The UCLA men’s basketball program was unable to land yet another highly regarded candidate for its vacant head coaching position when Tennessee’s Rick Barnes elected Monday to remain with the Volunteers.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer released a statement during Monday night’s NCAA men’s championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech, saying Barnes decided to stay in Knoxville.
“One of the nation’s most tradition-rich college basketball programs identified what we here at Tennessee already knew — that Rick Barnes is one the game’s elite coaches and a program-changer,” Fulmer’s statement read, in part. “I’m thrilled that he will remain a part of our Tennessee Athletics family.”
The Volunteers were 31-6 under Barnes this season, reaching a No. 1 ranking and advancing to the South Regional semifinals, where they were defeated 99-94 by Purdue. Barnes was selected the Naismith Coach of the Year on Sunday.
UCLA also had interest in Texas Christian’s Jamie Dixon, but the school elected to pursue other options last week after reportedly electing to not pay the $8 million buyout of his contract. It is unclear if UCLA will resume its pursuit of Dixon.
The Bruins’ program is in need of a head coach after Steve Alford was fired on New Year’s Eve. The Bruins started 7-6 under Alford and finished with a 17-16 record, with Murry Bartow taking over on an interim basis. UCLA did not advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years.
Other reported coaching candidates of interest to UCLA include Mick Cronin of Cincinnati, Randy Bennett of Saint Mary’s, and former Bruins point guard Earl Watson, who was fired as head coach of the Phoenix Suns three games into the 2017-18 season.
—Field Level Media