Barnes didn't hold back when discussing what kept him in Knoxville.

By Emily Caron
April 16, 2019

Tennessee's Rick Barnes candidly discussed UCLA's offer when speaking with the media on Tuesday and said that that he probably would have left to take the Bruins head coaching job had his buyout not been too expensive.

As had been reported when he turned down the offer, Barnes confirmed that there were financial issues regarding UCLA’s pursuit of him but added that he thinks he would be with the Bruins if the money had "made sense."

When asked directly if he would have left if UCLA had covered the buyout, Barnes said, "I think I would have been the coach at UCLA."

He added that "There was a time in my mind where I truly felt” that he'd be the Bruins' next coach. He said he prayed for clarity but when the university came back with their decision about the buyout, "I knew I wasn't supposed to be at UCLA."

Barnes announced that he will remain Tennessee's head coach last week despite the lucrative offer in Los Angeles after the Volunteers countered with a new deal.

Despite discussing how close he came to leaving Knoxville, Barnes clarified that he still loves Tennessee and the program he currently helms.

"God told me I needed to stay at Tennessee. It’s not just basketball. I love this university," he said. "I love this community. I love this state. I belong here."

The 64-year-old coach has spent the last four seasons with the Volunteers and reached the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019. Tennessee entered the 2019 tournament as a No. 2 seed, but lost to Purdue in the Sweet 16. Barnes previously coached at Texas from 1998-2015, reaching the tournament 16 times including a run to the 2003 Final Four. 

UCLA's lengthy head coaching search started when they fired former head coach Steve Alford on Dec. 31 after six seasons with the Bruins. The Bruins were rumored to be interested in TCU head coach Jamie Dixon for their head coach vacancy but Dixon's $8 million buyout was reportedly too expensive, as was Barnes. After several misses, UCLA hired Cincinnati's Mick Cronin on a six-year, $24 million deal.

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