t get a shot off and instead fed Kabongo for a contested look.
“J’Covan was supposed to cut to the outside, move to the middle and read it,” Barnes explained. “You’ve got to make a play. You can’t stand there and hold it.”
And it seems the blame game is wearing on the Longhorns. When it comes to maintaining team morale, Kabongo is doing more than Barnes in the locker room. He’s doing his best to push Texas through all of the heartbreaking losses, the way a point guard should. That is being an extension of the coach.
“Myck said it the best to us at the end of the speech we had from coach Barnes,” said Brown after the Baylor loss. “We need to stop worrying about what Coach is going to get on us about all the time. He’s going to say something but just move on from it. Don’t start pouting, getting down on yourself, just move on from it. That’s going to help us to start getting wins. If we just don’t let everything get to us that puts us down.”
While Barnes continues to call for better results from his players, he forgets to hold himself to the same standard, leaving it up to Kabongo and Brown to end UT’s rut.
“It starts with me,” said Brown, who leads the Big 12 in scoring. “At the end of the day, it hurts because I want to win.”
Barnes told the Longhorns “it’s not good enough” after Monday’s loss. Maybe it’s time Barnes follows his best player’s lead and says it starts with him.