April 13, 1998
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Clemson’s Rick Barnes is the new basketball coach at Texas, replacing Tom Penders, the Longhorns’ winningest coach who resigned after a player revolt.
Barnes met with Clemson players in South Carolina late Sunday and was to be formally introduced at a news conference in Austin on Monday afternoon.
His hiring, announced Sunday night in a faxed news release from the university, ends a search that began when Penders resigned April 2.
The search had focused on Utah’s Rick Majerus until Sunday morning, when negotiations broke down with the Utes’ coach, according to two university sources who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
But Majerus had always been a difficult target because he makes roughly $1 million at Utah, and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds had said that the basketball coach wouldn’t make more than new football coach Mack Brown, who earns $750,000 annually.
Penders made $550,000 per year.
Barnes, 43, met with Texas officials Thursday in Atlanta and then again in Dallas on Friday, and he impressed screening committee members with his hard-nosed, defense-minded approach.
Dodds has said he would like a coach who stresses defense.
He also fit Dodds’ financial criteria, making just under $700,000 per year at Clemson.
Last year, Barnes spurned big offers from Ohio State and Tennessee, signing a contract with Clemson worth at least $668,000 a year and another $125,000 in bonuses.
An automatic $25,000 bonus for making the NCAA tournament this year meant that Barnes’ base salary next year at Clemson would have been $693,000. He had a $100,000 buyout clause in his contract.
Barnes, who was 74-48 in four years at Clemson, was popular with Tigers fans.
He earned a reputation as a colorful personality by doing remote radio standups from Clemson fan tailgate parties before football games and by handing out hot chocolate and pizza to students who camped out for tickets to then second-ranked Clemson’s game against No. 4 Wake Forest last year.
He also earned a reputation as a fiery competitor by getting in the face of North Carolina coach Dean Smith three years ago, accusing Smith of unfairly badgering Clemson players with criticism during a regular-season game.
The Tigers set a school mark with their third consecutive NCAA appearance this year.
But it was not the year that had been expected. The Tigers were ranked fifth in the AP preseason poll, but injuries and inconsistency dropped them out of the rankings shortly after New Year’s Day.
Bad foul shooting and nagging injuries to point guard Terrell McIntyre led to eight Atlantic Coast Conference losses by five points or fewer.
After winning three of their final four games, the Tigers carried a lot of confidence into the NCAA tournament, but they were upset in the first round by Western Michigan and finished 18-14.
Barnes was to be without several key players next season with the departure of senior and leading scorer Greg Buckner, the transfer of junior Tony Christie and graduation of redshirt junior Iker Iturbe.
After next season, Barnes would have had five players to replace, including starters McIntyre, Harold Jamison and Tom Wideman.
The Tigers reached the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 in 1997, losing in double overtime to Minnesota, which went on to the Final Four.
Barnes’ overall mark is 202-134, including one year at George Mason and six at Providence.
Barnes inherits a Texas team that is in disarray. Four young starters, including freshmen Luke Axtell, Chris Mihm and Bernard Smith as well as sophomore Gabe Muoneke, met with Dodds on March 8 to say that they had lost faith in Penders and his program.
The meeting began a month of controversy that included the suspension of Axtell for academic reasons; the release of Axtell’s grades to a radio station; and the resignation of Penders, who received a settlement package of roughly $850,000.
Muoneke, who threatened to transfer, has said he will stay at Texas. Axtell, the second-leading scorer on this year’s team, has received his release to transfer and is reportedly considering Kansas and Texas Tech.
Penders had a record of 208-110 in 10 seasons at Texas and took the Longhorns to the NCAA tournament eight times.
The Texas coaching search also included Washington’s Bob Bender, who was considered a front-runner for the job until he and Oklahoma’s Kelvin Sampson dropped out of consideration last week after interviewing with Longhorns officials.
North Carolina assistant coach Phil Ford also was interviewed. Wake Forest’s Dave Odom declined to interview with Texas.
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