Tennessee’s men’s basketball team has broken several school records this season and is on pace to set a few more before everything is said and done. And their head coach is getting recognized for his team’s hard work.
Rick Barnes was named as one of the 15 nominees for the Naismith Coach of the Year award on Wednesday afternoon. The award is given annually to the top coach in college basketball and is presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
Barnes has never won the award, and Tennessee has never had a head coach in men’s basketball win the award. Pat Summitt of the Lady Vols won it on the women’s side on five different occasions, however.
Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Gonzaga’s Mark Few are the past two winners of the award, and both are nominated again this year. Barnes is the only head coach from the SEC who has been nominated for this year’s award.
This season, Tennessee has won 24 games and lost only three in their first 27 games. The Vols’ 24 wins this season are already tied for the fifth-most wins in a single season in program history.
Tennessee reached No. 1 in the AP Poll earlier this season for only the second time in school history, and they set a program record by staying atop the polls for four-straight weeks. The Vols have been ranked inside the top five of the AP Poll for 13 weeks this season and have never fallen out of the top 10.
Earlier this year, the Vols won 19 games in a row, breaking a school record for most consecutive wins. That winning streak also marked the longest such streak in Barnes’ 32-year coaching career.
Barnes was named the SEC Coach of the Year last year after he helped lead Tennessee to a share of the SEC regular season title and an appearance in the SEC Tournament Final. The Vols were picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the conference last season, but they finished tied atop the standings with Auburn at the conclusion of the regular season.
This year, Tennessee has stayed right near the top of the SEC standings all season and trail both LSU and Kentucky by a half a game heading into Wednesday night’s contest against Ole Miss.