The wheel of this coaching search continues to spin with the new target of the UCLA Bruins being current Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. Barnes, fresh off winning the Naismith Coach of the Year award this weekend, has reportedly interviewed with UCLA regarding its open head coaching position and a report from Chris Low of ESPN reveals that he has been offered a contract that would pay him a base salary of $5 million a year.
For a short report, there is actually a lot to unpack here, but, first, I want to call to attention a column Ben Bolch wrote back in February, where he talked with former UCLA head coach Jim Harrick about who he thought should take over in Westwood:
“The reason I like a guy like John Beilein, a guy like Rick Barnes, a guy like Tony Bennett, they’ve done it over a period of time with different basketball players and that proves to me that you can do it with different guys and different cultures,” Harrick said. “I’m not big on one-year wonders and a guy who’s gone two weeks in a [NCAA] tournament and done a good job to get hired. I like the longevity.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Barnes popped up on Harrick’s list, and I’d imagine Barnes has been an option for UCLA for awhile now. His recent appearance in the discussion can be attributed to UCLA missing out on some top options, but Barnes isn’t a bad consolation prize by any stretch of the imagination.
Low reports that Barnes is only being paid $3.25 million this year, with escalators reaching up to $3.75 million in a few years, so UCLA’s offer is definitely a step up. Plus, Low reports that Barnes has a $5 million buyout, lower than the reported $8-10 million that Jamie Dixon has, and I would assume Barnes, with his history of very recent success, is a much easier sell to UCLA donors for buyout money.
Finally, let me talk real quick about this last line:
A source told ESPN that he loves living in East Tennessee and loves the people in Tennessee, but also is intrigued by the chance to restore UCLA to its past glory and finish his career at such a tradition-rich basketball school.
Barnes is about to turn 65 and his age has been brought up by detractors to his potential hiring, but this line makes me want Barnes more. If anything, this is a tacit admission from Barnes that he won’t be coaching forever and this would give him an opportunity to coach a blue blood and bring them back to national prominence before riding off into the sunset. Plus, this would line up pretty well with Dan Guerrero’s contract expiring and a new AD being brought in, as that AD would have the knowledge that Barnes would be out in 5+ years (of which at least 1 would already be gone) and you’d have the opportunity to build on his program growth. That seems like a win-win for all involved.
Now just to see if Dan Guerrero and the funky bunch can seal the deal.