Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes has emerged as a candidate for the vacant UCLA job, sources told ESPN.
It’s unclear whether there have been in-depth discussions, but there is interest from both sides, according to sources. The news of Barnes’ candidacy was first reported by 247Sports.
Barnes has been at Tennessee since 2015, and he was at Texas for the previous 17 seasons. He led the Volunteers to a share of the regular-season SEC title last season, and he had them as the No. 1 team in the country for several weeks this season. Tennessee’s season ended in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Purdue.
Barnes was named the 2019 Naismith Coach of the Year on Sunday.
UCLA fired Steve Alford on New Year’s Eve and has been searching for a replacement for the past three months. They’ve targeted Virginia’s Tony Bennett, but sources told ESPN he’s delaying any discussions until after the season. The Cavaliers play Texas Tech in the national championship game on Monday night.
UCLA had discussions with Kentucky’s John Calipari, but he signed a lifetime deal with the Wildcats. They also engaged in talks with TCU’s Jamie Dixon, but the two sides could not come to an agreement on Dixon’s $8 million buyout with the Horned Frogs.
Reports emerged earlier Sunday that Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger had interviewed with UCLA, but Kruger released a statement on Sunday night denying any connection to the Bruins.
“I have not interviewed for the job at UCLA, nor have I had any contact with anyone from UCLA,” Kruger said.