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Report: Rick Barnes Offered Tennessee Job

If true, both Tennessee and Rick Barnes were without head coaching responsibilities for less than a week.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We joke, often, about "the real UT" and how Texas would be Mexico without Tennessee Volunteers.  But for the second time in three years, Tennessee and Texas appear to be caught in the same coaching vortex.  In 2012 Charlie Strong decided at the last minute to remain at Louisville instead of becoming Tennessee's head football coach.  It turned out well for both parties:  Strong landed the Texas job a year later, perhaps the most coveted in all of college football.  Tennessee landed Butch Jones, and we're doing just fine thank you very much.

Now, after 17 years and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, Texas and Rick Barnes have parted ways in part because Barnes refused to make changes on his staff.  And Tennessee, who fired Donnie Tyndall on Friday, appears ready and willing to have Barnes be its next basketball coach.

The Texas Scout affiliate and several others have the story of Tennessee and Barnes crossing their t's and dotting their i's, which is about where we lost Louisiana Tech's Michael White this time last year, so hold your applause.  We asked the Barnes question on Sunday, where when your greatest problem is not getting the most out of 15 NBA Draft picks in 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, you're doing alright.  Barnes has been to the Final Four, two other Elite Eights, and two other Sweet Sixteens at Texas plus a third at Clemson.  That's a better fact sheet than any coach in the history of Tennessee Basketball.

Here's another thing I mentioned in part on the radio on Friday, before Barnes was a known factor here:  SEC Basketball is getting better, and that's due in large part to getting better coaches.  If Gregg Marshall lands at Alabama, you'd have this:

  • Alabama:  Gregg Marshall
  • Arkansas:  Mike Anderson
  • Auburn:  Bruce Pearl
  • Florida:  Billy Donovan
  • Georgia:  Mark Fox
  • Kentucky:  John Calipari
  • LSU:  Johnnie Johnny Jones
  • Ole Miss:  Andy Kennedy
  • Mississippi State:  Ben Howland
  • Missouri:  Kim Anderson
  • South Carolina:  Frank Martin
  • Texas A&M:  Billy Kennedy
  • Vanderbilt:  Kevin Stallings
If the Vols hired anyone on their list that wasn't Rick Barnes, isn't he automatically the 13th best coach in this league (with apologies to Kim Anderson)?  Two of the names that were most questionable - Fox and Kennedy - just took teams to the NCAA Tournament, Billy Kennedy just had his best season yet at Texas A&M, and Johnnie Johnny Jones may be Johnnie Johnny Jones at gametime, but he's also Johnnie Johnny Jones on the recruiting trail where LSU is l-o-a-d-e-d.

Tennessee might find a really good coach for fewer dollars, but there are no guarantees and you're playing in an increasingly difficult league.  Or the Vols could hire Rick Barnes, who instantly becomes the third most successful coach in the SEC (or fourth, depending on your take on Barnes v. Howland)...ahead of Bruce Pearl.  And Gregg Marshall.

Look, I love Bruce and both of those guys may have higher long-term upside than the 60 year old Barnes.  But Tennessee needs stability, and Barnes is by leaps and bounds the most consistent winner on the table.  And as previously stated, this would prove Tennessee is serious about making a commitment to basketball from a financial perspective, which has been one of the key issues facing the program.

You want to argue about why Kevin Durant never made the Sweet 16?  I'd love to have that problem right now.  And if Barnes puts on the right color orange tie in a few days, we'll have that conversation...and hopefully more of the same winning that's followed him everywhere he goes.

Sometimes you look for a coach in the wrong year.  And sometimes, things just break your way:  the guy you thought you had gets fired with cause, and 400 wins become available buyout free.  There's no maybe:  Tennessee is due a break like this, if in fact Barnes can win here.

I think we're about to find out.

Go Vols.