April 14, 2011
The moment that UT assistant coach Rodney Terry landed the Fresno State head coaching job last week, a unique opportunity opened up for Rick Barnes and his basketball program.
In feeling good that the seemingly always a bridesmaid and never the bride assistant coach finally got his chance at a head job, Barnes suddenly has a pretty big hole on his coaching staff with the loss of arguably his top recruiter and chief sideline aid. How Barnes goes about filling the open position will likely give everyone an idea of the most important role that he believes Terry served in the program. Typically, Barnes hasn't had a lot of shake-up on his staff, unless his guys have landed bigger jobs.
Staff shake-up just hasn't been his thing for the most part. Maybe that's a good thing and maybe it isn't. If the program is truly in a rut of any sorts, you could argue that Barnes hasn't shown the cut-throat mentality to improve from within that Mack has shown over the years. Maybe the idea of sacred cows used to exist, but not any longer. Not in Mack's program.
Yet Barnes doesn't have to make a change for the sake of making a change. He doesn't have to shake things up for the sake of pleasing the fan base. He doesn't have to fire anyone.
Terry got a better job and Barnes got an opportunity. Now he simply needs to ask himself a simple question - what would Mack Brown do?
It might be a question he never thought he'd have to ask, but he should.
Because the one thing we absolutely know about Mack is that if he identifies what he perceives to be a weakness in his program, he'll spare no costs and waste very little time in going after the elite of the elite.
Barnes needs to think big. The position that he's looking to fill has proven to be a direct path to a head job, so there's a ton of value in the seat. As with football, Texas should be the Jones' and whatever Barnes needs to get his guy, DeLoss and Co. should have his back.
The question is what kind of move is Barnes willing to make? Is this going to be Bobby Jack Wright or Will Muschamp? Larry Mac Duff or Bryan Harsin?
For a program that has lost steam two straight seasons at the finish line and hasn't made the Sweet 16 in four of the last five seasons, the comfortable hire shouldn't automatically be the one that is embraced.