Shaka Smart replaced longtime head coach Rick Barnes in early April. Smart led VCU to a spot in the Final Four in 2011.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The 2014–2015 school year was a roller coaster year for Texas athletics. Fans saw shake-up at the top in men’s basketball, another national championship for men’s swimming and diving and another trip to the Final Four for volleyball. But those changes and successes were punctuated by disappointment — Texas football ended its season with two blowout losses, and baseball is on the verge of missing the NCAA Tournament yet again. Here are five of the top sports highlights from the past school year.

Barnes out, Smart in

After 17 seasons and a recent loss of momentum, former basketball head coach Rick Barnes received his notice after this year’s short March Madness run. Days later, Barnes announced he was headed to Tennessee — and the Longhorns hired former VCU head coach Shaka Smart.

Smart is the first African-American head basketball coach to be hired at Texas.

Smart will bring a “havoc” style of play, an up tempo defense and an offensive system that helped propel VCU to the Final Four in 2011. He has been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 2009.

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor decided to return to Texas for his junior season, and may well serve as engine in Smart’s system next year.

Men’s swimming and diving captures 11th national title

The Longhorns dominated the pool at the NCAA Championships in March, winning the team’s 11th nation championship. Texas led the meet from the start and finished with 528 points. Second-place California ended with 399 points.

In addition to the team titles, the Longhorns also claimed seven individual titles. Sophomore Will Licon and freshman Joseph Schooling led the way for Texas, winning two events each.

Texas is now tied with Ohio State for the second-most national championships in swimming and diving.

Volleyball returns to Final Four

The Longhorns returned to the Final Four in December largely on the strength of senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman. Eckerman finished the season with a team-high 44 aces and 3.24 kills per set in her final year.

The accomplishment was the third-straight trip to the national semifinal round for Texas — a feat only matched by the 1986–1988 team.

Still, the season ended in disappointment. Texas fell behind unseeded BYU 2–0 and couldn’t rebound, losing 3–1 in the national semifinal round. The Longhorns finished the year with a 27–3 record overall and a 15–1 Big 12 record.

Strong’s first season yields mixed results

Head coach Charlie Strong had an up-and-down season in his first year at the helm for the Longhorns. On the one hand, the defense was stout, finishing first in the conference in pass defense and total defense. Senior defensive tackle Malcom Brown had 11 tackles for loss and was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round of the NFL draft.

But the offense struggled with first-year starting quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and a revolving door along the offensive line.

Strong did finish the year on a positive note, locking down the No. 9 class for 2015 according to ESPN.

Baseball fails to live up to expectations

Before the season began, Texas head coach Augie Garrido said this season’s Longhorns would be just as good as the 2005 national champion winning team.

It was a bold statement, but a fair one — Texas was coming off a deep run in the College World Series and had just fallen a game short of playing for the national championship.

But after 48 games, the Longhorns have shown they have little in common with the ’05 team. Texas holds a .500 record, and, barring a run at the Big 12 championship, it will likely miss the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.

“We really assumed and thought we had the leadership on this team as a result of how close they were and how many guys were coming back,” Garrido said.

Unfortunately for Texas, Garrido assumed wrong, and the team failed to live up to its own expectations.

Larry Robinson chose to become a Longhorn despite Texas’ reputation as a white, football school and set the standard for future African-American basketball players at the University. He played a key part in the integration of the program.

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series about the racial integration of Texas’ men’s basketball team. Part one, which was published Wednesday, told the story of the first African-American basketball players to come to Texas. To read the first story, click here.

At Hobbs High School in 1970 in Hobbs, New Mexico, Larry Robinson was expecting royalty.

As a standout basketball athlete his senior year, a variety of colleges recruited Robinson. But Leon Black, Texas’ then-head coach, and his assistants stopped by his school to make their pitch.

“We decided we were going after Larry Robinson, and that’s who we wanted,” Black said. “We needed people with athletic ability.”

Robinson, a tall yet thin basketball player, was one of the best players in the southwest region at the time. After minimal production early in his high school career, he became a starter his senior season and gained the attention of multiple colleges. And, in 1970, he would become the first black player to sign a letter of intent for Texas basketball, helping to integrate the Longhorns after a long process of integration through the 1960s.

When Robinson first decided to play at Texas, he received mixed feedback. But Texas’ legacy as a predominantly white institution and mainly a football school didn’t bother him.

“When I decided to go to Texas, people said, ‘Larry, why wouldn’t you go to a basketball school?’” Robinson said.  

Robinson would soon change their minds. As a freshman, he averaged 33.9 points and 16.8 rebounds per game. He started in all 16 games, even recording 55 points in a single contest against TCU.

“In Austin, he was like a celebrity,” freshman teammate Rick Kruger said. “He made friends with everybody and, in my opinion, he handled everything pretty well.”

During the 1971–1972 season, he led Texas to its first Southwest Conference championship and an appearance in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Tournament. The 1973 media guide said Robinson “lived up to extremely high expectations, … acclaimed by some to be the best ever at Texas.” 

The idea of spearheading Texas’ basketball integration didn’t faze Robinson. He grew up in a family that didn’t put much emphasis on race. He went to integrated schools starting in the third grade, interacting and playing with white athletes growing up.

But when he started at Texas during the 1970–1971 season, one of Robinson’s first encounters with his new teammates freshman year gave him an early introduction to the team’s dynamic. Early in the season, after practice ended one day, Robinson and Kruger, a white student, snuck back into Gregory Gymnasium to play what would become a vicious one-on-one game after arguing in practice.

“It got so physical,” Robinson said. “We started fighting. We went down to the dressing room and were fighting all the way down there.”

Once things settled, Robinson realized he had missed dinner at his dining hall. But Kruger, who lived in the brand-new Dobie Center at the time, invited him to eat, and the two soon became friends, a sign of the decreasing racial tensions at Texas.

“We hit it off,” Kruger said. “I was certainly naive. I didn’t even know calling a black person ‘boy’ was insulting terminology. I had just never been around black people.”

While Robinson got along with his teammates, he said he saw discrimination and racism as an African-American athlete. During games, he would hear derogatory names, but the prejudice never
bothered him.

“It was always going to be difficult because of the racial tension,” Robinson said. “But you have to see past that, and I think I saw past that at an early age. I didn’t use that as a crutch.”

Robinson now lives in Sweden after a long career as a European professional player, but he has no regrets about his time with the Longhorns.  

“I don’t regret coming to Texas,” Robinson said. “To me, it actually seemed like destiny.”

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.”

Former Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs chases TCU’s quarterback Traevon Boykin in the team’s battle against the Horned Frogs last Thanksgiving. Diggs and the Longhorns lost the game and finished their season with a 6–7 record.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Friday marks the final day of classes for those who are graduating in just a few weeks. Since arriving on the 40 Acres as freshmen in August 2011, the Class of 2015 has seen mixed results for Texas Athletics.

Longhorn Network launched a mere two days after the Class of 2015 began school. The tenures of former football coach Mack Brown and former basketball coach Rick Barnes came to a close. 

Through it all, there were some triumphs but plenty of struggles. Here are some numbers, dates and stats that define the Class of 2015’s time at the University of Texas.

3: The number of Division I national titles. In the summer of 2012, Texas men’s golf defeated Alabama 3–2 to win the program’s first title since 1972. That fall, volleyball won its first national championship since 1988 by defeating the Oregon Ducks. In March, men’s swimming and diving won its first national title since 2010 — its 11th total.

169: Losses by the major three men’s sports. Baseball, football and basketball have amassed 169 combined losses over the past four seasons, the most since the 171 total losses endured by the class of 2001. If the baseball team drops five more games, the Class of 2015 will be the
losingest senior class in school history.

21: Losses by Texas football. The Longhorns gave up 21 losses from 2011–2014, tying it with 2010–2013 and 1988–1991 for the most losses over a four-season span since 1986-1989, when the Longhorns dropped 24 games.

58.33%: Men’s basketball’s winning percentage. Texas has had its lowest win percentage over a four-season span since it only won 58.08 percent of its games from 1995–1999. Texas’ 57 losses over this time were the most the program had recorded in four seasons since the Longhorns dropped 63 games from 1983–1987.

2004: The last time the women’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend until this year. The No. 5-seeded Texas women knocked off No. 4-seeded Cal 73–70 in Berkeley to advance to the Sweet 16, but the Longhorns fell to the eventual champion, No. 1-seeded Connecticut Huskies, 105–54 in the Sweet 16. This was the first time making it that far since 2004.

58.26%: Baseball’s winning percentage. Texas had its lowest winning percentage since winning 57.09 percent of its games from 1998–2001. Barring winning the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Texas baseball will miss the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the Class of 2015’s four seasons
in Austin.

2013: The year softball finished the season ranked No. 3 in the country. The No. 3 ranking in 2013 was Texas’ best final ranking in program history. This also marked the team’s first appearance in the Women’s College World Series since 2006.

4: Big 12 Conference titles for volleyball. The Longhorns went 61–3 in conference play and did not lose more than one conference match in a season.

0: The number of double-digit win seasons by football, single-digit loss seasons by men’s basketball or 50 plus-win seasons by baseball. The last University of Texas class to witness none of the three feats while enrolled in school was the class of 1969.

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.

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.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas made it official Friday that Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart has become the Longhorns' newest head coach. Smart, who spent six seasons with the Rams, replaces veteran head coach Rick Barnes and becomes the 24th coach in the program's history. Here are five things you need to know about Smart: 

All-time assists leader at Kenyon College

Former Texas head coach Rick Barnes was the point guard at the small Lenoir-Rhyne College. Smart attended the even-smaller Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio with just 1,676 undergraduates.

Smart made the most of the opportunity as he was an All-North Coast Athletic Conference (DIII) selection and a member of the 1999 USA Today All-USA Academic Team. He is the all-time assists leader at both Kenyon College and Oregon High School (Wisconsin).

The Havoc

At his introductory press conference at VCU, Smart simply described his style of basketball. 

"We are going to wreak havoc on our opponent's psyche and their plan of attack," Smart said in 2009. 

And there’s no reason to think his plan of attack will be any different at Texas as he will use the full-court press and a transition offense. His teams averaged 9.5 steals per game, good enough for fourth in the nation. That’s a big difference than the 342nd ranked Longhorns with 3.8 (fourth worst in Division I).

Texas players may want to start their conditioning program early this summer because they will need every bit of it. The last two years Smart's team – including the staff – has gone through a week of Navy SEAL training to get ready for the season.

Origins of his name

Smart's first name comes from the African warrior Shaka Zulu, as he explained four years ago before an Elite Eight matchup with Kansas. 

“Shaka is an African name, named after a king in southern Africa who united hundreds of thousands of people," Smart said. "He was a warrior, he was a tough dude, and my dad chose to name me after him. You may have seen the movie ‘Shaka Zulu.’ That’s who I’m named after.”

Climbed the ranks fast

Smart’s not the most experienced man out there, but he's had success in just his six years as a head coach. In his first year in 2010, he won the CBI. The next year, he was in the Final Four. Smart has made the tournament every year since that CBI title.

Before that, he didn’t spend too much time as an assistant. He started as an assistant at California University (Pa.) while getting his master’s degree in social science. Two years later, he was the director of basketball operations at Dayton and three years after that, he was an assistant at Akron. He spent two years at Clemson under Oliver Purnell. Finally, his last stint as an assistant was a one year job at the University of Florida, where current Texas football head coach Charlie Strong also served as an assistant for the football team.

At age 31, Smart became a head coach at VCU.

A scholar and a basketball coach

Smart is one bright mind. He quotes Shakespeare and others, reads from "Sun Tzu" and has a master's degree. He was admitted into Harvard, Yale and Brown out of high school but instead went to a Division III school, where he graduated magna cum laude. His father, who left his family when Smart was 11, had four college degrees and wanted Smart to be solely about academics — not sports — sometimes making him earn an A to play.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Update: Shaka Smart has become the Longhorns' newest head coach, according to a press release issued Friday. 

Smart becomes the 24th head coach of the program, replacing Rick Barnes, whom Texas let go of last weekend. He will be formally introduced at a press conference Friday.

Texas men's athletic director Steve Patterson, who flew to Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday to meet with Smart, said in a statement that the program is excited about the new addition.

"We are extremely excited today to announce that Shaka Smart will be joining us in Austin as our head men's basketball coach," Patterson said. "He is a smart, driven, dedicated coach and developer of young men who the entire basketball world has watched with admiration for some time."

Smart leaves Virginia Commonwealth after six seasons, where he made an appearance to the Final Four in 2011 and claimed a 7-5 record in the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm looking forward to building on the past success of Texas basketball," Smart said in a statement. "This is a proud program that goes back over 100 years, I embrace that history. There is tremendous potential in this program, and my job is to work extremely hard to ensure that we realize that potential. I can't wait to get to work."

Original Story: Texas men’s basketball reached a deal Thursday to make Shaka Smart its next head basketball coach, according to multiple reports.

Smart, 37, has spent the past six seasons as the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth. He burst into the national spotlight in 2011 when he led the Rams to the Final Four. He’s won at least 26 games in each of his six seasons at VCU and made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last five years.

Although he never won a regular season conference title in his time at VCU, Smart boasts an impressive 163–56 career record in his six seasons as a head coach and is 7–5 in the NCAA Tournament.

According to multiple reports, Smart accepted the position at Texas after meeting with his team late Thursday night, launching him into what is only his second head coaching position. Athletic director Steve Patterson was rumored to have had his eyes on Smart from the start, flying to Richmond, Virginia, earlier Thursday for a meeting.

The deal-making hit a bit of a hitch after Smart’s team meeting got delayed for two hours, but, at the end of the day, Texas got its guy.

Before his stint with the Rams, Smart spent time as an assistant coach with California University of Pennsylvania, Akron, Clemson and Florida stretching back to 1999.

Texas football head coach Charlie Strong also served as an assistant coach for the Gators’ football team while Smart was with the basketball team.

Thanks to his immediate success at VCU and his charismatic personality, Smart emerged as one of the hottest commodities in the coaching market in recent years. UCLA, Maryland and Illinois attempted to bring Smart aboard to no avail in years past. Some believed Smart was content with remaining at VCU, but coaching at Texas, a team with seemingly endless resources, proved to be too big of an opportunity for Smart to pass up.

The Longhorns could contend right away under Smart’s leadership, as they expect to return much of their roster from this past season next year. Smart likes to run a high-pressure defense called the “Havoc” defense, a system that athletic guards such as sophomore Isaiah Taylor and junior Demarcus Holland figure to thrive in.

Smart replaces Rick Barnes, whom Texas let go Sunday after 17 years. Barnes, who is the winningest head coach in program history with 402 wins, was told after the Longhorns’ loss to Butler he would return as Texas’ next head coach. However, Barnes said, “things changed,” and he was later dismissed. Barnes accepted the head coaching position at Tennessee this week.

Gregory Gym to become home venue for Austin Aces during 2015 season

Gregory Gymnasium has primarily played host to basketball and volleyball, but this summer it will add indoor tennis to the list.

The Austin Aces, out of Mylan World TeamTennis, announced Monday that it would play its seven home matches in Gregory Gym after playing at the Cedar Park Center last year.

“We are thrilled to have been able to find a downtown home in Gregory Gym on the UT campus as the Aces work to become Austin’s premier professional sports brand and the must-attend sporting event each summer,” Aces owner Lorne Abony said in a press release.

Abony said that getting a downtown venue was something they found while evaluating the team over the offseason both on and off the court.

“From feedback we received and the analysis that was done by our front office, we felt that a relocation to a venue located closer to the city center would be in our team’s best interest,” Albony said.

While Gregory seats 4,000 people for volleyball, the Aces said that capacity for tennis matches will be over 3,500 along with VIP tables and courtside seating.

The Aces went 6-8 in its inaugural season last year, finishing third in the Western Conference. Austin is led by former world No. 1 Andy Roddick, who also resides in the area. The roster also includes two former NCAA champions as well as the second-ranked Russian on the ATP Tour, Teymur Gabashvili.  The team is coached by nine-time Grand Slam doubles champion Rick Leach.

The Aces open up their 2015 season July 13 on the road at the Boston Lobsters and will play their first home match on July 16 against the California Dream.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

After NCAA Tournament wins against Western Kentucky and California, Texas lost to No. 1 seed Connecticut, 105–54, in the NCAA regional semifinal, ending its long season. 

“It’s frustrating,” junior center Imani McGee-Stafford said. “To be that close is really frustrating. … Every play, every time you didn’t do what you could have done or what you were supposed to do is going to keep replaying until October.”

Texas never led at any point in the game and faced trouble on both ends of the court. 

“Give credit to UConn … but today was just not a good day for us at all,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said.

The Longhorns struggled early to combat the Huskies’ length, shooting 27 percent from the field in the first half. UConn’s height forced Texas to turn over the ball 11 times and resulted in seven blocked shots in the first half. Texas pulled within 6 points midway through the half, but UConn went on a 27–5 run to extend its lead to 28 points at halftime.

UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart scored a season-high 31 points, with 20 coming in the opening half. Texas, as a team, tallied just 24 points in the first 20 minutes.  

In the second half, the Huskies continued their shooting clinic, finishing with 13 3-pointers in the game. Texas’ 18 turnovers helped the Huskies grow their already commanding lead. UConn shot lights out —  56 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc.

“They were hitting on all cylinders today,” said freshman guard Ariel Atkins, who led the team with 11 points. “You have to realize that they’re basketball players just like we’re basketball players, and you have to stand and stick together.”

Despite the defeat, Texas (24–11) had its best season, in terms of wins, since 2003–2004. 

In a season riddled with injuries and other hardships, Texas defied the odds. The Longhorns started 4–8 in conference play but finished the year winning nine of 12 games.

Texas will only lose two players to graduation — Nneka Enemkpali and Krystle Henderson. They will have 13 scholarship players returning along with a strong incoming freshman class.

“I want the players to reflect back on the fact that there was a lot of adversity that they went through — but this was an experience I think they had to have to understand how to get to the next one,” Aston said. “I’m happy that we made another step with the program, and obviously, we need to take another giant one next year.”