Just Like Old Times

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Rick Barnes and Frank Haith will be back on the same basketball court, but this time on opposing benches. Haith, a former Texas assistant and current Miami head coach, leads his Hurricane squad against the Horns in a second round match-up to fight for a victory that neither Haith nor Barnes will revel.

Rick Barnes stood staring at the monitor, speechless.

On the Longhorns' trip to Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament, the Texas head coach had taken his team to the College Basketball Hall of Fame to learn about the greats of old in the sport they played. The particular section the Horns were in had to do with legendary basketball mentors.

When the video in the Mentors Section started, Barnes was surprised to see an old friend appear on the screen. It was Miami head coach, and former Texas assistant under Barnes, Frank Haith. In the interview, Haith recounted what Barnes meant to him as a friend, a mentor and a father figure.

"He said some of the nicest things that anyone probably has ever said about me," said Barnes, "and the fact that it came from him, it did touch me, it really did, because he's meant a lot to me."

And Barnes has meant a lot to Haith. He spent three seasons at Texas under Barnes, where he was promoted to assistant head coach for his final season on the 40 Acres (2003-2004). Haith credits Barnes with much of his development as a teacher on the court, but draws a great deal from his personal relationship with the Texas coach and still cheers for the Longhorns because of it.

"I always pull for Texas. He's my best friend. I love the guy. I really don't want to play against him, but, you know, if we don't win, I want to pull for Texas because of what he's meant to me," said Haith.

This set-up makes Sunday's contest between the Hurricanes and Longhorns an unusual situation, where both coaches have pointed out that they will not enjoy knocking their friend from the tournament field.

"That, obviously, makes it very difficult because both of us can't win tomorrow afternoon," said Haith.

However, one of the inspirations for Haith to perform well is his respect for Barnes. At Miami, the fourth-year head coach has taken the forgotten basketball program to the NCAA Tournament and he'd like to show his old mentor what he's got.

"You know, it's like your dad," said Haith. "You're trying to please your dad, too. So I think it will be a little bit like that. But Rick likes to look at us as brothers. I still look up to Rick."

Barnes pushed aside Haith's paternal comment, saying he always viewed Haith as an equal when he was at Texas.

"I've never thought people worked for me. I always thought we did this together, and I believe that," said Barnes. "I've never thought that because I was the quote-unquote head coach that I was any better than any of my assistant coaches."

No. 2 seed Texas (29-6) comes into the second round match-up with No. 7 seed Miami (23-10) off of a 74-54 win over 15th-seeded Austin Peay in the first round of the Big Dance. Miami topped No. 10 seed St. Mary's in it's first round game on Friday, beating the Gaels 78-64.

In Miami's opening-round win, junior guard Jack McClinton scored a career-high 38 points, going 11-for-11 from the free throw line. It was a sick performance for McClinton...literally.

McClinton was actually sick from a cold he'd caught during the ACC Tournament. Because of his high fevor, he didn't practice at any point from when his team was eliminated from the conference tourney to the day before the game against St. Mary's and even in that practice he was sluggish.

He certainly wasn't sluggish on Friday, leading his team to an opening round win in the NCAA Tournament. So how's he feeling now?

"I'm on the meds. I'm feeling real good right now," said McClinton. "Thank you for asking."

Friday's game was Haith's first career NCAA Tournament win, but the Longhorns are trying to prevent him from getting his second so they can make their way back to the state of Texas. In Little Rock, with Arkansas fans abound, the confines of Alltel Arena have not provided a comfortable atmosphere for the Horns.

Barnes pointed out that his team plays well on the road after dealing with some difficult destinations this season, but there's no denying how well the Horns have played when a majority of the fans are wearing Burnt Orange.

Texas went 17-1 at home on the year and a perfect 8-0 in conference play when in front of a friendly crowd. The crowd in the Houston Regional will be very-Texas heavy, but the Horns first have to get past Miami.

Texas' match-up with the Hurricanes is set for 1:15 p.m. on Sunday. If Texas beats Miami, the Longhorns will take on Stanford for the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, due to the Cardinal's 82-81 overtime win over Marquette.


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