Prior to Sunday evening, the idea of Tennessee Vols head coach Rick Barnes leaving Knoxville seemed crazy.
But everything changed when reports surfaced that UCLA made Barnes a lucrative offer to become their new head coach.
Barnes seriously considered the offer, but he ultimately decided to remain at Tennessee according to a report from ESPN’s Chris Low.
Sources tell me that @RickBarnesUT has decided to remain as @Vol_Hoops’ head coach after UCLA came after him with a lucrative offer that would have paid him $5 million per year. Barnes finalized his decision to stay at Tennessee on Monday after the Vols countered with a new deal.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) April 9, 2019
It’s hard to blame Barnes for considering the UCLA job, even though he has a good thing going at Tennessee.
UCLA is one of the most tradition rich schools in all of college basketball. When a program like that comes calling, you listen to what they have to say. After all, this is a business. And Barnes, who has been on the wrong side of this business, knows that as well as anyone.
Ultimately, however, I think Barnes made the correct decision to stay at Tennessee. The North Carolina native turns 65 in July. He’s clearly in the final phase of his coaching career. It wouldn’t have made a lot of sense for Barnes to head out west, where he’s never coached before, to start a rebuild that could take several years.
Sure, it can be argued that Barnes will have a mini-rebuild on his hands at UT with Admiral Schofield on his way out (and likely Jordan Bone and Grant Williams as well). But Barnes has already built a solid foundation at Tennessee. It’s unreasonable to expect another 30 win season next year, but Barnes could quickly have the Volunteers once again among the top programs in college basketball in a short amount of time.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer released a statement on Rick Barnes’ decision to stay in Knoxville. pic.twitter.com/KyIGaFg4nU
— David Ubben (@davidubben) April 9, 2019
While I’m sure there will be Tennessee fans who are upset that Barnes toyed with the idea of leaving Rocky Top, I think they should be thrilled that UCLA came hard for UT’s coach and were unable to convince him to leave East Tennessee.
Barnes is a tremendously great fit at Tennessee. He wouldn’t have been a great fit at UCLA.
In the end, I think Barnes realized that UT is home.
And that’s really all that matters.
Featured image via Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports