University of Texas officials have decided to fire Rick Barnes, the winningest men’s basketball coach in school history, a high-level source familiar with the situation said Saturday.
The source said school officials reached their final decision Saturday and plan to make an announcement Sunday or Monday.
It’s unknown what has been communicated to Barnes, who has not returned messages. After the Statesman’s initial report, ESPN reported that Texas athletic director Steve Patterson had informed Barnes that he would be released.
“I’m in Iowa for the NCAA swimming and diving championships,” Patterson said via text. “Our conversations are ongoing.”
Barnes has a career record of 604-314 in 28 seasons. He won 402 games and lost 180 in 17 seasons at Texas and was inducted into the UT Men’s Hall of Honor last September.
It’s believed that school officials did not want to make any comment about the men’s basketball situation because it might divert attention from the men’s swimming and diving team. Coach Eddie Reese’s squad captured its 11th national title Saturday in Iowa.
Still, Texas hopes to hire Barnes’ successor “within a week,” the high-level source said. It’s not clear whether Patterson would handle the search by himself or use a search firm, as the school did before hiring Patterson and football coach Charlie Strong.
Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall are the two names that are probably at the top of the wish list.
Smart has long been connected to the Texas job as a possible candidate. Marshall led the Shockers to an undefeated regular season last year and reached the Sweet 16 this season. During the NCAA Tournament, he told CBS announcers that he was open to offers.
Or Patterson could go the NBA route, considering his ties to the Portland and Houston franchises. The high-level source said the Longhorns could pay as much as $3 million annually to land a coach.
Barnes earned $2.55 million this season and another $125,000 bonus for making the NCAA Tournament. According to USA Today, Barnes was the 11th-highest-paid coach in Division I this season.
According to the terms of his contract, Barnes would receive a $1.75 million severance package if he’s terminated by the end of the month. That number drops to $1.5 million Wednesday.
Patterson met with Barnes at least twice face to face and asked the 60-year-old coach to make changes, the Statesman reported Thursday. This season, the Horns finished tied for sixth in the Big 12 standings and posted a 20-14 overall record. Texas has not reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament since 2008.
It’s believed Patterson asked Barnes to at least change some of his assistant coaches or risk being fired. After the team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Butler, Barnes said he believed the assistant coaches were not the problem.
“I don’t want you guys to create stories here, OK?” Barnes said after the Butler game. “We analyze our program every year, and I think I’ve got a great staff.”
Now Patterson is following through, releasing Barnes after 17 years in Austin.
Incoming freshman guard Kerwin Roach competed at the Texas Relays on Saturday and indicated he is sticking with his signed letter of intent.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” the 6-foot-4 guard from Galena Park said. “I know I just love UT. I committed to the school, not the coach.”
SHAKA, SHOCKER OR SOMEONE ELSE?
Here are seven potential candidates Texas might pursue to replace Barnes, listed in order of probability that the Longhorns could get them:
Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth
Record: 163-56 (six years). Age: 37.
Pros: Jumped onto the national radar by leading Virginia Commonwealth to the 2011 Final Four. VCU was ranked as high as 14th this season. Has made five straight NCAA Tournaments, which makes him the darling of the mid-majors coaching fraternity.
Cons: Despite those six straight 20-win seasons, VCU hasn’t won a regular-season conference title, either in the Colonial Athletic Association or the Atlantic-10. Some believe Smart doesn’t want a bigger platform. And his age might hurt him.
Could Texas get him? Definitely — if Smart wants to coach in a major conference.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Record: 398-159 (17 years). Age: 52.
Pros: Has had an unbelievable run at Wichita State, going undefeated during the 2013-14 regular season and winning eight regular-season and eight league tournament titles.
Cons: OK, that’s a great record. But it’s all been at Wichita State, a Missouri Valley Conference school. The Shockers have beaten a few Big East teams and Alabama, but those wins don’t count for much.
Could Texas get him? Probably. Marshall has reportedly said he’d take the Texas job if it’s offered.
Tony Bennett, Virginia
Record: 205-97 (nine years). Age: 45.
Pros: Has turned a mediocre Virginia program into an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse. The 2013-14 team won the ACC and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. This year’s team was ranked No. 2 in the country.
Cons: Yes, his teams win, but Virginia’s a plodding snoozer. It averages 65.3 points per game, which ranks 224th in Division I. But its defense? No. 1. Still, Texas fans want to get excited about basketball again. How do you do that? By scoring points.
Could Texas get him? Hard to say. Why would Bennett leave when things are going so well?
Sean Miller, Arizona
Record: 283-99 (11 years). Age: 46.
Pros: Getting Miller would be a coup for Texas. The Wildcats have an excellent basketball history, and Miller has won at least 30 games in three of the past five years. Texas would become an automatic contender again.
Cons: Why would he leave Arizona? The Wildcats have a history and basketball aura that puts Texas to shame.
Could Texas get him? Doubtful. You don’t leave a basketball power like Arizona, which is already in a major conference, for a perceived step down to coach at a football school.
Archie Miller, Dayton
Record: 90-47 (four years). Age: 36.
Pros: Miller has skins on the wall. A proven recruiter, he helped Arizona get to the Elite Eight in 2011. Then he took the Flyers there in 2014.
Cons: Miller would be a calculated risk, turning the keys over to a coach in his mid-30s. Archie Miller is Sean Miller’s brother, so the family bond could be a positive. Given that Texas AD Steve Patterson needs to energize the program to raise money for a new arena, is this a solid front man?
Could Texas get him? Can’t see why not. Miller did sign a contract extension this week at Dayton. Then again, it is Dayton. This is Texas.
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Record: 164-108 (eight seasons). Age: 42.
Pros: Williams was a hot commodity when he was at Marquette, as his teams there routinely challenged for Big East titles, won 20 games and were an NCAA Tournament fixture.
Cons: The bloom has come off the rose. Williams said it was a very tough decision to leave Marquette for Virginia Tech, and things haven’t gone so well. The Hokies went 11-22 this year.
Could Texas get him? Probably. But would Horns fans want him at this point?
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
Record: 197-105 (nine seasons). Age: 44.
Pros: Looking for an off-the-radar candidate? Jacobson’s the hot name right now, having guided Northern Iowa into the NCAAs with a 30-win season.
Cons: He’s hot right now, but what about previous years? Northern Iowa hadn’t been to the NCAAs since 2010. Texas probably could find lots of coaches with middling .650 winning percentages.
Could Texas get him? Sure. But Patterson is likely to aim higher.