Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer announced Thursday that reigning SEC Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year Rick Barnes has received a contract extension through the 2023-24 season.
“Rick has done an exceptional job of reestablishing our men’s basketball program into a championship-level program,” Fulmer said. “He stepped into what was a difficult situation as our program was struggling to find stability, and he’s very quickly instilled a winning culture during a time when Southeastern Conference basketball is becoming increasingly competitive. He runs his program the right way, surrounds himself with an incredible staff and he loves his players and pours himself into their development both on and off the court.
“Our run to an SEC Championship last season energized the entire Tennessee fan base in a very special way, and I believe that energy and excitement will continue to flourish with Rick leading our program forward.”
Barnes led the Volunteers to the 2018 regular-season SEC Championship in just his third year on Rocky Top. Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team league prior to the 2017-18 campaign, but Barnes and his staff not only guided the Big Orange to the conference championship, but also to the title game of the SEC Tournament, a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a 26-9 record (fourth-most wins in program history).
“Tennessee is a very special place, and I believe this program is capable of accomplishing very special things,” Barnes said. “I particularly appreciate the commitment that Phillip Fulmer and Chancellor Davis have made to my staff. I truly believe I’m surrounded by the best staff in college basketball. I also appreciate the way Tennessee fans have embraced the program and supported our players.
“Candy and I are blessed to have made many wonderful friends here in Knoxville, and we’re looking forward to continuing to play a role in some of the remarkable things happening throughout the community.”
Barnes was named the 2018 SEC Coach of the Year and was runner-up for Naismith National Coach of the Year after Tennessee became one of only eight “Power Five” teams to increase its overall wins total by 10 or more games from 2016-17. The Vols also were one of only eight “Power Five” programs to win at least 13 games away from home in 2017-18, leading to a year-end RPI of No. 10 while playing the 11th-toughest schedule in the country.
Several of Barnes’ players also collected hardware following UT’s championship season. Sophomore forward Grant Williams earned honorable mention All-America honors and was voted the SEC Player of the Year, joining Hall of Famer Bernard King as the only Vols to win that honor as underclassmen. Fellow sophomore Lamonte Turner was named the SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year, and junior wing Admiral Schofield garnered All-SEC acclaim.
The 2018 Volunteers spent 14 straight weeks in national top-25 and finished the season ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll and 16th in the coaches’ poll. The team finished the season rated sixth nationally in defensive efficiency while leading the SEC in scoring defense (65.7 ppg) and assists per game (15.7).
During his three seasons in Knoxville, Barnes has made a deliberate effort to ensure that Tennessee plays a challenging, national schedule that consistently ranks among the toughest in Division I. According to college basketball statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy, the Vols’ strength of schedule was rated 16th nationally in 2016-17 and 11th nationally in 2017-18.
Under Barnes, Tennessee has executed non-conference game contracts with Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Wake Forest. In addition, the Vols have participated in the Maui Invitational, the Battle 4 Atlantis and the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, facing the likes of Iowa State, Kansas State, NC State, Oregon, Purdue, TCU and Wisconsin.
The Vols under Barnes also have enjoyed success in the increasingly competitive Southeastern Conference. This past season, UT swept its three “permanent” league opponents during the regular season, going a combined 6-0 against Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. And since Barnes’ hiring, the Vols are a perfect 3-0 against rival Kentucky at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Barnes has earned the following honors during his time on Rocky Top: 2018 SEC Coach of the Year (AP and Coaches), 2018 Athletes in Action Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award. 2018 NABC All-District 21 Coach, 2018 USBWA District IV Coach of the Year, 2018 TSWA Coach of the Year.
Entering the 2018-19 campaign, Tennessee returns its top six scorers, all five starters and 90 percent of its offensive production from last year’s championship squad. The Vols are listed in the top five nationally in multiple early preseason projections (No. 5 by ESPN.com and No. 3 by CBSsports.com).