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Barnes Would Reportedly “Definitely Accept” UCLA Job if Offered

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

It was reported on early Sunday evening that Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes had emerged as a “serious candidate” for UCLA’s head coaching vacancy in men’s basketball. Now, more details have come about.

Ben Bolch of the L.A. Times has reported that not only has Barnes actually interviewed for the position, but that he would “definitely accept” the job if UCLA formally offered it to him.

Bolch reports that both Barnes and Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger have interviewed for the position, but Barnes is the leading candidate and appears to be who UCLA is trying to zero in on.

Barnes signed a contract extension with Tennessee last offseason that raised his salary to $3.25 annually and made him the second-highest paid head coach in the SEC and the 14th-highest paid in all of men’s college basketball. Barnes’ buyout right now sits at a hefty $5 million. UCLA just balked at paying an $8 million buyout for Jamie Dixon at TCU, and that’s how they’ve gotten to this point.

Both Barnes and Kruger are in their 60s, and neither have coached in the state of California before, though Kruger was the head coach for UNLV for seven seasons from 2004-11. Kruger makes $3.2 million at Oklahoma and has a $3.9 million buyout.

UCLA parted ways with head coach Steve Alford on December 31st of this year, firing him after a lackluster start to his sixth season as the Bruins’ head coach. UCLA went 31-5 three years ago and made it to the Sweet Sixteen under Alford, but the last two seasons have seen a major decline in play. The Bruins went 21-12 in 2017-18 and failed to win in the First Four game in the NCAA Tournament, and this year saw UCLA go 17-16 overall and miss out on the postseason entirely. The Bruins were 7-6 when Alford was fired.

This year was a banner year for Barnes and the Vols, as he helped lead Tennessee to a 31-6 overall record and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. The 31 wins tied the school record for the most in a single season in UT history, and it tied Barnes’ own record for most wins he’s had in a season as a head coach (2007-08 Texas).

Tennessee set several school records this past season under Barnes. The Vols had the most consecutive wins (19) in a single season, were ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll for only the second time ever, and stayed there for four-straight weeks, the longest reign atop the polls in program history. Tennessee also went wire-to-wire as a top 10 team in the AP Poll, marking the first time that had ever happened in men’s basketball for the Vols.

Not only that, but the Vols broke team records for most points scored in a season, most field goals made in a season, most assists in a season, most blocks in a season, and most wins in Thompson-Boling Arena in a season this year.

Barnes is only the 12th head coach ever to lead at least three different Division I programs to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. He’s accumulated an 88-50 record in his four seasons at Tennessee, including a 57-15 mark over the last two seasons. He was named the Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year along with the USBWA National Coach of the Year for this past season. Barnes was also named the SEC Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the 2017-18 basketball regular season.

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3 Responses

  1. I’m finished with this coaching carousel BS. If Barnes leaves then I only want a coach that is from Tennessee that truly Bleeds Orange. To go to that cesspool in LA is a joke. I’ll pack Barnes bags for him real fast if he turns his back on the Vols. What a disappointing story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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