KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is staying at Rocky Top, according to Volquest and WVLT News partner Chris Low.
Vol fans were quite scared on Monday after talks between Barnes and UCLA intensified for the Tennessee coach to become the Bruins' next head coach.
Barnes, on the other hand, chose to continue building on the success of Tennessee during the four years he has been training in Knoxville.
Athletics director Phillip Fulmer issued a statement shortly after the news came out saying, "The past few days have been interesting, at least one of the nation's most traditional college basketball programs identified what here in Tennessee We already knew: Rick Barnes is one of the game's elite coaches and changes the program. "
"The University of Tennessee and East Tennessee in general have developed a greater love and appreciation for our men's basketball program and their culture under Rick's leadership, and I am delighted that he remains a part of our Tennessee Athletics family." says the statement. of Fulmer added.
Fulmer said he was grateful to Barnes and his wife, as well as to "the university leadership, who stepped forward to show Rick how much they value and appreciate him."
Barnes arrived in Tennessee in 2015 from Texas, where he led the Longhorns for seventeen seasons and recorded a record of 402-180. When Barnes took over the Tennessee program, he was given the task of rebuilding the culture after Donnie Tyndall was fired after the NCAA ten-year fine for entertainment reasons imposed on Tyndall.
Barnes began his freshman year in Tennessee with a record of 15-19, 6-12 in the SEC. In the second year of the Barnes era, the Volunteers posted a record of .500, while they improved to 8-10 in the SEC.
It was the 2017-18 season where Barnes and the Vols showed the biggest improvement. Selected to finish 13th in the SEC in the preseason polls, the Vols posted an impressive record of 26-9, won 13 conference games and finished the regular season as SEC Champions. Tennessee entered the NCAA tournament as a 3 seed and beat Wright's 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 they managed to meet. Grant Williams earned support for the SEC's player of the year, while the team had a nineteen-game winning streak and held first place in the AP poll for four straight weeks. Thompson-Boling Arena saw several sales and the Vols beat their rival Kentucky in two of the three games.
The experts predicted a deep run in the NCAA tournament for the Vols, some said they had an easy path in the Final Four. The Tennessee NCAA tournament race began in Columbus, Ohio, with a first-round win over Colgate, followed by a win in overtime against Iowa.
The next stop for the Vols was Lousiville and a confrontation of Sweet 16 with Purdue. Tennessee stayed behind by a wide margin before regaining the lead at the end of the game, and eventually fell in overtime, ending the season below what many considered the team's potential.