Last night, details began emerging about a possible hire in the name of Rick Barnes from Tennessee. While his age, 64, isn’t exactly giving him positive points with a lot of UCLA fans, you can’t deny his pedigree. He just finished his fourth year coaching the Volunteers and has moved them from below .500 to 31-wins for only the second time in school history. Before the Vols, he spent 17 years at Texas where he coached Kevin Durant and took the Longhorns to the Elite Eight twice and to the Final Four once.
And his accolades don’t stop there.
He was named the Naismith Trophy Coach of the Year for 2019.
While Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times was getting us excited about Rick Barnes, he also named Lon Kruger as another interviewee for the job. But, he may have been wrong. About an hour after Bolch sent out this tweet:
Latest I've heard is that Rick Barnes and Lon Kruger have been interviewed for the UCLA job, with Barnes considered the frontrunner. He's 64, two years younger than Kruger, and is coming off a national-coach-of-the-season at Tennessee.— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) April 8, 2019
Kruger denied ever having interviewed for the job and also denied even speaking to anyone at UCLA. In a statement issued Sunday night, Kruger said, “I have not interviewed for the job at UCLA, nor have I had any contact with anyone from UCLA.”
So, does this mean that the Barnes story is also bogus?
While the coaching search is swirling, Earl Watson is still in the news, but not why you might think.
According to Bolch, Watson supports hiring the best man for the job, whether it’s him or someone else. He has been back on campus finishing his degree and is all to familiar with the decline of the program and wishes nothing more than to get back to the good ol’ days. His love for the program and UCLA supersedes his own goals and desires.
In a phone interview with the Times, Watson said, “Coach Wooden isn’t here anymore and I always felt like UCLA has been searching for a true leader.”
While Watson’s name is still out there and he’d take the job in a heartbeat, it’s not looking like he’s in the running to actually be hired.
With last night’s news stirring the pot, it is absolutely possible that we could have a new coach hired today or tomorrow, once all parties agree on terms. Will the athletic department actually follow through on this one? That remains to be seen.
What are your latest thoughts on the UCLA Basketball Coach Search? Sound off in the comments below.
This is your UCLA Basketball Coaching Search Day 99 open thread.