4. Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Salary: $4.7 million | Buyout: $21,554,167
With the 2019-20 college basketball season still fresh, it might seem somewhat odd for Tennessee Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes to be at No. 4 among the highest-paid coaches in the country. After all, the Vols are coming off a season that was far from memorable as they went only 17-14 overall and just 9-9 in the SEC, finishing tied for eighth in the conference.
Having said that, Barnes has established himself as one of the better coaches in the sport over his long career. With stops at George Mason, Providence, Clemson and most famously Texas before arriving at Tennessee, the head coach has had only three teams that posted a losing record. That’s a strong testament to the type of program building and on-floor coaching Barnes brings.
Though this past year in Knoxville wasn’t as fruitful as many had hoped. Barnes built up the Vols in a big way since taking over the program in 2015. Though the team was just a combined 31-35 over his first two seasons, the Volunteers went 26-9 overall and tied for first in the SEC in the 2017-18 campaign before a phenomenal 31-6 season and a trip to the Sweet 16 the following season.
Barnes has proven his ability to succeed at every job he’s held and has even taken Tennessee to two NCAA Tournament appearances and two 25-plus win seasons. If he can rebound from the 2019-20 campaign, the Volunteers won’t regret paying him this type of money.