basketball coach

From left to right: David Cason, Mike Morrell, and Darrin Horn, Shaka Smart's new assistant coaches.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Kilhoffer (left), VCU Athletics and Kentucky Sports Radio

Less than a week after being hired as Texas’ new men’s basketball coach, Shaka Smart has finalized the rest of his coaching staff.

Two of Smart’s assistants at Virginia Commonwealth University, Mike Morrell and David Cason, will come with him to Texas. Former South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn will join the Longhorns as well.

Horn joins Smart’s staff with nine seasons of head coaching experience with South Carolina and Western Kentucky. He guided the latter to the Sweet 16 in 2008. Three years ago, Horn left his coaching career with a 171–11 record to take a job as a college basketball analyst with ESPN and the SEC Network.

Beyond his experience, Horn’s game plans also share many similarities with Smart’s. As a coach, Horn was known for his up-tempo offense, pressure defense and intense conditioning.

“He has extensive experience as a head coach,” Smart said. “I’ve always been impressed by Darrin’s intensity as a coach and teacher of the game.”

One of the assistants Smart is bringing with him, the 32-year-old Morrell, has worked with Smart for the last four seasons and spent two of those seasons in the assistant role. 

The other VCU transfer, Cason, has over 20 years of coaching experience, including his past season at VCU. Before joining Smart’s staff, Cason was an assistant with Vanderbilt, Tulsa, TCU and Eastern Illinois, as well as the director of basketball operations at North Carolina and Notre Dame.

“David did a terrific job for us this past year at VCU,” Smart said. “He’s been a part of some very successful coaching staffs and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program.”

In addition to his assistants, Smart is bringing along his VCU strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Roose, and keeping former Longhorns guard and special assistant Jai Lucas in Austin. Lucas, the lone holdover from this season’s staff, will serve in a newly-created role as director of basketball operations.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with him in the short time since I arrived here,” Smart said. “Everyone I have talked to, including our players, has spoken glowingly about him and his impact on this program. Jai played here and is from the state of Texas, and he has terrific relationships around Texas. Most importantly, he has phenomenal potential in this profession.”

Filling in the final spot as the special assistant to the head coach is Denny Kuiper, who spent the last 14 years as a sports communication consultant, working with both VCU’s Final Four team in 2011 and Marquette’s Final Four team in 2003.

As head coach for the Texas Men’s Basketball program, Rick Barnes has led two teams to the Elite Eight and one to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. Although his team has not made it past the round of 32 since 2008, his record of excellence proves his worth at the helm of the basketball program.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

This season, Rick Barnes proved why he is the most decorated basketball coach to pass through Texas, earning his fourth Big 12 Coach of the Year honor since arriving in Austin in 1998. But once again, his team failed to survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament —  a sight that has become all too common in recent years.  

Of course, Barnes has made several notable runs in the tournament during his time at Texas. None have been more memorable than when he guided the Longhorns to the Final Four in 2002, kick-starting a five-year span in which Texas also reached the Sweet 16 in 2004 and the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008.

Since then, his teams have had little to show for their postseason efforts, failing to advance beyond the Round of 32 in their past six appearances. This includes first-round exits in 2010 and 2012, as well as last year’s debacle that saw the Longhorns miss the tournament altogether for the first time in Barnes’ tenure here.

Considering the high quality of talent he has brought in over the years, one has to wonder what the reason is for these postseason failures. As time has passed and the disappointments have mounted, many have asserted that Barnes’ game plans lack the offensive strategies necessary for the must-score possessions that surface at crucial points in tournament games. Others claim his teams have a propensity to struggle in crunch time.

Some of this carries weight. Take a look at Texas’ final possession in last week’s game against Arizona State, for instance. With the game tied and just over 16 seconds left to play, Barnes had the ideal situation to run a play and find an open shot. But instead, the Longhorns did nothing of the sort, as Jonathan Holmes forced an ugly 3-pointer while his teammates stood idly. Fortunately for the Longhorns, it was saved by Cameron Ridley who was there for the game-winning put-back, but the play lacked any real structure.  

To call Barnes a choke artist is a stretch, though. After all, he has led two teams to the Elite Eight and another to the Final Four. In fact, he would have another Final Four under his belt had the Longhorns not fallen to Glen “Big Baby” Davis and LSU in overtime in 2006’s Elite Eight. To have that kind of success in the NCAA tournament, in which every game is pressure-packed, is proof he can coach in big games.

Nonetheless, Barnes needs to put together a stronger effort next March. With his entire team returning, the Longhorns will be expected to make substantial strides and attain the postseason success they’ve lacked these past six years. 

University regents approved Barnes' $200,000 raise Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

AUSTIN, Texas — Several Texas senators on Thursday criticized the recent $200,000 raise for Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes, calling it “nuts” and “tone deaf” during a state budget crisis that threatens deep cuts to higher education.

The state is facing a budget shortfall that some estimates put as high as $27 billion. Current spending proposals would cut money for universities and tuition programs for poor students.

Barnes’ raise was approved by university regents Wednesday.

“I think it’s nuts,” said state Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate’s budget writing committee.

“It’s not appropriate, not at a time when we’re scraping for money for education,” said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a member of the Senate higher education committee.

Ogden and Wentworth are Republicans with connections to Texas’ chief rival, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M is in Ogden’s district and Wentworth is an A&M graduate.

But Democrats with connections to Texas also chimed in.

“It is bad timing,” said higher education committee chairwoman Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Texas graduate. “They didn’t ask for my advice.”

Sen. Kirk Watson, whose district includes the Texas campus, said the raise suggests regents are “tone deaf” to the budget crisis boiling at the Capitol less than a mile away.

“I’m a big fan of UT basketball and coach Barnes,” Watson said. “But at a time when everyone up here is fighting to come up with money to pay for education, it was disappointing.”

The Texas athletic budget is separate from the academic budget and Barnes’ raise does not include tax money. Texas officials note that the university’s new $300 million contract with ESPN will send millions of dollars toward academics.

Barnes was owed a $75,000 bump under his current contract. Another $125,000 was added to boost his annual salary to $2.4 million, keeping him among the highest-paid coaches in the country, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said.

“Before Rick Barnes arrived at Texas, we weren’t a top national basketball program. We are now,” Dodds said.

In 13 seasons, Barnes has won at least a share of the Big 12 title three times and taken his teams to the NCAA tournament every year. Texas has failed to advance past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament four of the last five seasons.

Barnes has averaged 25 wins per season and “runs his program with class and integrity,” Dodds said.

The motion approved by the regents notes Barnes “commitment, motivation and performance” and the desire to keep him coaching the Longhorns.

Barnes isn’t the only state university coach to get a big raise in the current budget crunch. A week after the legislative session convened in January, Texas Tech gave football coach Tommy Tuberville a $500,000 raise, prompting complaints by university faculty in Lubbock.

— This report was written by Jim Vertuno of The Associated Press

At halftime, Texas women’s basketball coach Gail Goestenkors was not pleased with her team, clinging to a one-point lead in a dog fight of a first half. Her squad was being out-rebounded, outshot and out-worked.

Trying to hide her dissatisfaction in the locker room, Goestenkors preached the necessity for one thing — persistence.

“I was very frustrated with our rebounding,” she said. “I told them ... ‘You have got to bring it every day. You can’t just decide you’re going to rebound one day. It has got to be on a consistent basis.’ I talked about the fact [that] they we were walking around on offense. We needed to pass and cut; we needed some more movement.”

The Longhorns emerged from the tunnel at halftime with a renewed sense of aggression and support and high-fives from Texas’ 1986 national championship-winning squad, which was in attendance to watch the contest. Texas responded with an 11-0 run to start the period.

“I was very pleased with how we came out in the second half,” Goestenkors said. “We set the tone with our defense and attacked much more on the offensive side as well.”

Part of that defensive effort came in the form of the Texas players’ sticky hands that swiped seven steals.

Conversely, Texas did a much better job protecting the ball from Colorado, especially in the second half. Texas averages about 16 turnovers a game but only committed 11 on Sunday.

“Protecting the ball was key for us,” Goestenkors said. “It helped us execute down the stretch.”

The Buffaloes shot well in the first half, but Texas’ second-half defense kept them in check. Colorado finished with 50 points, the lowest total of any Big 12 opponent for Texas this season.

“Offensively, we came out flat ... especially after halftime,” said Colorado head coach Linda Lappe. “We had some shots that we just couldn’t knock down, and we let that affect us for the rest of the half.”

Texas had a stellar second half, with its offense led by the hot hands of Chassidy Fussell, who led the team in scoring for the ninth time this year.

“When we are all working together, I don’t think we can be stopped,” Fussell said.

Senior Kristen Nash was also a huge part of that second-half surge dictated by determination and grit. Nash snagged a career-high 10 rebounds and made a career-high three blocks.

“Kristen’s contribution has been really immeasurable,” Goestenkors said. “It is not just her stats — which are impressive. I think it’s her toughness.”

In the second half, the Buffaloes just weren’t able to run with the herd.

“They were just so aggressive in the second half,” said Buffalo forward Brittany Spears. “We didn’t come out and match
their intensity.”