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Report: Rick Barnes is “Serious Candidate” for UCLA Job

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

On the same day he was named the Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year in basketball, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes has reportedly emerged as a “serious candidate” for UCLA’s vacant head coaching position.

According to a report from Evan Daniels of 247Sports, Barnes has emerged as a serious candidate for UCLA’s head coaching job per “multiple sources.” The report fails to state if the interest in mutual between Barnes and UCLA or if the courting is strictly one-sided.

UCLA parted ways with head coach Steve Alford during the season on December 31st, and their search for his replacement hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing. The Bruins balked at paying TCU’s Jamie Dixon’s $8 million buyout to bring him in, and they haven’t had much luck pursuing other candidates such as Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, either.

Barnes signed an extension with Tennessee last offseason after the Vols’ surprising 26-9 campaign. That extension came with a raise that brought his annual pay to up over $3.25 million. He’s the second-highest paid head coach in the SEC, trailing only John Calipari. Barnes’ $3.25 million salary was just inside the top 15 in college basketball the past season, coming in as the 14th-highest salary in men’s basketball.

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.

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, as 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.

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