"Come on, this stuff is temporary what we do," Barnes said. "It's a game. It can't be the most important things in our lives. We have a chance to really affect people's lives the way we handle things. Sometimes people get way too caught up in it."
Barnes, 56, has earned respect with sustained success. Since he arrived from Clemson in 1998, the Longhorns have averaged nearly 24 wins, made one Final Four and two Elite Eight appearances.
Texas has 10 players in the NBA. When the Longhorns lost T.J. Ford, or LaMarcus Aldridge or Durant, Barnes was able to sign another wave of talent. Former players help spread the word.
"He treats you more like a father treats a son," Durant said. "He complimented us but never gave us too many compliments. He pushed us to our limit. He gets the most out of players. As a player you really respect a person like that.
"Ask any of the guys in the NBA, guys like myself, Royal Ivey, T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge or D.J. Augustin, and they'll tell you he's like a dad away from home."
You'll also never hear Barnes bad mouth another program. In fact, fans sometimes are shocked Barnes has developed relationships with OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and coaches Bob Stoops, Jeff Capel and Coale.
"We battle each other, but I have great respect for people at Oklahoma," Barnes said. "Take away the athletic side of it and they're great people. I can tell you that from my friendships with them."
Barnes views the Red River rivalry differently than some fans. That's why some fans view Barnes differently.
"It's a sporting event," Barnes said. "It's supposed to be fun, be competitive. We've all be in it long enough. In the past I've gotten caught up in it, too. But hopefully I'm old enough to realize it's not the most important thing in my life."
MORE FROM NEWSOK
NO. 3 TEXAS AT OKLAHOMA
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).