Vols reportedly close to locking up Rick Barnes as new basketball coach

Vols reportedly close to locking up Rick Barnes as new basketball coach

March 31st, 2015 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

FILE - In this Feb. 2015, file photo, Texas head coach Rick Barnes calls to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State in Austin, Texas. Barnes, who shaped Texas into a national basketball power with three Big 12 championships and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances in 17 years, will be released after yet another quick exit from the postseason, people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Saturday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee appears to be moving quickly in its search for a new basketball coach.

Multiple media outlets reported Monday afternoon that the Volunteers were nearing a deal with former Texas coach Rick Barnes to replace Donnie Tyndall, who was fired by Tennessee on Friday amid an NCAA investigation into his former program at Southern Mississippi.

According to ESPN, Tennessee offered its job to Barnes, who took the Longhorns to 16 NCAA tournaments in his 17 seasons in Austin, and CBS Sports reported the two sides were in the process of "finalizing a deal."

There was no official announcement or comment from Tennessee as of Monday night.

If Tennessee and Barnes are able to agree to a deal, an official announcement could come today, and Barnes could be introduced today or Wednesday.

Under Barnes, Texas went to a Final Four in 2003, Elite Eights in 2008 and 2006 and Sweet 16s in 2004 and 2002 and won three Big 12 Conference crowns. The Longhorns won 20 games 15 times under Barnes, who turns 61 years old in July. Barnes is the program's all-time winningest coach and a four-time Big 12 coach of the year.

The Longhorns went 80-57 the past four seasons, but Barnes was voted Big 12 coach of the year last season for guiding them to a third-place league finish after they were picked in the preseason to finish eighth.

Before taking over at Texas, Barnes led Clemson to three NCAA tournament appearances, including the program's last Sweet 16 trip in 1997, in four seasons (1995-98). In six years at Providence (1989-94), Barnes led the Friars to four NCAA tournaments. Following assistant stints at Alabama and Ohio State, Barnes got his first head coaching job at George Mason.

Barnes' career record is 604-314. He became the 13th active Division I coach to reach 600 wins when Texas beat TCU in February. As a No. 11 seed, Texas lost to sixth-seeded Butler in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament this month.

The Longhorns gave Barnes a two-year contract extension last offseason. He made $2.55 million this season. His contract stipulates he's owed a $1.75 million buyout.

Texas announced Saturday it had "mutually agreed to part ways" with Barnes.

"I leave this job with no regrets," Barnes said in a released statement. "Instead, I look back at our time here and say thank you to all the players, coaches and staff who have worked with our program throughout the last 17 years. I am so proud of our players and their success, not only on the court, but also in the classroom and in the community.

"I'm humbled when I really step back and think about how many of them have gone on to be such great all-around men in life."

Barnes told reporters in a news conference Saturday that he was asked by athletic director Steve Patterson to make changes to his staff, but a couple of his assistant coaches have been with him for more than a decade.

The Hickory, N.C., native, whose wife, Candy, is a Tennessee alumna, also was asked then if he'd coach again.

"Yeah, quicker than you probably think," Barnes replied.

Tennessee is looking for its fourth coach since 2010 after Tyndall's ouster amid his second run-in with NCAA trouble. After three seasons that included a Sweet 16 run, Cuonzo Martin, who replaced the popular and successful Bruce Pearl in 2011, left the Vols to take the job at California. Tyndall replaced Martin and lasted one season.

Tennessee went 16-16 and finished 10th in the SEC this season.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.