KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Rick Barnes, who resurrected the Tennessee basketball program and took the Vols to a No. 1 ranking in the polls this season, is wrestling with a decision to remain at Tennessee or accept a lucrative offer to be UCLA's next head coach, sources told ESPN.
UCLA began aggressively pursuing Barnes last week with a package that would pay him $5 million a year, not counting bonuses and incentives. Barnes was named Naismith Coach of the Year on Sunday and met with Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer later that evening. They had additional conversations on Monday, including some correspondence with interim university president Randy Boyd, about a new deal at UT, sources said.
Barnes, who will turn 65 in July, is expected to make a final decision within the next day. 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 has been at Tennessee since the 2015-16 season and led the Vols to the Sweet 16 this season and a share of the SEC championship a year ago. Barnes signed a contract extension in September at Tennessee running through the 2023-24 season that paid him $3.25 million this season and was scheduled to increase by $100,000 each year of the deal until reaching $3.75 million in 2023-24. His current buyout at Tennessee is $5 million.