Photo Credit: Virginia Scherer and Iliana Storch | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a two-part series about the racial integration of Texas’ men’s basketball team. Part two, which will be published Thursday, will tell the story of Larry Robinson, one of the first African-American basketball players at UT. 

In early April, when Texas’ newest head coach Shaka Smart took the podium at his introductory press conference at the Frank Erwin Center, he had culminated a climb that had begun over 45 years earlier.  

As the Longhorns’ 24th head coach, Smart became the first African-American coach of the basketball program,  something he said he takes very seriously.

But Smart’s path was set by a trio of athletes — Sam Bradley, Jimmy Blacklock and Larry Robinson — who became the first black basketball players after a long but quiet integration process through the 1960s.

In November 1963, seven years after Texas integrated its undergraduate program in 1956, the Board of Regents agreed to desegregate all athletic activities at Texas. But Texas’ first African-American basketball player didn’t take the court for another five years. 

Harold Bradley, head coach of Texas from 1956–1967, had strived to recruit multiple standout African-American athletes through the 1960s with little reward. But his best chance came with James Cash out of Terrell High School in Fort Worth.

Bradley made a full push for Cash — even going in front of the Austin City Council to lobby for a human rights commission to show that Texas was striving to improve race relations.

Cash eventually decided to stay close to home at TCU, becoming the first African-American basketball

player in the Southwest Conference in the 1966–1967 season.  

Another slim prospect came with the well-known Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Despite the assistants’ lack of optimism on the big man, Bradley was confident Alcindor would sign with Texas — even writing up a preliminary press release to announce his signing. But Alcindor went to UCLA and the Longhorns saw another opportunity pass.

“There were legitimate concerns of how do you integrate when you’ve had nothing that is an example of it,” said Bill Little, then-assistant sports information director.

By the time Leon Black took over as head coach of the basketball program in late spring 1967, Texas, which played in front of miniscule crowds at Gregory Gym, was still struggling to find success on the recruiting trail.

Texas was a football school, and it was well known. The school’s sports information director at the time described, “There are two sports at Texas — football and spring football.”

“We always had that back seat,” Black said. “Every time I went to recruit somebody, they had an article. And they said ‘Why should I come to Texas? Here’s your SID, he’s saying there are two sports at Texas, and basketball is not one of them.’”

Texas had little pull with African-American athletes. The national attention of Texas’ largest desegregation case of Sweatt v. Painter in 1950 had created distrust among the black community in Texas, and there were no black athletes with the Longhorns at the time to prove anything different.

“Many [African-American athletes] weren’t accustomed to playing around white players,” Robinson said. “They felt there weren’t enough black students [at Texas]. And that was true.”

Quietly, Samuel Bradley would become that example. Black reached out to Bradley, a freshman on the Texas track team at the time. He became the Longhorns’ first black basketball player in 1967.

Bradley, however, wasn’t the impact player Texas was looking for. Three years later, Blacklock and Robinson were.

Blacklock, formerly a star athlete at Austin High School, transferred to Texas from Tyler Junior College before the start of the 1971 season while Robinson became the first black basketball player to sign a letter of intent at Texas.

“I know I could play and race wasn’t an issue,” Robinson said. “I could acclimate myself to white society; it wasn’t for me a strange thing.” 

During the 1972 season, Robinson created a lasting impact at Texas. While he led the Longhorns to their first Southwest Conference title, Robinson had helped set the path for future black athletes at Texas. Within the next two years, Texas added at least four more African-American players.

“I can’t tell you how happy I was when someone asked me how many African Americans we had and I could say I don’t know,” Little said.

Today, Texas joins Stanford as one of just two teams in the Power 5 conferences to have a black head coach for football and basketball. But, that fact isn’t as important as it once was.

“It shows you how far we’ve come,” Black said. “We’ve come to far that it doesn’t matter. You look for the best coach. If he’s black, he’s black. If he’s white, he’s white. If he’s brown, he’s brown. I think we’ve come that far.”

On the track, junior sprinter Morolake Akinosun has had success in the 100m and 200m dashes and 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Junior sprinter Morolake Akinosun has earned a superlative from track and field head coach Mario Sategna.

“She’s Texas track’s most versatile athlete,” Sategna said. 

Akinosun smiles humbly and turns the personal praise into a team tribute.

“It means a lot, but what it really means is that I have his trust,” Akinosun said. “At a meet, practice or even the training room, I will do anything to help my team.”

To every question, Akinosun gives a calculated answer, emphasizing the team. After her leg in the winning women’s 4x100m relay at Saturday’s Longhorn Invitational, Akinosun was already preparing for the team’s trip to the Big 12 Championships.

“We’ve been putting in the hard work since September, and now it gets to really be seen,” Akinosun said. “A meet like this is one of the very few times in track and field that the team concept comes to mind; you’re not just running to win. You’re running for your team.”

Akinosun’s original plans had her succeeding next to her sister, Moriyike, as teammates at the University of Illinois. But as fate would have it, she left the frigid north for Austin. 

“My initial draw to Texas was coach [Tonja Buford]-Bailey. While at Illinois, I developed an amazing relationship with her.” 

Buford-Bailey, a former Olympian medalist, made the move to join coach Mario Sategna at Texas, and Akinosun had no hesitation in following her mentor. 

“I wanted to continue my career with her as my coach,” Akinosun said. “However, after just being on the campus for a visit, I fell in love with it and didn’t want to go anywhere else. She’s my mom away from mom.”

Buford-Bailey’s training has produced wins upon wins for Akinosun this year. In the outdoor season alone, she has amassed victories in the 100m dash, 200m dash, 4x100m relay and the 4x400m relay. Akinosun attributes her success to the coaching staff at Texas. 

“They give me amazing coaching strategies and helped develop me into an athlete that can run 100-400 meters and be on both relays,” Akinosun said.

Off the track, Akinosun is known on the team for being a character and someone who brings joy to the locker room.

“If I was stranded on an island and could only have two teammates, it would be [senior sprinter] Morgan Snow and [sophomore sprinter] Chris Irvin,” Akinosun said. “If I’m stranded on an island, I at least want to be able to laugh, and Morgan does that. And if we’re stuck on an island, we need someone to get us off. Chris would be the guy to figure that out.” 

When her running days are over, Akinosun has her next step figured out.

“When I’m done running track — hopefully after a couple Olympic games — I would love to pursue a master’s degree in biomechanics,” Akinosun said. “I want to build rehab equipment and prosthetics to help athletes or just people in general.”

Shaka Smart was introduced as the head men’s basketball coach at a Friday press conference. Smart joins Texas after six seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

When men’s athletic director Steve Patterson was looking for a new head basketball coach, he said he felt Shaka Smart was the only man for the job.

“We said: ‘Who do we really want?’” Patterson said. “Somebody who’s a great, dedicated coach; somebody who plays an exciting style of basketball and is really interested in developing the entire group of student-athletes both on the court and off the court; somebody who is consistent in operating in an ethical fashion; somebody that we really wanted to bring to the University of Texas. We thought of Shaka Smart.”

On Thursday, Smart, the only candidate interviewed for the job, agreed to join Texas’ basketball program. He replaces former head coach Rick Barnes, who was asked to leave UT earlier after a 17-year tenure last week.

Patterson said Smart received a seven-year contract, with the first six years fully guaranteed, with an average annual compensation of about $3 million. As part of the buy-out with Virginia Commonwealth University, Texas will pay the Rams $500,000 and either play them in a home-and-home series or pay another $250,000.

Smart quickly became one of the hottest coaching commodities in the country when he led the 11th-seeded Rams from the play-in game to the Final Four in 2011. His teams were consistently good over his six years as a head coach. He won at least 26 games in every season and made the NCAA Tournament in each of his final five years in Virginia.

Many schools had tried to pry Smart away from VCU, but all were unsuccessful.

“To be honest, I didn’t know if I would ever leave VCU because of the relationships that I had there with the players and the coaching staff,” Smart said. “It really took a world-class institution, a world-class athletics program and a phenomenal place to convince my daughter, my wife and myself to make this move.”

But Texas was a “no-brainer,” Smart said.

“When the opportunity was presented to me to be the head coach here at Texas, I quickly realized this was something different,” Smart said. “This athletics department is all about championships, and I knew I was going to have the opportunity to work with a great group of young men.”

Smart is the first African-American head basketball coach at Texas. Texas will now be the third Division I school with African-American head coaches in both basketball and football, joining Stanford and Georgia State.

Smart said he feels the weight of his position as a “first.”

“I take that very seriously,” Smart said. “I grew up and was able to learn from and benefit from some terrific role models [and] some great mentors. … I hope that in this role as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Texas, I can play this role for someone else in this terrific state.”

Smart said he is going to bring his style of “havoc” basketball with him from Richmond, Virginia, which means a lot of pressing, fast breaks and overall aggressiveness.

“I can tell you right now, when you come to the Erwin Center to see us play, you’re going to see an exciting style of basketball,” Smart said.

However, Smart knows  he will have to adjust that style a bit with his new roster — one that has a plethora of skilled big men.

“That means maybe you adjust what you do to fit those guys’ strengths,” Smart said. “But at the same time, we’re not going to get away from what I believe in. We’re always going to be aggressive. We’re always going to be highly competitive.”

After the deal was announced, players said they agreed Smart’s confidence and style of play will have exciting implications for the program.

“My immediate reaction to hearing about Coach Smart was excitement,” junior forward Connor Lammert said. “We are turning a new page in the book and are real excited about it.”

 I would like to offer a significantly different perspective from the recent Firing Lines by Bobby French and John Stephen Taylor, neither of whom I know.

My mother introduced me to tennis at Eastwoods Park just north of UT in 1945, when I was 9 years old. After 2 weeks she turned me over to Daniel Penick, the longtime UT tennis coach (over 50 years) on Saturday mornings. When Caswell Tennis Center opened a short time later, I spent my youth through my years at Austin High there almost every day. Then, in 1954, when I enrolled in Plan II at UT, I was on the freshman team. My senior year, 1958, I was captain. I got to play under Penick and my junior and senior years under Coach Wilmer Allison (only the second tennis coach in the school’s history). My junior year I got to play with Dave Snyder (a senior), who became the third coach for the next 29 years. The original courts where I played were on the north end of Memorial Stadium and were clay.

The tennis alumni had a meeting in October to discuss the situation with athletic director Steve Patterson. We were told that we, the alumni, needed to raise $15,000,000 before construction could begin. Meanwhile one of the best collegiate teams in the country must work out at the Intramural Fields, where there are no stands, no dressing rooms and no scoreboards. Contrary to the information given by Taylor, the new facility will not be built at the Intramural Fields, from what I have been told. One other point that needs to be addressed: Taylor asks, “Where has Coach [Michael] Center been?” I must point out that Center is not in a position to make a decision. He has more than enough to do to coach some of the finest young men that have ever represented the University of Texas tennis team.

They are students, gentlemen on the court and winners. I, and the alums, could not be prouder of the team and the coaches. Now I hope the University officials who have the power and the money to make the decisions will act with due speed to bring about a solution to this unjust and inexcusable situation.

— Laurence A. Becker, Ph.D., captain of the UT Tennis Team (1958), assistant coach (1962-1964), in response to Bobby French’s Tuesday Firing Line titled “Texas Tennis deserves proper home” and John Stephen Taylor’s Wednesday Firing Line titled “Texas Tennis fan got it right.”

Texas head coach Rick Barnes put Texas in the national spotlight after taking over in 1998.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

In one tweet, Texas basketball legend T. J. Ford summed up the situation: a sad ending to the greatest chapter yet of Texas basketball.

“Dear Rick Barnes, I never thought this day would come,” Ford tweeted. “I dreamed of a fairy tale ending. You put Texas Basketball on the Map. Love you.”

And it should have been a fairy tale for head coach Rick Barnes. Until Barnes left Clemson for Texas 17 years ago, UT’s program was irrelevant.

In the first 59 years of the NCAA Tournament, Texas made it just 16 times. In the next 17, under Barnes’ guidance, Texas made it another 16 times. He won more than 400 games and got Texas to the Final Four once.

Barnes also had a knack for putting legends in a Texas uniform. First it was Ford. Then it was Kevin Durant. Before Barnes, Texas’ only well-known basketball player was Slater Martin back in the ’40s.

Barnes made Texas basketball a part of the national conversation for the first time.

But focusing exclusively on his accomplishments on the sideline does Barnes a disservice. That’s not what he is and not what he wants to be remembered for. Barnes wants to know he did all he could for his players as their coach and mentor.

“We can talk about the program, the wins and losses — that’s not what it’s about,” Barnes said. “It’s about the relationships.”

Ford would call Barnes at 1 a.m. some nights and not just to talk about an upcoming game. Sometimes, Ford just had general questions about basketball. Once, he wanted to ask why Madison Square Garden is called the Mecca.

Barnes was just as generous with his players this year. He made time for senior forward Jonathan Holmes after Holmes’ concussion and talked to freshman forward Myles Turner after particularly disappointing games. Barnes was always there for the players and his staff.

At a press conference Sunday, Barnes hinted at an ultimatum he’d been delivered by men’s athletic director Steve Patterson: shake up his staff or leave himself. 

After Barnes’ assistants heard the news, they called him one by one and offered to vacate their spots. But Barnes wouldn’t hear it.

“There’s no way I could do that,” Barnes said. “That would be saying this is about me.”

That’s just the man Barnes was. He was a great coach, but a better person. He said he will be rooting for Texas down the line, and even gave some advice for the coach who will succeed him.

“Enjoy it — love it,” Barnes said. “You’re getting ready to walk into something really, really special.” 

In an ideal world, Barnes would have met the high expectations he set for Texas in his first 10 years and eventually left on his own terms, after cutting down the nets for Texas’ first championship. His name would hang in the rafters alongside Durant’s and Ford’s.

But basketball is a business, and the world isn’t ideal. Barnes said he knows that.

“You want the fairy-tale ending and it all to end right,” Barnes said. “Sometimes, you don’t always get what you want in life when you want it.” 

After speculation regarding Rick Barnes’ job security, Barnes and Texas officially parted ways Sunday, ending Barnes’ 17–year tenure on the 40 Acres. Barnes leaves the Longhorns as the winningest coach in Texas history with 402 wins.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Rick Barnes’ tenure at Texas has officially come to an end.   

Texas announced Sunday that Barnes is leaving the program, ending his 17-year career with the Longhorns. With 402 career victories, Barnes leaves the Longhorns as the winningest coach in school history.

“I am grateful for the 17 years I’ve had at Texas,” Barnes said. 

When Barnes, now 60, arrived in 1998, he took over a middling Texas team that hadn’t reached the Final Four since 1947. Barnes quickly elevated it to a new echelon. In his first 10 seasons at Texas, he led the Longhorns to 10-straight NCAA Tournaments, appearing in five Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and one Final Four, in 2003.

But the Longhorns have failed to match that success in recent years. They haven’t advanced past the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, and they missed the tournament altogether in the 2012–2013 season.

Texas appeared to be on the upswing coming into this season. After a surprising third-place finish in the Big 12 last season, the Longhorns returned all five starters and added a top recruit in 6-foot-11 forward Myles Turner. The team entered this season ranked No. 10 in both the coaches and AP polls.

After a strong start to the season, the Longhorns slumped to an 8–10 record in the Big 12, barely backing their way into the NCAA Tournament. They turned in perhaps their worst performance of the season in their only tournament game, scoring a season-low 48 points in a loss to Butler.

Despite the disappointing finish, Barnes said men’s athletic director Steve Patterson told him he would be brought back.

“I was told after our last game that I would be back as coach,” Barnes said. “Things changed.”

According to multiple reports released Thursday, which Barnes said he believes were leaked by the school, Patterson told Barnes he would need to make changes to his coaching staff if he wanted to return.

“There was no way I was going to put my staff out there and say, ‘You’re the problem,’” Barnes said.

Barnes said he believes the Longhorns are close to returning to national prominence, and he wanted to stay and “finish the job.” Although he won’t get that chance, Barnes said he isn’t bitter about the way his tenure ended.

“No one could ever diminish what I think about the University of Texas,” Barnes said.

In addition to his early success, Barnes led the Longhorns to three Big 12 Conference championships with 20 or more wins in 15 seasons. 

Former Longhorn T. J. Ford whom Barnes had a close relationship with, was even on hand for Barnes’ farewell press conference Sunday.

“I’m a product of him,” Ford said. “I am a product of what he believed in and his thought process.”

Barnes plans to coach again, and he said he believes he will find a new job more quickly than people expect. Before he looks ahead, however, Barnes made sure to look back.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Barnes said. “Truly, I love the University of Texas. I always will.”

After 17 seasons at Texas, head coach Rick Barnes’ career may have reached the end of the line.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Rick Barnes is fading fast.

Barnes has been Texas’ head coach for 17 seasons and, in that time, he has done very little to merit staying here longer. It’s time for there to be a new head coach for the Longhorns.

Over the course of his tenure, Barnes has coached Texas into the NCAA Tournament 16 times — but he has been to just five Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and only one Final Four. 

In 11 of those 16 tournaments, Texas hasn’t advanced past the second or third round. Fans barely get a chance to enjoy the Longhorns in the tournament before they are eliminated, and Barnes goes home with yet another postseason loss.

It’s not like Barnes has suffered from a lack of talent in his teams. Through 16 seasons, Barnes has had 16 players drafted. He’s had two National Players of the Year: T.J. Ford in 2003 (also the year of Barnes’ only Final Four appearance) and Kevin Durant in 2007, when Texas was eliminated in the third round to USC, a team led by junior guard Nick Young.

This past season, the Longhorns were not only a contender for the Big 12 conference championship — they might’ve been National Champions. They gave No. 1 Kentucky a good game.

They had the ability.

Texas had arguably the best front court in the nation with freshman forward and phenom Myles Turner and the very intimidating junior center Cameron Ridley. 

To add to that, Texas had sophomore Isaiah Taylor —  arguably the best driving point guard in the nation. If Taylor developed a consistent jump shot, he could be the best point guard in the nation. But, despite all the talent, and a deep bench, Texas still just barely made it to the NCAA Tournament.

Through 17 seasons, Barnes has had enough time to make the adjustments he’s needed to build a national championship run. When his offensive and defensive systems weren’t working, he should have adjusted them to fit the needs of his team.

Basketball is ultimately about what the players do, but it’s the coach’s job to provide guidance — look to Kentucky head coach John Calipari, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville’s Rick Pitino for examples. 

Barnes has struggled to give that guidance in recent years, most noticeably when poor clock management helped Iowa State’s buzzer beater in the Big 12 tournament when Texas failed to take the last shot.

Coaches are sometimes praised for their ability to do “more with less” — as SMU head coach Larry Brown did in the NBA — but Barnes seems to have a knack for doing “less with more.”

It’s time for a new era in Texas basketball.

Former Texas track star Leo Manzano overcame setbacks to get back on track for a 2016 Olympic games appearance.

Leo Manzano had never even run eight miles before the Texas track and field team recruited him in 2004. 

“He hadn’t had the conditioning program that he was going to have at the University, lets put it that way,” said Bubba Thornton, former Longhorn track and field head coach. “[Former distance coach Jason Vigilante] had said we knew that Leo was going to be really good. We weren’t for sure that he was going to be great.” 

But eight years and four NCAA championships later, Manzano stood upon an Olympic podium in London clad in a silver medal after a closing surge in the 1500-meter final. 

“He’s not a quitter,” Manzano’s coach John Hayes said. “That helped him get that silver medal. He could have easily quit in that race.”

Manzano, who graduated from Texas in 2008 with Spanish and Portuguese degrees and a minor in business, ended the summer of 2012 by medaling in the most important race of his career. But just a few months later, his future was thrown into jeopardy.

Manzano was unable to renegotiate his contract and lost his running sponsorship with Nike in November 2012. He was left scrambling to find the resources necessary to travel to races and hire an Olympic-caliber trainer. 

“There was a lot of self-doubt [and] a feeling of inadequacy just because you know that you’ve accomplished one of the most important highlights of your career, winning a medal for the U.S.,” Manzano said. “It was very difficult.”

The “never quit” attitude Hayes saw in London kept Manzano on the track for a year and a half without a sponsor. 

Manzano’s business minor paid handsome dividends in his quest to return to the top of this sport. 

After almost a year without a sponsor, Manzano used T-shirt sales to fund his training and balanced business administration with the task of maintaining Olympic-level fitness.

Finally, in April 2014, sponsorships from French shoe company Hoka One One and watch company Timex brought stability to his career.

Manzano now views his rough year as a period of growth.

“It was an experience that I wouldn’t change for the world,” Manzano said. “I really do think that it made me stronger as a person.”

The new sponsorships also brought new challenges, however. 

Now, Manzano has to balance attending sponsorship events, working as a celebrity ambassador for the Marathon Kids charity and even attending movie premieres on top of the huge time commitment and rigorous training regiment being a top-flight Olympian requires.

“There’s a lot more that comes with being a silver medalist,” Manzano said. “I am very fortunate and always very grateful that I was able to accomplish that, but there has been a lot more work that has come with it as well.”

With new sponsorships in hand and a new coach, Manzano has his sights set on the Olympics — this time the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“That’s my next goal,” Manzano said. “I studied Portuguese at the University of Texas, so I’m hoping to use it wisely if all goes well and I make it to Rio.”

Texas head coach Charlie Strong added two more members to his staff Friday morning. 

Texas announced that Jeff Traylor, former Gilmer High School head coach, is officially joining as its new special teams and tight ends coach, while Brick Haley, former LSU defensive line coach, is taking the same spot at Texas. 

Traylor fills an opening left by former tight ends coach Bruce Chambers, who was dismissed in December after holding that spot since 2003. He marks the second major addition to Strong’s staff this offseason, with new wide receivers coach Jay Norvell joining the team in January.

"Having an opportunity to coach at the University of Texas is a dream come true," Traylor said. "It's special because of what it stands for in the state, the tradition, the pride and how proud people are to be from there. It's just a unique place. They do things right, and who doesn't want to be a part of that? When you believe in the man that's calling you, and you believe in the place you're going, you've got to be a part of it."

At Gilmer, Traylor coached 14 consecutive winning seasons and produced several top college recruits, including incoming Texas cornerback Kris Boyd. In 2014, he capped off an undefeated season with his third state championship.

Strong hopes Traylor can make an impact as a coach and a recruiter. With years of experience in coaching Texas high school football, Traylor is a familiar face for in-state recruiting prospects and their coaches. The Longhorns hope this familiarity translates into better recruiting and ultimately better on-field success.

"Jeff's a tremendous football coach who has built a program at Gilmer that has had unbelieveable success," Strong said. "He's a guy that we've watched, admired and really gotten to know. East Texas has so many great players that it really helps us to have a guy like Jeff on staff that knows the area so well. We're excited to have him on board."

Haley joins the Longhorns after serving as the defensive line coach for LSU since 2009. With the Tigers, he led a line that tallied 109 sacks and forced 42 turnovers during his six years. Haley helped lead an inexperienced defensive line at LSU, which he will also be tasked with at Texas. The Longhorns will lose star linemen Malcom Brown and Cedric Reed this season. 

"Brick is a guy we're so excited to be bring on our staff." Strong said. "He has such a great reputation for developing defensive lineman and has developed so many great players over the years. He just brings so much experience as a coach having worked not only with the defensive line, but also as a defensive coordinator."

Haley also has experience coaching at Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and Baylor.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes earned his 600th career win Wednesday night. Barnes has been on the Longhorns’ sideline for 17 years.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Fresh off Wednesday’s win — the 600th of Rick Barnes’ head coaching career — junior guard Javan Felix had a suggestion on how his coach should celebrate: “Dance.”

“I just want to turn some music on in the locker room, and we all get around him — everyone in the program — and just let him dance,” Felix said.

Sophomore guard Kendal Yancy suggested the team put on a Katy Perry song.

Although the players have never seen it, Barnes insists he can dance, but he’ll only do it on his own terms.

“I probably can dance better than Javan,” Barnes said.

The longtime Texas coach was in an especially good mood after the Longhorns’ 66–43 victory over TCU, as it propelled Barnes into an echelon few others occupy. 

Barnes, who has spent the past 17 years as head coach of the Longhorns, improved to 398–174 in his career at Texas and 600–308 overall. He previously coached at George Mason, Providence and Clemson in his first 11 seasons before taking over at Texas in 1998.

“I’ve been fortunate and blessed,” Barnes said. “I became a head coach at a very young age. … I’ve never worked for anything but a great athletic director. I’ve had great support from players and coaching staffs.”

For Barnes, Wednesday’s win was much more important than the milestone since his team hadn’t won at home since Jan. 17. Before beating Kansas State, it had lost four straight to plummet down the Big 12 standings.

“Winning the game tonight was more important than [No. 600]”, Barnes said. “I still have faith and confidence in this group of guys. They deserve it.”

The Longhorns’ zone defense stifled the TCU offense all night long. The Horned Frogs struggled mightily to get anything going inside against Texas’ far superior frontcourt, forcing them to settle for low-percentage looks outside of the paint. TCU shot just 28.8 percent from the field and scored a paltry 16 points in the first half.

TCU didn’t have anyone to match up with junior center Cam Ridley, and Texas made a living off of feeding him the ball down low. He scored 15 points, his most in seven games, while racking up four blocks and a season-best 12 rebounds.

“The guards just looked for me throughout the game,” Ridley said. “I just tried to play as hard as I could on the glass, and obviously that worked well for me.”

The Longhorns didn’t just dominate down low, however. Felix led all scorers with 16 points after missing the last two games with a concussion. Yancy also enjoyed his most prolific game since the start of conference play, racking up 12 points and four rebounds.

After the game, however, Yancy was quick to switch the focus back to Barnes.

“He expects excellence out of everybody,” Yancy said. “He teaches us how to be self-disciplined and to be thankful for being at this University. He reminds us that we’re blessed to be here, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. … Just getting a relationship and getting to play for Rick Barnes — it’s an honor to play for him.”

With the win, the Longhorns improved to 16–8 on the season and 5–6 in conference play. They face another very beatable opponent at home Saturday in Texas Tech (12–13, 2–10 Big 12), before beginning a stretch of five consecutive games against ranked opponents.

If they can pile up some more wins during that rigorous stretch, Barnes and his players will have even more reason to dance.