The Los Angeles Times's Ben Bolch reported Sunday that Barnes had "emerged as the latest front-runner" in the coaching search by UCLA, which fired Steve Alford in December and finished its 17-16 season under interim coach Murry Bartow.
Sources close to Barnes said it was a tough decision for him, especially given the opportunity to return UCLA to its past glory and finish his career at such a tradition-laden basketball school. According to Seth Davis of CBS Sports and the Athletic, UCLA "thought it had all but landed" Barnes until Tennessee came back to him with more money.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After a hard push by UCLA, Rick Barnes has made a decision to remain the men's basketball coach at Tennessee.
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Barnes, 64, led Tennessee to a 31-6 record in 2018, before the Volunteers were knocked out by Purdue in the Sweet 16 at the 2019 NCAA tournament. Starters Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander exhausted their eligibility, and point guard Jordan Bone announced his intention to enter the National Basketball Association draft.
Rick Barnes is 88-50 in four years at Tennessee, which went 79-57 over the previous four years. When Barnes took over the Tennessee program he was tasked with rebuilding the culture after Donnie Tyndall was sacked following the NCAA ten year show-cause penalty levied against Tyndall. He has increased his victory total in each of his seasons with the Volunteers, who were ranked atop The Associated Press poll for four weeks this season.
Instead of standing by and watching Barnes leave, Tennessee reportedly made a counter-offer to Barnes to retain his services as head coach. Kruger, who is two years older than Barnes, has been around a while longer as he started coaching in 1982. Calipari eventually told school officials he wasn't interested before accepting what amounted to a lifetime contract to remain with the Wildcats.