KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When he gave his farewell news conference after an unwanted exit from Texas, Rick Barnes predicted he’d be coaching again “quicker than you probably think.”
It turns out Barnes already had a pretty good idea where he’d end up.
Barnes had begun talking to Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart about the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy Saturday, the day before his departure from Texas was announced. His move from one shade of orange to another became official Tuesday when Barnes was introduced as Tennessee’s new men’s basketball coach.
“At that point in time, yes, it was something that had been discussed and it was something I truly wanted to see happen,” Barnes said.
Barnes succeeds Donnie Tyndall, who was fired Friday after going 16-16 in his lone season at Tennessee amid an NCAA investigation into his two-year tenure at Southern Miss. Barnes agreed to terms on a six-year contract that will pay him $2.25 million annually.
Barnes, 60, will be Tennessee’s fourth coach in six seasons, and the Volunteers are counting on him to provide stability. Barnes went 402-180 in 17 seasons at Texas, including a Final Four appearance in 2003.
He is 604-314 in 28 seasons overall with stops at George Mason, Providence and Clemson. Barnes has 22 NCAA tournament appearances — two more than Tennessee has made in its entire history. He has earned NCAA bids 19 of the past 20 seasons.
“We are very, very fortunate today to have hired an elite basketball coach,” Hart said. “That’s what Rick Barnes is. He is definitely an elite coach.”
Texas announced Barnes’ departure in a news release that described it as a mutual decision. Barnes made it clear at his farewell news conference that he was fired and that he told Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson he wanted to stay. Barnes said he was given the choice of firing his staff or being fired himself.
OLLIE WON’T GO TO FINAL FOUR: UConn coach Kevin Ollie will not be traveling to the Final Four this week, abiding by a travel ban ordered by Connecticut’s governor because of Indiana’s new religious-objections law.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other critics contend the law would allow businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. The governor Monday signed an executive order banning state spending on travel to Indiana.
Around the nation
Chris Mullin is coming home to St. John’s. The Red Storm confirmed that their career scoring leader and the player who led them to the 1985 Final Four is returning as coach. He’ll be introduced Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena. He succeeds Steve Lavin, who agreed to leave last week. Lavin took the Red Storm to the NCAA tournament twice in five seasons. ... Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is skipping his senior year and will submit his name for the NBA draft.