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Rick Barnes is a Longhorn even fans in Oklahoma can love

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Modified: February 8, 2011 at 9:23 pm •  Published: February 8, 2011

Oklahoma-Texas is one of the most heated rivalries in the country.

Mention Texas — it might not even be sports related — and Oklahoma fans' instinctively flash a downward Hook ‘em Horns.

But men's basketball coach Rick Barnes, whose No. 3 Longhorns visit Lloyd Noble Center Wednesday night, seems to be the exception — a Texas coach Oklahomans respect. And if they were willing to admit it, even like.

Too many stories surrounding the longest tenured Big 12 coach make it impossible to dislike Barnes.

OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale calls Barnes a friend and a mentor. She will never forget Barnes taking her phone call 13 years ago early in her career or the many times he's been willing to talk basketball.

“I think people appreciate his humility, absence of arrogance,” Coale said. “(He is) a great, great competitor but is humble win, lose or draw. He doesn't take himself too seriously, either. That's my favorite thing about him.”

Traits which explain why some fans can't stand the Longhorns but rarely target Barnes.

The reasons Barnes would receive a higher than expected approval rating in Oklahoma are many:

* Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant, an icon in this market, has altered the view of Longhorn basketball.

* At Oklahoma State, Barnes' actions after the plane crash a decade ago and two weeks ago on the 10-year anniversary, plus his support of Sean Sutton, resonate with Cowboy fans.

* Most of the rivalry's emotions are tied to football. UT basketball produces less venom.

"He's one of those coaches that's real down to earth, real approachable," Durant said. "He's nice to everyone no matter what. Even if someone talks bad about him he's nice to you."

During warmups last week before playing OSU at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Longhorns wore T-shirts handed out to the crowd, saying Remember the Ten. During the game, Texas bench players left them on. The team also brought 10 bouquets of flowers laid at the memorial.

"I told our team (about) the brevity of life," Barnes said. "I'm getting older now myself. This is just a game. That's all it is. Life goes by quick. I want our guys to learn some of those things."

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When: 8 p.m.

Where: Lloyd Noble Center

Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7

TV: ESPN2 (Cox channel 28)


Series: OU leads 47-30

Three things to know:

> Former QB Sam Bradford will be honored. The first 5,000 fans will receive Bradford posters.

> The Longhorns have won every conference game by double digits.

> Texas is ranked third nationally in FG percentage defense (36.4).


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