It was the second-most overused question at Big 12 media day, ranking just behind the constant queries of Kansas State coach Frank Martin on how his team would "handle the expectations" of being the Big 12 preseason favorite. No. 2 was for Rick Barnes, and reporters asked -- over and over again, to the point where you almost felt bad for the Texas coach (even as you were asking some version of the question yourself) -- how Texas would "rebound" from last year's loss of "leadership" and "chemistry." Barnes gave plenty of answers about accountability and clear expectations, but it's pretty tough to describe how your team is going to build chemistry and leadership. Those things are unquantifiable for a reason. And sometimes, you need players to do it for you.
Cue Texas forward Gary Johnson, who as of Monday was still talking about the Longhorns' need for leadership in pretty direct terms:
"There wasn't any leadership," Johnson said of a season in which the Longhorns were ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history before losing 10 of their last 17 games. "I don't think guys held each other accountable as a team. Ultimately, it affected us in a terrible way."
Sophomore guard J'Covan Brown shed a little light on the situation, too:
"Last year, I couldn't tell you who was leading," guard J'Covan Brown said. "One day it was one person, one day it was another. I don't think anybody's going to take (Johnson's) job."
Monday night was a good start for the Longhorns; led by Jordan Hamilton's 26-point, 10-rebound performance, Texas easily handled Navy in its season opener. But it's a long season, and the real test of all this leadership talk will come next week in a game against a talented Illinois team with plenty of senior leadership of its own. (Not to mention during the rest of Texas' rather difficult nonconference schedule.) All this mushy intangibles talk is hard to see on the floor, but that doesn't mean it's not important. It will be interesting to see whether the Longhorns have taken it to heart.