Rick Barnes: If they paid my buyout, I’d be at UCLA

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There is nothing unusual about a currently employed college basketball coach interviewing for the same position at another university.

What’s uncommon is when that coach speaks the truth about the hiring process and what happened if he does not end up getting the job.

You cannot say “I was trying to get up outta here” when you have to recruit, fundraise and continue to run the program you almost left.

Well, you can’t unless you’re Rick Barnes.

Barnes met with the media on Tuesday afternoon, and he was blunt and honest about his flirtation with UCLA last week.

“It has to make sense from a financial standpoint. And the bottom line is, we just couldn’t work it out, the buyout,” Barnes said, according to The Athletic, who added that when Barnes was asked about what would have happened had they met the buyout, Barnes said, “I think I would have been the coach at UCLA.”

There’s a lot to dive into here.

Let’s start with this: Barnes has never made a secret about how much he loves Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and the program he has built. I genuinely believe him when he unloads all of that coach-speak. That said, this is UCLA, and they came in with an offer that was, reportedly, for $5 million-a-year. That’s a lot of money to go coach at a blue-blood, and I don’t know if there are five coaches in all of college basketball that say no to that.

I think Tennessee fans are smart enough to understand that, because they know there are a lot of football coaches that would leave good jobs to take over Philip Fulmer’s program.

Frankly, I think the embarrassing thing here is for UCLA.

Barnes joins Jamie Dixon on the list of coaches that UCLA went after but could not come to terms with because they could not agree to a deal on a buyout.

Which begs the question: Why in the world are you going after a coach if you know you cannot afford to pay the buyout that is listed in his contract that is public record?


This is like going car shopping and walking into the BMW dealership and telling the salesman that you’ll make the standard monthly payments but you’re not going to make the down payment they require.

It’s dumb.

And when it eventually leaks out, because everything does, it makes you look foolish.