What is it about the UCLA basketball search that makes coaches tell the truth?
The Bruins pursued TCU's Jamie Dixon but, after UCLA could or would not meet his $8 million buyout, Dixon returned to Fort Worth and released a lengthy, forthcoming statement on why he negotiated with UCLA and why he returned to TCU.
After the Dixon pursuit ended, UCLA set its sights on Tennessee's Rick Barnes. As of last weekend, it appeared Barnes was headed to Westwood, but, yet again, UCLA could or would not meet Barnes' buyout, allowing Tennessee time to give Barnes more money to remain in Knoxville, which he did.
On Tuesday, Barnes and AD Philip Fulmer held a press conference to introduce two new assistant coaches and put the events of last week behind them. And, boy did they.
Barnes was remarkably honest throughout the press conference, but nowhere more honest than this answer.
I praised Dixon last week for his honesty, and though many may disagree I'll do the same for Barnes here.
For everyone outside the deepest orange areas of the Tennessee fan base, UCLA is objectively a better job than Tennessee. When UCLA pursued him, Barnes chose to reciprocate the Bruins' interest. Most (all?) in his position would have.
Barnes made it clear throughout Tuesday's press conference that his interest in UCLA wasn't a statement on Tennessee. He was happy to be Tennessee's coach before UCLA pursued him, and he's happy to remain Tennessee's head coach today. UCLA is, well, it's UCLA.
When asked about it a week later, Barnes could have ducked the question or outright lied. Most (all?) people would have advised him to do just that, but doing so would have insulted the intelligence of all who heard the question. We all saw last week play out. Those angry with Barnes for his answer are actively asking him to lie, which is a reality that makes sense only inside a college sports message board and a bedroom when one spouse asks another if an article of clothing makes them look fat.
I doubt Barnes is the type of husband who'd tell his wife that dress does make her look fat, but he is the type of coach who's not going to insult the public's intelligence just to flatter his fan base's ego and avoid some temporary blowback. We need more of those coaches.