Published: Wed, April 10, 2019
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Rick Barnes staying at Tennessee after turning down UCLA

Rick Barnes staying at Tennessee after turning down UCLA

Earlier this week, a report suggested UCLA was close to hiring a new head coach.

"One of the nation's most tradition-rich college basketball programs identified what we knew here at Tennessee already knew - that Rick Barnes is one of the game's elite coaches and a program-changer", Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said in a statement released on Monday. After leading Tennessee to one of the greatest seasons in the history of its men's basketball program, the 64-year-old coach may be lured away by UCLA.

Rick Barnes, the latest candidate to fill the seat where John Wooden once roamed, has turned down the Bruins to remain with Tennessee.

If Barnes chooses Tennessee over UCLA, the Bruins will be left wondering what happened to their once-proud program. His incredible work here at Tennessee over the past four years illustrates that.

WBIR reported that Fulmer met with Barnes on Sunday and that Tennessee "made an offer to keep" the coach, who was "praying about his options". He led the Vols to a program-record-tying 31 wins this season and guided Tennessee to its eighth Sweet 16 appearance and first since 2014. Starters Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander exhausted their eligibility, and point guard Jordan Bone announced his intention to enter the National Basketball Association draft. He has made the NCAA Tournament 24 times and advanced to the Final Four with the Longhorns in 2003. After being let go by Texas in 2015, in part because of his teams' inability to make deep runs in the postseason, Barnes was hired by Tennessee and has steadily improved the Vols each of the past three seasons. Tennessee tied Auburn for the SEC's regular-season title last season before tying Kentucky for second place in the conference this season.

The Bruins were pursuing Barnes and reportedly offered him a $5 million a year contract. Calipari eventually told school officials he wasn't interested before accepting what amounted to a lifetime contract to remain with the Wildcats.

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