The Bruins' program is in need of a head coach after Steve Alford was sacked on New Year's Eve. He was previously the head coach at Cincinnati for 13 seasons.
The Los Angeles Times's Ben Bolch reported Sunday that Barnes had "emerged as the latest front-runner" in the coaching search by UCLA, which fired Steve Alford in December and finished its 17-16 season under interim coach Murry Bartow. "I'm especially grateful to Chancellor Block and to Dan Guerrero for this opportunity to join the Bruin Family". It's not clear what Tennessee countered to keep Barnes in Knoxville, but this is a huge win for the Vols and it's worth whatever the cost.
Sources close to Barnes said it was a tough decision for him, especially given the opportunity to return UCLA to its past glory and finish his career at such a tradition-laden basketball school. Two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year Grant Williams also was believed to be leaning heavily toward going pro. His incredible work here at Tennessee over the past four years illustrates that. After being let go by Texas in 2015, in part because of his teams' inability to make deep runs in the postseason, Barnes was hired by Tennessee and has steadily improved the Vols each of the past three seasons. He has increased his victory total in each of his seasons with the Volunteers, who were ranked atop The Associated Press poll for four weeks this season.
UCLA began aggressively pursuing Barnes last week with a lucrative package that would have paid him $5 million a year, not counting bonuses and incentives, sources told ESPN.
ESPN reports there is interest from Barnes, who on Sunday was named the 2019 Naismith Coach of the Year, and from the school. Calipari eventually signed what's been called a "lifetime" contract to stay at Kentucky.