KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is staying on Rocky Top, according to Volquest and WVLT News partner Chris Low.
Vol fans had quite a scare Monday after talks between Barnes and UCLA escalated for the Tennessee coach to become the next head coach of the Bruins.
Barnes has instead chosen to continue building on Tennessee’s rise to success over the four years he has been coaching in Knoxville. According to Brent Hubbs of Volquest, UT offered Barnes more money than he was making as coach of the Vols, but not more money than UCLA offered him.
Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer released a statement shortly after the news broke saying, "The last few days have been interesting to say the least. One of the nation's most tradition-rich college basketball programs identified what we here at Tennessee already knew--that Rick Barnes is one of the game's elite coaches and program changer."
"The University of Tennessee and East Tennessee as a whole have developed an enhanced love and appreciation for our men's basketball program and its culture under Rick's leadership, and I'm thrilled that he will remain a part of our Tennessee Athletics family," the statement from Fulmer added.
Fulmer said he was grateful to both Barnes and his wife, as well as the "university leadership, which stepped up to show Rick how much he is valued and appreciated."
According to Volquest and Low, Barnes was "heartened" by the way Fulmer and Randy Boyd stepped up; plus, Low said, UT offered more money and security for his staff.
In deciding to remain as @Vol_Hoops' coach, @RickBarnesUT was heartened by the way @phillipfulmer and @randyboyd stepped up with a deal comparable to what UCLA was offering, and equally important to Barnes, with more money and security for his staff.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) April 9, 2019
Barnes came to Tennessee in 2015 from Texas, where he led the Longhorns for seventeen seasons and tallied a 402-180 record. When Barnes took over the Tennessee program he was tasked with rebuilding the culture after Donnie Tyndall was fired following the NCAA ten year show-cause penalty levied against Tyndall.
Barnes began his first year at Tennessee with a losing record 15-19, 6-12 in the SEC. The second year of the Barnes era saw the Volunteers post a .500 record while they improved to 8-10 in the SEC.
It was the 2017-18 season where Barnes and the Vols showed the most improvement. Picked to finish 13th in the SEC in pre-season polls the Vols posted an impressive 26-9 record, winning 13 conference games and finishing the regular season as co-SEC Champions. Tennessee entered the NCAA tournament as a 3 seed and beat Wright state in the first round before losing a heartbreaker to Loyola-Chicago in the round of 32.
The 2018-19 season brought high expectations for the Vols which they managed to live up to. Grant Williams earned back to back SEC player of the year honors, while the team went on a nineteen game winning streak and maintained the top spot in the AP Poll for four straight weeks. Thompson-Boling Arena saw several sell outs and the Vols beat rival Kentucky in two of three meetings
Pundits predicted a deep run in the NCAA tournament for the Vols, some saying that they had an easy path the Final Four. Tennessee’s NCAA tournament run began in Columbus, Ohio with a first round victory over Colgate followed by an overtime win against Iowa.
The next stop for the Vols was Lousiville and a Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue. Tennessee trailed by a large margin before coming back to take the lead late in the game, eventually falling in overtime, ending the season short of what many felt was the team’s potential.