longtime athletic director

Texas head coach Rick Barnes has made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances in 15 seasons at Texas, missing only the 2013 tournament. His Longhorns are 16-4 and ranked no.25 this season and seem likely to return to the "Big Dance."

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Athletics is entering a new era. Last fall, the University replaced longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds with Steve Patterson. Patterson’s hiring raised the already high expectations for the Longhorns athletics program. Since his introduction, Patterson made waves with the hiring of head football coach Charlie Strong.

Now that football season is over, many fans are turning their focus to the University’s other big breadwinner: men’s basketball. Rick Barnes is in his 16th season of coaching the men’s team, and after last year’s dismal 16-18 record, the floodgates of speculation have opened with many thinking that this might be Barnes’ final season guiding the Longhorns.

Changes at the head coaching position in NCAA Division I basketball have become extremely common. Over the last three years, 152 head coaching positions have changed hands. Barnes is well aware of the evolving culture of programs cycling through head coaches as soon as they step foot on their campuses.

“There’s no question that society today is, ‘What have you done lately?’” Barnes said. “But the fact is that you don’t worry about those things. You just do your job, and that’s what we’ll do here.”

Patterson is in the difficult position of having to choose between continuing to pay Barnes like a top-10 coach — Barnes is owed $2.4 million this year, and his contract runs through 2017 — or firing a man who has won 70.2 percent of his games at Texas. Because of this conundrum, Barnes’ performance this season will likely be under a microscope.

But there’s reason to believe that Patterson will not be as hasty to replace Barnes as he was with Brown. The crux of the argument lies in the team’s recent surge and two common misunderstandings fans have about NCAA basketball.

The basketball team has just knocked off three ranked teams in a row — No. 8 Iowa State, No. 22 Kansas State and No. 24 Baylor — for the first time in the program’s history. The Longhorns’ record sits at 16-4, and they are in an excellent position to make the NCAA tournament. This is a pretty big accomplishment for a team that was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll. 

Despite lacking major NBA talent along the lines of a Kevin Durant or LaMarcus Aldridge, the Longhorns have shown resiliency in the clutch, as evidenced by Jonathan Holmes’ recent game-winning jumper against the Wildcats. Certainly, there will be variance in these types of close-game scenarios — the team has won seven games by three points or fewer — but the ability to pull out these nail-biters could suggest that Barnes’ program has turned a corner.

For many years, Texas has been snake-bitten in the NCAA tournament. Fans don’t need to be reminded of the epic 2011 loss against Arizona. Much of the blame for Texas’ poor season finishes has been rightly placed on Barnes’ shoulders. 

But there are two assumptions that have incorrectly added to Barnes’ image as a late-game blunder manager. Firstly, the NCAA tournament is a series of one-game scenarios. Anything can happen under these circumstances, and year after year we see this come to fruition with a variety of comeback stories: underdog teams that make deep runs in the tournament. Over time, it becomes more and more likely that this variance will flatten out and Texas will make another deep run.

Secondly, there tends to be an assumption among fans that coaches can either be characterized as good or bad. This is faulty logic. Coaches have the ability both to make and learn from mistakes. Just like their athletes, coaches can take time to develop parts of their game. It could be that Barnes has learned from his past late-game gaffes.

Barnes said he hasn’t had a chance to spend a lot of time with Patterson, but based on his conversations with former head coach Mack Brown, he can trust Patterson to be forthcoming.

“Mack Brown told me through his conversations with [Patterson] that you can trust him,” Barnes said. “That he’s a man of his word.”

Barnes will have the opportunity to earn Patterson’s trust with a strong 2014 campaign. If the team can continue its winning ways, the narrative focus will shift to whether Barnes has put the past behind him and prepared his team for an NCAA tournament run. 

After weeks of speculation on who would replace longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds, the school has announced that current Arizona State University athletic director Steve Patterson will take the position at Texas.

Here are five things you need to know about the Longhorns’ newest athletic executive.

Connection to Texas                                  

While Patterson, 55, was born and raised in Wisconsin, the athletic director attended UT as an undergraduate student between 1976-1980. In addition, he graduated from UT’s law school in 1984. Patterson’s son, Austin, is also a student at Texas.

Patterson has lived in the Lone Star State on numerous occasions during stints with multiple Houston professional sports teams.

Resume at Arizona State

Patterson is coming to Texas after numerous years with the Sun Devils. He was the chief operating officer for the Sun Devil Athletics and managing director of Sun Devil Sports Group before becoming athletic director. In that position, Patterson was responsible for Arizona State’s athletic business operations, development and stadium operations.

In March 2012 he took the role of vice president of University Athletics and athletic director. There he controlled many major ASU developments. Along with leading a $300 million renovation of the Sun Devil football stadium, Patterson also developed the new site for a baseball stadium and the creation of a 425-acre sports facilities district near the university.

Experience past ASU

While Texas’ new AD has had only limited time at collegiate level athletics, he has worked with four different professional sports teams since 1989. In that year, Patterson became the general manager for the Houston Rockets, where he stayed until 1993. With the Rockets, Patterson was responsible for gathering the franchise’s first NBA Championship team along with hosting the 1989 NBA All-Star game.

After his stint with the Rockets, Patterson became the general manager and chief operating officer of the Houston Aeros hockey team, before joining the Houston Texans in 1997. With the Texans, he helped lead the effort to become an NFL franchise and build Reliant Stadium while also negotiating for Houston to be the home of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.

Patterson’s final professional experience before his time in Arizona was as president of the Portland Trail Blazers. While he led only mediocre teams in Oregon, he drafted and started the NBA career of All-Star and former Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge.

Late addition to the AD race

Last week, Patterson reportedly denied all rumors that he was interested in the role while Texas officials stated they had yet to even interview him or offer him the job. However, after interviewing for the position this past weekend, Patterson emerged as the new frontrunner.

The frontrunner to take over for Dodds, who announced in October that he would retire after 32 years at Texas, was originally current West Virginia AD Oliver Luck. Many expected Luck to be offered the job after interviewing with Texas officials, but Tuesday afternoon he was told that Patterson would be given the offer instead.

Texas responsibilities

Patterson comes to the 40 acres at the same time Texas athletics has taken a plunge from its tall expectations. One of his biggest decisions will be the fate of head football coach Mack Brown and basketball coach Rick Barnes, who have both had diminishing seasons in the past few years.

Meanwhile, Patterson will be a vital part of the decision to build a new basketball arena if the Frank Erwin Center gets torn down as a part of the plans for the new Dell Medical School. In addition, Patterson will be responsible for the largest athletics budget in the nation at more than $160 million.