UCLA was pursuing Rick Barnes for its head coaching vacancy prior to the 64-year-old finalizing a new contract with Tennessee on Monday, and it does not sound like the Bruins went about things in the classiest fashion.
Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News Sentinel reports that UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero never reached out to Tennessee to ask for permission to speak with Barnes. UCLA reportedly offered Barnes a contract worth $5 million annually, which Tennessee countered on Monday to keep Barnes with the Vols.
Barnes is coming off a season in which he was named the Naismith Coach of the Year, so it’s possible he was never actually interested in UCLA and was just trying to capitalize on an opportunity.
UCLA is now stuck still looking for a coach, and they already passed on one candidate because of his hefty buyout. Between that and contacting Tennessee’s coach without getting permission first, UCLA’s search has gotten ugly in a hurry.
The mutual interest between Tennessee coach Rick Barnes and the UCLA Bruins appears real, but departing Knoxville is proving to be a bit difficult for him.
According to Chris Low of ESPN, Barnes is “wrestling” with the decision to stay at Tennessee or move to UCLA, and is expected to make a decision within the next day or so. The 64-year-old is very happy in Tennessee, but the chance to finish his career at UCLA with the chance to restore the program to prominence is very tempting to him.
UCLA would reportedly be willing to offer Barnes up to $5 million per year to move west. He has had some preliminary discussions about an improved deal at Tennessee as well.
Reporting about how sold Barnes was on UCLA is clearly overstated, as it sounds like the school is hoping he will take the job. He’ll have to decide if his comfort in eastern Tennessee outweighs the chance to rebuild the storied UCLA program.
Talks surrounding the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball job continuing to heat up, though one coach is distancing himself from the position.
On Sunday night, 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels reported that Tennessee’s Rick Barnes was a serious candidate for the position. Later in the evening, the Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported that Barnes and Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger are coaches of interest to UCLA. He says both interviewed for the job.
“I have not interviewed for the job at UCLA, nor have I had any contact with anyone from UCLA,” Kruger said in a statement.
Kruger is 66 and has been at Oklahoma since 2011. He has previously coached at UNLV, Illinois, Florida and Kansas State. Kruger makes about $3.2 million per year and has a nearly $4 million buyout.
A surprising name has emerged in UCLA’s search for a new head basketball coach.
According to Evan Daniels of 247 Sports, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is considered a “serious candidate” for the job that has been vacant since Steve Alford’s firing on Dec. 31.
Barnes just completed his fourth year at Tennessee, where he has built the Volunteers into a formidable program fresh off a 31-win season. Throughout his career, Barnes has been plagued by criticism of his perceived NCAA Tournament underachievement. That criticism arose again in 2019, as the Volunteers fell to third-seeded Purdue in the Sweet 16.
Barnes has a $5 million buyout after signing a new contract last year that makes him the second-highest paid coach in the SEC. It would be a somewhat surprising move for him to make in light of that, especially at 64 years old and fresh off making Tennessee a leading program.
UCLA’s search has been a long and winding road, and another leading candidate may be out on account of his buyout. Barnes’ buyout is lower, but not by that much.
UCLA may be changing directions in their coaching search due to Jamie Dixon’s significant buyout.
Dixon was believed to be the coach UCLA was targeting to fill their vacancy. However, his $8 million buyout was always a hurdle, and it may be too much for the Bruins’ taste.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Drew Davison reported on Friday that TCU was not budging on a buyout price reduction UCLA was seeking, which was a stumbling block. Later in the day, the Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported that barring a change, Dixon is out as a candidate due to the buyout.
Bolch says UCLA may now turn to Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, who was also considered a top target, or one of their fallback options, like Saint Mary’s Randy Bennett, Texas’ Shaka Smart, or former Bruin Earl Watson. Smart finishing the season strong by winning the NIT may appeal to the Bruins’ brass.
Stories like this will not change the perception that UCLA is cheap, though the reality is they may feel Dixon is just not worth that kind of money. After all, they were offering big bucks to John Calipari, helping him to land his lifetime deal with Kentucky.
Jamie Dixon appears to be high on UCLA’s list of potential men’s head basketball coaches, but there may be a big financial obstacle standing in the way of them hiring him away from TCU.
Reports on Tuesday indicated that Dixon is nearing a deal with UCLA, but he has a hefty buyout with TCU. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times was told that buyout is worth $8 million, and Dixon is trying to negotiate it all the way down to $1 million.
Latest I've heard on Jamie Dixon: He's trying to negotiate his $8-million buyout down to $1 million. Barring that, UCLA will have to come up with the money. Have also been told that Mick Cronin is getting antsy and the next 24 hours could be critical to keeping him in the mix.
— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) April 3, 2019
Buyouts exist for this exact reason, and there is no reason TCU should have to give up $7 million of what was a previously agreed upon arrangement. The idea of a buyout is to discourage a coach from leaving a program, so Dixon and UCLA should have to pony up if he wants to leave TCU after three seasons.
For what it’s worth, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reports that Dixon and UCLA are confident the buyout can be sorted through.
UCLA trying to work out a deal with TCU’s Jamie Dixon, source told @Stadium. Dixon has a significant buyout, but both sides feel as though it won’t stand in the way of a deal.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) April 3, 2019
Dixon was asked about the UCLA rumors recently and did not exactly issue a denial, so it could be just a matter of time before he’s announced as the next coach at UCLA. If the two sides are committed to it happening, the buyout is unlikely to be a deal-breaker.
The chatter surrounding Jamie Dixon and UCLA seems to be heating up.
Dixon was mentioned by the Los Angeles Times Monday as one of the top two candidates for the Bruins head coaching job, along with Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. Cronin could be a candidate for Virginia Tech, while Cincinnati reportedly will make an effort to keep him. As for Dixon, he didn’t issue a denial when he addressed the reports on Monday, and he’s free now that TCU lost in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night.
That led Go Joe Bruin to report that Dixon is nearing a deal with UCLA.
Sources tell @MichaelMHanna and Go Joe Bruin that UCLA is nearing a deal with Jamie Dixon, pending finalization of his buyout with TCU.
— Go Joe Bruin (@GoJoeBruinUCLA) April 3, 2019
Similarly, Bay Area News’ Jon Wilner predicted Dixon would be named the Bruins’ head coach by Friday.
Hotline prediction: Jamie Dixon will be named UCLA's head coach by Friday.
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) April 3, 2019
If this is indeed the direction they are going, I would hope it comes only after they were outright turned down by Tony Bennett and Chris Beard, whose teams are in the Final Four.
Dixon is not an exciting name, and some may bristle over his connections to previous Bruins coach Ben Howland, under whom he coached at Pitt and Northern Arizona. However, he won at Pitt and has done a pretty nice job of improving things at TCU. Though he’s unlikely to have the kind of success at UCLA that Howland did, he should be able to improve and stabilize the program if hired, which is necessary.