As a little-used freshman reserve at Lenoir-Rhyne University, Rick Barnes hadn't played in several games when he unexpectedly heard his name called to enter a particularly fast-paced game at Western Carolina.
John Lentz, Barnes' roommate and a senior on the team, recalled that after a few times up and down the court without a stoppage, a temporary reprieve finally came when a teammate was fouled and sent to the free throw line.
Barnes approached Lentz standing at midcourt trying to catch his breath. "John, I'm really tired," Barnes said.
"Tell Coach [Bob] Hodges to take you out. You need a break," Lentz said.
"If I do that, he might not put me back in," Barnes replied.
"Well," said Lentz, who currently serves as the head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne, "you'd better figure it out, big boy."
Barnes didn't take himself out of the game. Not then. Not ever. The current Texas coach is conditioned to find a way to fight through, which is where he finds himself this season following his first losing season in 15 years coaching the Longhorns.
Last season was the only time during his tenure that the Longhorns didn't make the NCAA tournament. But their recent history in the Big Dance has been brief -- Texas hasn't advanced past the tournament's opening weekend since 2008's Elite Eight appearance.
Combine that with the fact that DeLoss Dodds, the athletic director who hired Barnes away from Clemson, retired this year, and this season has all the prerequisites to heat Barnes' seat.
"He's going to push back is what he's going to do," Lentz said. "He's going to push back. He's not going to give in and say, 'All right, that's it.' He's going to fight."
New athletic director Steve Patterson has yet to chime in publicly on what he expects from Barnes and the basketball program. If you hadn't noticed, he's got other things on his mind after Mack Brown resigned as football coach last week.
Barnes attended Brown's news conference to support his friend, whom Dodds also plucked from an ACC school to coach at Texas.
"I'm looking forward to having a chance, when that time comes, to sit down and talk [with Patterson]," Barnes said.
The Longhorns' next two games could go a long way in determining how favorably those conversations will go. Barnes has his young Texas squad at 9-1 heading into Wednesday night's game at No. 14 North Carolina. It returns home on Saturday to face No. 5 Michigan State.
It's arguably the Longhorns' toughest stretch on the schedule until they face Kansas and Baylor in consecutive games on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1.
"For us, I am excited to see where we are. I am excited to see us continue to grow and do what we have done up to this point," Barnes said. "When you talk about building résumés, this is where that comes in."
Barnes, in his 16th season at Texas, is the longest-tenured coach in the Big 12, and he has the building blocks of what could be a competitive team over the next few seasons if all his players stick together.
They are young -- the oldest player on the roster is junior forward Jonathan Holmes. But they're a bunch of blue-collar talents who play hard, much like Barnes' best teams at Providence and Clemson.