Tennessee fans were thrown for a loop late Sunday night as word started to trickle out that UCLA had already started working on making Vols head coach Rick Barnes the new coach of the Bruins. As the rain came down early Monday, signs were pointing to Barnes accepting the position and leaving the Vols with the potential of losing their coach, on top of already losing a few key pieces from this season’s team.
As the day wore on in Knoxville, most national pundits had started to all but report that Barnes had signed a deal with UCLA. But, the hours kept ticking by without an announcement from either side, all while Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer was putting together a counter-offer that he hoped would keep the man in charge from heading west.
It seemed like the UT athletic department had put together a nice package for Barnes, when news of the counter had finally been reported. I imagine Fulmer was a bit peeved by the fact that UCLA AD Dan Guerrero had not reached out to him with the common courtesy of letting him know he was engaging in talks with his current coach.
Multiple sources confirmed to me tonight this was the case, as UCLA never responded to multiple emails and calls last night or today when asked about this detail.
The fact that the Bruins were willing to shell out the money and offered a reported $5 million per year for the Tennessee coach, only added to the frantic afternoon for fans, administrators and players. But, Tennessee would not go down without a fight for its head coach.
Around halftime of the men’s NCAA Championship, Tennessee could start to breathe a bit easier. Barnes had decided to stay in Knoxville. A decision that kept the leader of a basketball turnaround, one that hasn’t been seen in a very long time, still on the tracks.
Fulmer released a statement late Monday evening, one where he wanted to make the point that Tennessee would continue making strides with the full athletic department backing.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) April 9, 2019
This Tennessee team was close to losing another heart-breaker, but “The Godfather” of athletics had other plans.