Barnes’ and Conradt’s prescription for tourney success: E-x-e-c-u-t-i-o-n
To appreciate the success enjoyed by The University of Texas' men's and women's basketball coaches, please consider this:
In the combined 47 seasons that Rick Barnes and Jody Conradt have coached college basketball, only four times has a postseason tournament been held without them coaching in it.
Never have both Barnes and Conradt missed making the tournament in the same year.
And in 2002-03, both of them reached the Final Four.
Barnes never has missed since coming to Texas for the 1998-99 season. His team reached the Sweet 16 in 2003-04 and the Final Four the prior season, losing to eventual champion Syracuse in the semifinals. That marked Texas' first trip to the Final Four since 1947.
Barnes' UT team in 2001-02 also reached the Sweet 16 and he brought his Clemson squad to the Sweet 16 in 1996-97.
Regarding his coaching philosophy in the postseason, Barnes was his usual direct, no-nonsense self.
"Execution," he began. "It's about executing what you want to do. That is the key in every game, but especially in a tournament game when you are out with a loss."
Barnes said that luck can beat you, as well as emotion.
"You have to have mentally tough guys to succeed in the tournament," he continued. "Anything can happen in a tournament, no matter where you are seeded. That's what I am talking about when I say luck can beat you and emotion can beat you.
"Remember, people always are going to root for the guys in the dark jerseys (the lower-seeded teams). That's where the emotion comes in."
Mistakes made often spell the difference in a tournament game, Barnes said, reflecting back on his initial remark regarding execution.
"Also, you have to keep the same routine," he said. "You have to act as though it is just another game if you want your players to play that way.
"If they see you more nervous or doing different kinds of things, that will impact them."
Barnes said what team you bring to the tournament also figures in.
"At Providence, just getting to the tournament was great. That was success in itself," he explained. "At Texas, it is not like that. At Clemson, it was not like that."
Barnes said he relies on scouting done throughout the year, since the turnaround time between games makes it impossible to make too many changes.
"And that gets back to how you execute," he said. "That's all that you can control is how you play. You have to play well to have any chance."
When asked to talk about her approach in coaching in the postseason following a loss in the regular-season finale to Baylor, Conradt shook her head and offered a pained grin.
"I'm not sure that you are asking me about this at a good time because I don't know that we are going to make the tournament," said the Hall of Fame women's coach who ranks second overall among active men's and women's coaches for career victories.
Conradt got the women's team into the Sweet 16 just two years ago and also in 2001-02. The Final Four appearance was sandwiched in between.
"You have so little time between games and often even at the outset of the conference tournament when you don't know who you are going to play," Conradt said. "You practice building on the attitude and the good points of the last game that you played.
"And you worry about what you are doing. If you don't play well, nothing else is going to matter in a tournament game, as well as a regular-season game."
The youth of her team this year -- two of the five starters against Baylor were freshmen -- raises the point of youth versus experience when it comes to the tournament.
"You can't beat the enthusiasm of freshmen," Conradt said, but then added quickly, "and you can't beat the experience of seniors. Really, the teams that have success in the postseason have a balance of youth and experience."
And, Barnes closed by adding one more thing teams in the postseason have to be successful.
"Talent," he said. "successful teams in the postseason most often are the ones with the most talent."